Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews

Bryan Adams – Bare Bones – Decca Records

Canadian rocker comes alive with a strong acoustic set.

Published on November 19, 2010

Bryan Adams – Bare Bones – Decca Records

Bryan Adams – Bare Bones – Decca Records B0043VCPW8, 74:57 ****:

(Bryan Adams – vocals, guitar, harmonica; Gary Breit – piano)

Bryan Adams may be remembered as an MTV-friendly, pop music phenomenon of the 1980s and 1990s. With over 65 million albums sold, and 21 top ten hits, this Canadian singer-songwriter earned recognition and awards too numerous to list. To his devoted fans, he was a powerful vocalist that defined the romanticism and swagger of rock ‘n roll. Greenpeace, Live Aid, The Nelson Mandela Concert For Freedom, and many other organizations view him as a humanitarian. He has a distinctive style that has made him identifiable to common narrative, not unlike Bruce Springsteen or John Mellencamp. For the last couple of years, he has toured extensively, revisiting his catalogue with spare arrangements.

Bare Bones, a rousing twenty-song set, was recorded live at different venues in 2010. Accompanying himself on his Martin guitar and harmonica, Adams rips through each song with conviction and bravado. The addition of Gary Breit on piano lends the right texture to blend the rawness. The opening number, “You’ve Been A Friend To Me” gets things off to a percolating start. With a rockabilly swing, growling vocals, and robust piano chords, the audience gets locked in immediately. The raspy-voiced singer has never sounded better. Familiar uptempo anthems like “Summer Of ‘69” and “Cuts Like A Knife” still display the grittiness and pop catchiness that marked their initial success. These stripped-down versions provide a focus on the singer’s connection to the song. The urgency of love is delivered with abandon on “The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You”. Adam’s unleashes a torrent of snarling intensity and acoustic strumming that drives the message.

 There is a variety of material that showcases Adams’ range. “I Still Miss You… A Little Bit” is a clever Western swing ditty that laments the difficulties of broken love. Breit’s skipping piano lines and barrelhouse solo energize the performance. A reworked “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" (nominated for an Academy Award from the Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves movie), feels more plaintive than the orchestrated version. The same nuance can be felt on the rendition of “Straight From The Heart”. His vocals cut through the pretense with emotional resonance. Some lesser known compositions, like “Walk On By” and “Let’s Make A Night To Remember” are low-keyed and show the ability to express restrained sentiment.

Bare Bones captures the intimacy of a “solo” (he jokingly introduces Breit as his band), live concert. The production is simple and geared toward the talents of Adams. He is a strong vocalist, and never holds back. There is a strong bond with his fan base, who participated in the song selections via the Internet. The obligatory audience “sing-a-longs” and humorous banter are prevalent, but never obscure the quality of the music.
You’ve Been A Friend To Me; Here I Am; I’m Ready; Let’s Make A Night To Remember; It Ain’t A Party (If You Can’t Come ‘Round); (Everything I Do) I Do It For You; Cuts Like A Knife; Please Forgive Me; Summer Of ’69; Walk On By; Cloud Number Nine; It’s Only Love; Heaven; The Right Place; The Way You Make Me Feel; The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You; You’re Still Beautiful To Me; Straight From The Heart; I Still Miss You…A Little Bit; All For Love.

—  Robbie Gerson

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