MTV Unplugged, by Bryan Adams
Growing up as a teenager, this album was among the first live albums I heard and it helped me to understand the appeal of MTV Unplugged as a way for rock musicians to gain a great deal of success by performing songs in a stripped down format. While this album may not be considered by others to be as legendary an album as it was for me, this album, coming only one year after the release of 18 Til I Die, helped to put that album’s songs in a different context and also provide some new songs to appreciate. For me, it is hard to think of this album apart from my own nostalgia for the music that I heard at the time, but it was interesting to me in that the album also was my introduction to a couple of the earlier songs that were released on the album. So, how does it sound all these years later?
The album begins with “Summer Of ’69,” about which much has been and could be said, but it is certainly a song that is likely necessary and essential for any Adams compilation or concert. “Back To You,” the most successful single of this album, is a song about romantic devotion that is easy to enjoy and appreciate in any format, it’s just a shame we never got a studio version of this. “Cuts Like A Knife” is an early classic that sounds great here in a gorgeous version that has elements of folk in it. With “I’m Ready” and “Fits Ya Good,” Adams does gentle and beautiful arrangements of two songs from his early “You Want It, You Got It” period that I had been previously unaware of before this time. “When You Love Someone” is another gorgeous love ballad from the Hope Floats soundtrack and should have been a hit. From this point in the album, we shift to the promotion of songs from 18 Til I Die, including its title track and “I Think About You.” Minor hit “Let’s Make A Night To Remember” from the album is performed in a new medley with a new song, “If Ya Wanna Be Bad – Ya Gotta Be Good,” a reminder that partners sometimes appreciate one being bad with them, if not with anyone else. “A Little Love” offers a call for love to change the world, a common and basic enough sentiment, before the album closes with “Heaven” from Reckless as well as 18 Til I Die’s “I’ll Always Be Right There,” which closes off the album on the right note.
Given my mixed feelings about the music of “18 Til I Die,” the album that immediately preceded this one, I am struck by how my thoughts of those songs are greatly improved by their context here. Adams shows himself to be a good arranger of songs and also a good interpreter of songs for the live format. If this album has less patter than some of the live albums from around the same time period (Fleetewood Mac’s The Dance album comes to mind here) that I have greatly enjoyed, this particular album puts Adams’ music in a better light than some of studio work had been and the performance as a whole is way more cohesive because the acoustic format helps the songs to sound good with each other in a way that does not happen on 18 Til I Die and some of Adams’ later albums where is a similar dissonance between one song’s approach and another’s.