WARNING: Don´t expect this post to be objective. This is not just another album for me: "Into The Fire" is the first LP I ever owned and the one that made me a rock´n´roll fan. Up to that point in my life (I was 15 when it came out) I had lots of hobbies: sports, reading, TV, movies... music was just another one. But once I started listening to it, there was no way out: rock´n´roll had taken over me and everything else seemed unimportant.
Before I start talking about this piece of his work, it´s necessary to place it inside Bryan Adams´ career to put it into perspective. After a couple records with little repercussion outside his native Canada, it was with his third one, "Cuts Like A Knife", that he found the sound and success he was looking for. Everything exploded with his fourth album "Reckless", whose brutal global impact put "The Groover From Vancouver" on top of the rock world in 1985, alongside the Bruce Springsteen of the "Born In The USA" era.
This success brought him tons of requests to do a number of benefits and charity work. Already a member of Greenpeace, between February ´85 and June ´86 he co-wrote and recorded "Tears Are Not Enough" (the Canadian "We Are The World"), opened the American "Live Aid" concert, headlined Amnesty International´s Conspiracy Of Hope tour and was invited to perform at the Prince´s Trust rock concert. All these events had a decisive influence on Adams when it came time to start writing his next album: "Into The Fire".
After the tremendous success achieved by "Reckless", both Bryan and co-writer Jim Vallance agreed they did not want to do a "Reckless II" and wanted to expand their horizons lyrically, beyond the boy-girl scenario. This is the first thing that distinguishes "Into The Fire" from the rest of his discography, both before and after.
Another different aspect was the recording process: it took place in the singer´s house! Anyway, the band sounds better than ever. (Personal note: especially, if you listen to the vinyl. The CD is ok but man, the vinyl is REALLY something else. Second personal note: The first picture in this post is my own personal vinyl; like I say, the first album I ever bought 28 years ago).
One last personal opinion before getting into detail with the songs: probably the main reason why I like this album so much is that I think it is, by far (and that´s a lot to say), the bunch of tunes better sung by Bryan. EVER. His voice impregnates every groove on the record and enhances songs that lend themselves for his vocal chords to stand out but I don´t think we would have been this impressed if they´d been sung by any other artist.
"Into The Fire" opens with the first single of the LP: "Heat Of The Night". It starts with two guitar and piano chords, only to be joined a little later by a bassline that´s very present throughout the whole song and a guitar solo by Bryan (remarkable detail since until then that was mainly the great Keith Scott´s job). Finally, the Canadian´s more-than-ever raspy vocal comes in. The lyrics are inspired by two things: Orson Welles´ movie "The Third Man" and a trip to Berlin by the writer the year before. WARNING: this lyric lets you know that what you will hear from now on won´t be "Three Little Birds" or similar.
The second song is the title track: "Into The Fire". It starts with some mysterious keyboards before an acoustic guitar enters accompanied by an electric, before the rest of the band joins in. It´s worth mentioning one of the most memorable bass riffs in Adams´ career. Also, his first vocal gives you the chills and that´s the way you stay until the song is over. The lyrics talk about a man who stops at a crossroads and has to make a decision, as he´s not sure which way to go, which is the way our man said he felt when it came time to start working on the record.
This tune was "Into The Fire"´s fourth single; however, the video had nothing to do with the original recording: it was a live performance recorded in Japan in January ´88, just him and his guitar. From that moment on, that was the way he closed many of his concerts during the "Into The Fire" World Tour, including his first visit to Bilbao in June of that year.
"Victim Of Love" was both the third single and the third track on the album and it could be the song that summarizes what the whole LP is about: strange lyrics (as far as what we were used to is concerned), a great sounding band (special mention to Keith´s lead guitar work) and a superb vocal performance by Bryan (unforgettable yell at 1:48). It´s not a radio-friendly hit? So what? Who gives a shit?
In "Another Day" it´s Adams who plays the solo again, just as in "Heat of The Night". It´s a song about loneliness and desperation, about the poor and the unemployed. Great song, especially live.
"Native Son" closes Side 1 of the album. It´s a title that had been on his mind for some time. It talks about the American Indians and their submission by the White Man. Beautiful tune, starring once again Keith Scott, as you can see in this live performance.
"Only The Strong Survive" opens Side 2 at full speed. It was initially written for the "Top Gun" soundtrack (yes, Tom Cruise´s movie) but at the very last minute Bryan pulled it off saying he didn´t want a song of his in a movie that "glorified war". Once again, spectacular vocal by our friend, catchy riff and fabulous slide guitar by Mr. Scott. It came out as the fifth single, but only in his home country.
"Rebel" is the highlight of the album for me. Why? Honestly, among his songs, covers, duets, live performances, etc. I think I have NEVER heard a vocal performance like this one. Unbelievable. Undescribable. Just the vocal makes it worthwhile. But it´s not just that, it´s also an amazing song with a terrific performance by every musician in the band. Unforgettable. It was originally written in 1985 for Roger Daltrey´s solo album "Under A Raging Moon". Curious fact: Daltrey sings it in the first person, as if he was singing about himself. Bryan sings it in the third person.
"Remembrance Day" is a memorial day in Canada, November 11, in which they honor the memory of soldiers who died in the line of duty. The song is inspired by Canadian veterans from World War I. Another great song with another great vocal by Adams.
"Hearts On Fire" was the second single off the LP. It was a song from the "Reckless" sessions and it didn´t really fit with the rest of the album. It was cheerful and sounded like a radio hit. In fact, here in Bilbao it´s been used as a soundtrack for countless videos about soccer, surf, etc. The truth is it´s a really great song and it had to be on the record. Nowadays it´s the track off "Into The Fire" that Bryan plays the most in concert, although the live version is a little longer, in order to feature a "guitar duel" with his partner in crime, Keith Scott.
As for me, this was the first video of his I ever saw. What really caught my eye then (again, I was 15 years old) was what a great time the concertgoers were having. I wanted to be there! It was also the first song I tried to figure out how to play on guitar, by hitting "Pause" on the video and trying to see the position of the fingers in the guitar ;-) .
"Into The Fire" ends with "Home Again", a beautiful ballad led by the piano melody and, at the risk of being repetitive, with awesome performances by Bryan on vocals and Keith on guitar.
"Into The Fire" was well received by critics and fans but "only" sold 4 million copies worldwide, where "Reckless" had sold 8 million and it was seen by some as a "disappointment". (Personal note: How many bands sold 4 million copies in the ´80´s?)
Fortunately, time is the best judge and now "Fire" is seen as one of the best albums by the great Bryan Adams. Myself, I think it was a really brave and honest move to put out a record like this one after "Reckless", when the easiest thing to do would have been to repeat the same formula.
If you still don´t own "Into The Fire", I really don´t know what you´re waiting for: run to your nearest record store and buy it... no ITunes, no Spotify, this album must be on your stereo.
P.S. Here´s my own little tribute to Bryan and "Into The Fire".