Live! Live! Live!
A & M Records, 1995
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/05/1997
As much as I've tried to get my wife to take an active part in "The Daily Vault," she just isn't interested. Where I will add at least 200 items to the now-famous Pierce Memorial Archives (not quite as popular as the brewery tours), she will buy no more than 10 releases each year.
In another attempt to get her involved, I asked her to pick something for today's review. A routine strip-search by the guards and background check later, she threw a disc at me - damn near took off my head, too.
At first glance, I thought she had copped out. Bryan Adams? She barely got through the door to pick this one. But his 1988 release Live! Live! Live! turned out to be a good selection that captured the emotion of the music, if not the energy.
Originally released only in Japan, I'm guessing A & M was disappointed at the commercial failure of Adams's last venture, Into The Fire. Only after he had regained a foothold in America did they finally release this one Stateside.
Pulling together most of his best-known hits to that point, a few songs that I can't remember which album they came off of (hey, I'm not Cecil Adams - I don't know everything), and one or two covers, Adams is able to provide an enjoyable time in front of the CD player. And for the most part, these performances are note-for-note what you'd hear on the studio albums.
That, I guess, is the first disappointment. No, I don't want to hear Adams flub the guitar solo on "Somebody," or hear his voice crack on "Heaven." But I would have liked to hear Adams or any member of the band cut loose and take some chances with the material - guess Adams's style of radio-friendly rock doesn't allow itself to take part in wild abandon like that.
In fact, the riskiest Adams gets is on an acoustic guitar-only rendition of "Into The Fire," which proves to be a lovely track - and dares to pave the way for an appearance on "MTV Unplugged". (Editor's note: In fact, Adams came out with MTV Unplugged in 1997.) In fact, I'm right now building up the courage to go into the basement of the Pierce Memorial Archives to dig out my copy of Into The Fire because of this rendition.
The hits? Well, because this was released in 1988, don't look for "Everything I Do (I Do For You)," or anything else from Waking Up The Neighbours. Most of Adams's hits are here (though I really wish he had done "This Time"), and the performances are good. From the opening guitar riffs of "Cuts Like A Knife" to the powerful renditions of "Run To You" and "Summer Of '69" (wonder why the radio censors never caught onto the line "me and my baby in '69"?), complete with the Belgian audience taking over the vocals on the first verse.
The two covers on this one, Robert Johnson's "Walking After Midnight" and Bobby Fuller's "I Fought The Law" seem to be throwaways - Adams has many solid songs in his repertoire, making it funny that he would choose to cover songs.
The only real problem with Live! Live! Live! is the energy level - if I didn't know better, I would have said I was listening to his greatest-hits album So Far, So Good with audience noises dubbed in. Like the lack of improvisation, I think Adams's musical style is what brings down the intensity on this one. Sure, he and his band are tight and play the songs perfectly - but I miss the human aspect of the show. I want to feel as excited as if I were in the audience feeling my heart skip a beat as the house lights turn off.
As live albums go, Live! Live! Live! is better than many I've heard, and Adams shows why he was one of the kings of Top 40 radio in the mid-'80s. And if you don't mind hearing a somewhat robotic performance to get to the few magical moments of the album, it's a trip worth taking.