Cuts Like A Knife, by Bryan Adams
If his self-titled debut album was and largely remains forgotten except for those who are aware of Bryan Adams as a songwriter like the bands who covered his compositions, and his second album crossed over onto the mainstream rock charts but was not and remains not a popular album, Bryan Adams’ third album made him well-known as a popular artist, something that would remain true for another fifteen years or so (we will have more to say about this later) and contains a quartet of songs that are relatively well-known even today. At this time, Adams was still an up-and-comer, and this album reflects a maturing process but also demonstrates that even at this early phase of his career he already had a lane that he was carving out that mixed straight-ahead rockers for the men and sensitive love ballads for the ladies, a balance that has served many rock acts well and served him well in his own very successful career. This album demonstrates that he was beginning to find his range and target demographic successfully and at the very least is an album that one can point to as a major step forward in his visibility within the world of the popular music of the 1980’s. But how is the album artistically?
The album begins with “The Only One” reflects Adams as someone who almost has it made and his determination to hold on to someone who he is starting to fall in love with by promising her that she is his only one. “Take Me Back” is a soulful rock song that portrays the narrator as being in the position to take back an errant partner who promises that she has changed her ways. “This Time,” one of this album’s popular singles, shows Bryan Adams committing to make a woman his own this time. “Straight From The Heart,” the most successful single from the album and perhaps my favorite song of his all-time, shows Bryan Adams’ commitment to an ideal of sincerity and candor in his relationship. The title track then follows with its commentary on the way that life and love simultaneously bring pleasure and pain. “I’m Ready,” a song which was put on his Unplugged album later on, is surprisingly like a Foreigner song in this context, a driving mid-tempo rocker about the narrator’s readiness for love. “What’s It Gonna Be” is another rock song that features Adams challenging a would-be partner to make up her mind. “Don’t Leave Me Lonely” similarly features Adams in a combative mood demanding both his freedom from a partner as well as her commitment not to leave him lonely. “Let Him Know” has an interesting set of group vocals about an indecisive woman who does not appear to be taking Adams seriously. “The Best Was Yet To Come” closes the album on a melancholy and reflective mood about a woman who missed out on her opportunity, presumably with the singer.
If you are a fan of Bryan Adams’ later music, this is certainly a worthy album to look at. As is the case with his earlier albums, you get a real good sense of where Adams’s headspace was at when he was making this album. You can almost sense that Adams knows that he is about to break out into a big star and that confidence at his growing success that he experienced with his previous album and that was expected here is seeping into his behavior with women. Rather than coming off as desperate as he did early in his career, he has a lot more bravado, a lot more confidence, and he takes a much harsher and more aggressive attitude towards the reluctant and ambivalent women around him than he did earlier in this career. If this seems like a mixed blessing, it certainly is striking and the album hits an honest mood of where Adams was at on the brink of mainstream stardom.