18 Till I Die

Bryan Adams

A & M Records, 1996


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


When Bryan Adams first found success in the '80s, he had a rough-hewn rock sound that just appealed to the scene at the time. Tracks like “Cuts Like A Knife,” “Run To You” and “Summer Of '69” all had that teetering-on-anarchy edge to their production quality, which only added to the solid songwriting and performances by Adams.

Then, he moved into a new territory. Featuring polished production from Robert John “Mutt” Lange (as well as insipid songwriting from him – more on that in a minute) and partially transforming into the smooth balladeer, Adams did taste his greatest success with Waking Up The Neighbours – a disc which, to me, lost a lot of the magic of his early career.

18 Till I Die, the followup studio album (coming after the inevitable greatest hits compilation and delayed release of a live disc in the States), continues the downward slide for Adams. He doesn't quite know whether he wants to be an adult-contemporary performer or a rocker, and relies too much on Lange's assistance in songwriting. Honestly, this would have been a better disc had he focused on the adult-contemporary ballads. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The success of the disc's closing track, “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” (from the film Don Juan DeMarco), should have cemented that for Adams. But there is an undiscovered gem on this disc in the same vein - “I'll Always Be Right There” is an amazing track, and makes me wonder why this never became a hit, either on the radio or on the wedding circuit. Whatever the case, it is actually one of the best songs Adams had done in a decade.

If only the same praise could be heaped onto the remainder of 18 Till I Die. Adams's attempts to remain a rock god are fading quickly in the rear view mirror, and tracks such as “We're Gonna Win,” “Black Pearl” and the title song don't do him any favors.

And then, there is the Lange influence. Look, I won't deny that he was the Uberproducer in the '80s and '90s; his work with Def Leppard and AC/DC alone earn him all the accolades he needs. But, as a songwriter, he has come up with some of the lamest titles I've ever had to read – and that's not even dipping into the work he did with his then-wife Shania Twain. Example: “(I Wanna Be) Your Underwear”… give me a fuckin' break. How he got Adams to agree to sing this – and, for that matter, how Adams did without projectile vomiting all over the studio – is anyone's guess. Needless to say, the track is awful.

Unfortunately, it's not limited to just this one crater of a track. Pair bad songs with bad titles, and you have further nightmares like “The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You” and “It Ain't A Party… If You Can't Come 'Round”. Some may say that Adams shares in the blame – and, believe me, he's not getting off scot-free. But, when you compare these titles with some of the songs that Lange wrote with Twain on her albums – example: “Waiter! Bring Me Water!” - and you can't say that this was all Adams's fault.

18 Till I Die would be an absolutely worthless album if it weren't for a few ballads that showed that Adams was, in fact, onto something by focusing on this aspect of his career. “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman,” “I'll Always Be Right There” and “You're Still Beautiful To Me” are the sole bright spots on this otherwise unlistenable disc – and for those three tracks alone, make the experience worth sludging through.

Rating: D

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