Of course, I'm sorry the Canadian music industry is having such a depressed time of it lately. But selfishly speaking, it's a relief to get some of their popsters down this way to take up what little slack there is on the airwaves between Journey sets.
Frankly, I'm not so sure the binge/purge pop of the Great White North is any more nourishing than our homegrown variety, but after several months under the despotic reign of Foreigner 4, Loverboy sounds refreshingly unorthodox.
So does Bryan Adams, whose "Lonely Nights" is currently diverting the attention- spans of sensitive AOR jocks around the country. Actually, this is not so delicate a maneuver as it might seem. Adams' second album, pregnantly titled "You Want It, You Got It," sounds like a cozy patchwork of all that's airwavable: Bruce Springfield meets Rod Stewart at the Genesis concert, and so on. You get the drift.
Adams' voice has a cultivated hoarseness that's a welcome respite from Steve Perry's slicked-down crooning, and his scratchy guitar playing matches his singing. He also has a fine pop co-writer in Jim Vallance (the pair wrote all but two of the 10 tracks).
Adams and Vallance owe their songwriting allegiance, as do so many good pop writers, to Lennon/McCartney influences, and they do honor by the tradition. Further, Adams' projection of romantic trauma is enthusiastic, simple and sincere, as in these lines from "Lonely Nights":
I just can't take another lonely night
So come on over and save me
The way he wails his way down to the tonic on "baby" and "save me" is nothing short of exquisite rock phrasing.
And the money A&M spent on this record! G.E. Smith (recently of Hall and Oates) on guitar fills, Tommy Mandel (of Ian Hunter) on keyboards, Cindy Bullens on background vocals. Not to mention co-production by top-flight engineer Bob Clearmountain and masterful mastering by Bob Ludwig. They might as well have just backed the Brinks truck right up to the studio door.
There's a nice array of songs here, too. I like the collicky-Rick-Springfield appeal of "Lonely Nights," the sweet sincerity of "Don't Look Now," the rough-hewn balladry of "No One Makes It Right" (they say this tune was done in one take, and I believe it). Then there's tougher rock, like "Fits Ya Good" and the title track, which Adams claims causes his fingers to bleed.
So how come "You Want It" is finally so unremarkable? Well, that's how good American pop is supposed to be these days. Quick, clean and competent. Immediately forgettable, except for the unpurgeable hook. Not quite danceworthy, lest we wear out our soles. And utterly devoid of politics, except occasionally the romantic kind.
My complaint is not that Adams has no talent, but that he seems to be Play-Doh in the hands of corporate talent sculptors. It was one such deep thinker, in fact, who discovered a demo of his "Let Me Take You Dancin'," which was promptly remixed "about 80 bars too fast," according to Adams. No matter; it was released anyway as a disco tune, became a hit and rescued the composer from obscurity, if not befuddlement.
So blow the tepid winds of the industry. If all was right with the world, we'd all be listening to Amy Volton, the Human League, maybe even Bryan Adams as Bryan Adams.
It's not fair to blame him for getting jittery whenever the ghost of future industry famine rattles its chains, but who knows what he might be capable of with a little less guidance and a lot more gall?
As it is, Adams puts the feelie on the big American pop AORta as intelligently as any of the current wave of rock refugees from down under and up north. "You want It" is innocuous, naive and hell-bound for airplay.
Unfortunately for Adams, its greatest benefit may be unintentionally spelling out what's so dreadfully wrong with trying to please some of the people all of the time.
On the other hand, 63 consecutive weeks of REO Speedwagon can't be entirely the fault of pinhead program directors and cynical studio execs. Until we're willing to lay some of our own cash at originality's doorstep, we can't gripe if potential rock talents like Adams continue to compromise themselves for the safer, more lucrative goal of middling rock competence.
You want it, you got it. THE ALBUM -- Bryan Adams, "You Want It, You Got It," A&M SP-4864. THE SHOW -- Sunday at the Bayou.