Brian Adams: Get up (Polydor)
Verdict: No frills from The Groover
Bryan Adams has grown noticeably nostalgic in the past year or so.
Confessing that he no longer knows quite how his time-honoured tunes ‘will transmit into today’s world’, the Canadian rocker has returned unrepentantly to the styles that first inspired him to pick up a guitar.
Last summer’s Tracks Of My Years, full of longing for the golden age of pop radio, was a covers collection that tackled Smokey Robinson, The Beach Boys and others, while the subsequent arena tour celebrated the 30th anniversary of his 1984 breakthrough album Reckless.
A regular superstar: Canadian musician Bryan Adams performs in Germany this week
His new album, Get Up, is his first set of original songs since 2008’s Eleven, but it is still homesick for the rock ’n’ roll spirit of yesteryear — with a particular attachment to the Fifties twang of Buddy Holly and the Sixties sounds of both The Beatles and the Stones.
It also reunites The Groover From Vancouver with original songwriting partner Jim Vallance (who co-wrote his hits Heaven and Run To You) while also signalling the beginning of a fresh creative partnership with producer Jeff Lynne, a past master of retro-tinged pop.
Adams met the ELO frontman in LA last year and the pair formed an immediate bond. It led to the singer sending a string of rough demos, recorded on the road, to Lynne, who overdubbed guitar, bass and drums and sent the results back to Adams.
The upshot is hardly the most original set of songs we’ll hear this autumn — and critics who deride Adams for his blue-collar, radio-friendly rock will have a field day — but there’s no denying he delivers with exuberance, affection and panache.
New album out: Adams has returned to the styles that first inspired him to pick up a guitar
With guitars, handclaps and Lynne’s ELO-like chug prominent, Adams lays down his musical manifesto on That’s Rock And Roll, name-dropping Buddy Holly and Elvis before declaring: ‘A battered Vox and a beat up Gibson/That’s all you need to get the job done.’ Holly is a touchstone again on rockabilly number You Belong To Me, while the raunchy Go Down Rockin’ owes plenty to the Stones.
Unsurprisingly, given the involvement of long-time Fab Four acolyte Lynne, the spectre of The Beatles looms large. We Did It All is underpinned by Dear Prudence-like chords, while the chiming guitars and sublime harmonies of Don’t Even Try lean heavily on the essence of The Beatles’ Rubber Soul. Recent single Brand New Day is the one tune with a more contemporary feel. Awash with multi-tracked guitars, and possibly autobiographical, it tells of a young Canadian who leaves home and flags down a freight train on his way out of town.
Despite the lyrical cliches, it impressively revisits the freewheeling — and nostalgic — spirit of Adams’s Summer Of ’69.
For all its uncomplicated energy, Get Up ends on a strange note. Thunderbolt is rather stodgy, while Yesterday Was Just A Dream is a fairly routine power ballad. Most unusually, four of the album’s nine tracks are reprised as acoustic numbers at the close.
The four, including the two with Beatles-inspired hooks, lend themselves well enough to the acoustic treatment, but their presence suggests Bryan was running short of ideas.
But Adams, now the proud father of two young daughters, remains a star who makes a virtue out of being a regular guy.
And, in living up to his simple aim of writing songs ‘for people who love real guitar, bass and drums’, he is nothing if not true to himself.