Into The Fire, by Bryan Adams
After the massive success of Reckless, a song that sent well over half of its songs to the top regions of the charts in the United States and elsewhere, Bryan Adams was at the top of the world commercially. Three years later, though, he released an album that had only one top twenty hit (another song also was a top 40 hit) and has been seldom listened to since then. Into The Fire was a commercial failure, one that seems to have marked the end of one road and the beginning of another when it came to Bryan Adams albums, and he was able to commercially rebound with his next studio album four years later in Waking Up The Neighbors (more on that later). Was this album an artistic failure though? Is there still something worthwhile in this effort that has escaped the notice of most listeners that is well worth uncovering?
The album begins with its only hit, “Heat Of The Night,” a song that has dark implications of the unpleasant side of the music industry and of life in general, a song about handling the pressure of doing what it takes to succeed and having to pay the price. “Into The Fire” has a beautiful sonic palette but similarly tough-minded lyrics about risking death and failure for one’s dreams and ambitions. “Victim Of Life” is another tough-minded song about the downside of relationships and the struggle to deal with crushing isolation and loneliness. “Another Day” is a jaunty-sounding song that deals with the repetitive struggles of the common person to have enough money to make it through, striking a note more like Jude Cole than what we would expect from Bryan Adams. “Native Son” is a striking story-telling song told from the point of view of a member of Canada’s First Peoples and their fruitless quest for survival and justice. “Only The Strong Survive” is another tough-minded song about the need to face conflicts bravely and openly in the knowledge that we will all die eventually. “Rebel” is a mid-tempo rock song about a rebel that also is a compelling picture of aging. “Remembrance Day” picks up the military notes on the previous song to give a patriotic ode to the common soldiers of World War I who have largely been forgotten by many. “Hearts On Fire” was a minor hit but one that sings of love and devotion that seems pretty relatable in its common approach. “Home Again” closes the album with a look at the joy one expects at having returned home after a long time.
If this album marks the end of a road, it is a regret that this album has not been more widely appreciated at least in its native Canada. I am not sure if anyone in 1987 or afterwards has expected or been looking for a populist and tough-minded album about the struggles of common people and the historical issues that still fester beneath the surface in Canadian society–including the forgetting of World War I and the story of how it was that the First Peoples lost their land to Canadian settlers–but if you are looking for that sort of album, this is a fantastic one. This album does something that few albums do, and that is present a new and very sympathetic side to an artist that has scarcely been seen or suspected for. It is a side of Bryan Adams, a combination of compassion for fellow man and tough-mindedness about the difficulties of life, that deserves to be far better explored and appreciated.