November 13, 2017 Bryan Adams – Ultimate (Album Review)
When an iconic Rock-n-Roll legend gears up and releases a new album of nineteen of his best hit songs including an added two new recordings, the world of popular music takes notice. Especially when that iconic artist is multi-platinum selling rocker Bryan Adams and the new release is entitled Ultimate.
Born and raised in Canada, Singer-Songwriter, Record Producer, Photographer, Philanthropist, and Activist Bryan Adams needs very little hyping up for those truly loyal fans. Simply put, you would be very hard-pressed to have a conversation anywhere in the known world about popular music discussing the greats and not hear Bryan Adams’ name come up. With Ultimate, released on November 3, 2017 via Polydor, Adams widdles down his extensive discography into an essential collection of classics and something new that is a needed piece to any fan’s collection.
Chronicling over three decades of music, “Go Down Rockin,” with that old 1950s Johnny Be Good arrangement sound, fires up the listening experience. From there, it is off to cuts like 1991’s “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started” and “Run to You” from 1984’s Reckless. Interestingly enough, a quick Wikipedia search reveals the true meaning behind “Run to You.” A song about infidelity called a cheating classic, however, in the music video Adams’ guitar is the object of his love affair.
This point would be about as good as any to bring on one of those brand new songs, and Adams does just that with “Ultimate Love.” Written by, yes you guessed it, the one and only Bryan Adams and longtime songwriting partner Jim Vallance, “Ultimate Love” is an upbeat, swinging, feel-good Rock song with a conscious vibe. Topically, the lyrics explore the state of affairs around the world at present and reinforce the fact that a need for love is prevalent.
From here, Adams sprinkles in all the classics everyone knows including mega hit “Heaven.” Originally released in 1983, written by Adams and Vallance for the A Night in Heaven soundtrack and included on 1984’s Reckless, just when you thought it could not get any better, Adams drops this bomb of love ballad. This is what this guy is known for and what has brought him worldwide fame. That said, he is definitely a musical genius when it comes to pulling at listeners’ heartstrings with his catchy heartfelt love ballads. Then there is his “It’s Only Love” with Tina Turner. Released on Reckless, then again on Adams’ Anthology in 2005, and Turner’s All the Best in 2004, Rock and Soul meets at the crossroad, completely decimating the ideal that fans cannot have their cake and eat it too.
Then, approaching the new millennium portion of his recording career, there is 2002’s “Here I Am,” co-written and produced by Hans Zimmer and Gretchen Peters for the movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. A song that won an ASCAP Award and was nominated for Golden Globe Award for best original song, it is still something that the whole family can appreciate. This is before 1998’s “When You’re Gone” featuring Melanie C of the worldwide British Pop sensation the Spice Girls and 1999’s “Cloud Number Nine,” which may be a song about getting high. This in mind, it is more reasonable to think with Adams behind it, it is more likely about being high or getting as high as you can off love.
Had enough yet? Hopefully not because there is so much more to come with “(Everything I Do), I Do It For You,” a classic, written by Adams, Lange, and Michael Kamen. A huge song at the time, it may be placed in the time capsule which we launch into space for later generations of humankind to get a better understanding of what love meant for us down here on Earth during the twenty first century. Who else can tell you “to look into their eyes and you will see what you mean to them?” You know who.
Now truthfully, “(Everything I Do), I Do It For You” is a hard act to follow, but 2015’s “You Belong To Me,” in good form with a twangy, Honky Tonk feel, demands its own place on the album of classics. A good flash forward moment, it is back to the classics. Remember the Summer Of ’69? Well many of us do not, and neither should Adams since he was only 10 years old at the time. Timeless and unforgettable,”Summer of ’69” was not an instant classic upon its release in 1985, but has proven that all it takes is a persistence and a fresh pair of ears to make a song like this a classic.
More than halfway through the album, ballad alert, because it is time for “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?” Featured in the 1994 Don Juan DeMarco film which Johnny Depp gave his stellar performance of the famed seducer, it would have not been the same without Bryan Adams, Michael Kamen, and Robert John “Mutt” Lange’s contribution. On to more rockers, 1985’s “Somebody,” definitely a Rock song, was recorded in the songwriters home of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada produced by Bob Clearmountain and Adams himself. Part of Reckless, a young Adams expresses his desire for companionship with the anthem-like cut chanting, “I Need Somebody, Somebody Like You, We All Need Somebody.”
Turning on the charm again, “Please Forgive Me,” released October of 1993 as the only single and bonus track from his greatest hits compilation album So Far So Good, it is songs like this why we listen to the lyrics. It is now 2017 and you could challenge any fan of Bryan Adams to play this song for their grandmother or grandfather and see that it does not bring a tear to their eye. Obviously written about the love between a man and a woman, or whichever your preference, the implications and sentiments can be felt regardless of the relationship type or time.
Speaking of time, going back once more, next is “Cuts Like A Knife” from the 1983 album of the same name. It warrants noting that even then the concept and content for betrayal and love affairs were and would be a constant theme throughout this icon’s career. Using a chorus to express the depths of a love affair gone bad, the musical arrangement easily complements the lyrics as well as the rifts and runs from Mr. Adams.
If the only thing that works in your collection of designer wardrobe is your significant other, than you’re not alone, because next is “The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me Is You,” where Adams talks about how he is so infatuated with a woman that she is the only one that looks good on him. Flipping the coin, “All For Love,” a collaboration with Sting and Rod Stewart, proves when the titans clash, greatness persists. Stamping their place in the musical history books with “All For Love,” praise the music gods for this collaborative effort which gave us the musical soundtrack for 1993’s The Three Musketeers.
At this junction, what else could be left to explore. Well, how about “Back to You,” originally for MTV unplugged released in 1997 as a live acoustic, later found on the albums The Best of Me and Anthology. A song which actually featured students from Juilliard school, it sets the table for the last of the new songs, “Please Stay.” Brand spanking new, but carrying the classic feel and signature sound which fans have grown to love from Adams, it is a ballad requesting another chance from that significant other, that love interest in your life. Possibly, after numerous mistakes and time passing, taking the other for granted, Adams shows his range as he lifts his vocals an octave from the usual range fans know to be most comfortable in.
Wrapping up the journey, “18 Til I Die” is the first time the issue of time is brought up in this collection. Also a classic jam, but it seems credible and even appropriate after all this time for Mr. Adams in the industry. He boasts in the lyrics that he wants to be “18 till he dies,'” which is a wish many may want to consider taking into account as another 30 or so years of Bryan Adams would not be bad if the last 30 were any sign of the future.
Overall, Ultimate is a collection of classic hits from Bryan Adams which is a must have. Even if you are an avid fan and have every one of the 13 studio albums, all 5 live albums, and even the 5 compilations, this particular compilation has accomplished its objective, looking at Adams’ storied career from afar and celebrating it in grand fashion. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Ultimate 4 out 5 stars.