Into the Fire
Recording Artist: Bryan Adams
Release Date: 1987 (A&M Records)
Songs By Jim Vallance: Another Day
Hearts On Fire
Heat Of The Night
Home Again
Into The Fire
Native Son
Only The Strong Survive
Remembrance Day
Victim Of Love
Charts: #2 - Canadian Chart
#3 - Swedish Chart
# 7 - Billboard Album Chart / April 1987 (33 weeks on chart)
#10 - UK Chart / April 1987
#16 - Netherlands "Top 75" chart / 1987
Certification: Gold Album Award / Canada (50,000 sales) 1987
Platinum Album Award / Canada (100,000 sales) 1987
Gold Album Award / Switzerland (120,000 sales) 1987
Gold Album Award / USA (500,000 sales) 1987
Platinum Album Award / USA (1 million sales) 1988
Platinum Album Award / Japan (150,000 sales) 1988
World: Approximately 2 million sales
The Into The Fire album is the moment when Adams and I disappeared up our own fundamental apertures and re-emerged in "The Land That Fun Forgot". We lost our creative compass. Everything changed during Into The Fire: our music, our relationship. We limped along, creatively, for another year or two, but truth be told, we were done. It took nearly twenty years to re-kindle our friendship and our songwriting partnership, now stronger than ever, and for which I'm very grateful.

So where did things go wrong?

In 1985 -- two years before Into The Fire -- we'd co-written "Tears Are Not Enough", the Canadian song for African famine relief. In retrospect it may have been arrogant and presumptuous of us (correction ... it was arrogant and presumptuous of us), but you couldn't help but feel you were changing the world a little bit. I mean, you write a song and a few weeks later starving people in Africa have food to eat!

It was everything the 1960's had promised but had failed to deliver. The success of the humanitarian effort -- helmed by Bob Geldof -- was impressive, and it had a profound effect on us.

As a result, when we started writing songs for "Into The Fire" we gravitated away from the typical boy-girl love-song scenarios that had worked so well for us in the past, and instead we embraced more serious subject matter. If we'd given it some more thought we might have realized this was creative territory better left to Bono, Sting and Springsteen ... but there was no stopping us. Full steam ahead!
I'd been doing a lot of "family research" on the First World War.  I'd walked across the 1918 battlefields and visited my great-uncle's grave in Sains-lez-Marquion France. The idea for "Remembrance Day" came from that.

Bryan had the title "Native Son", which inspired us to write about the injustices inflicted on Native Americans by the early white settlers.

The rest of the songs followed from there.
By the time the album was finished only two tracks fell into the "love song" category:  the dark and depressing "Victim Of Love", and the upbeat "Hearts On Fire" (which had actually been written during the "Reckless" sessions two years earlier).

Another significant influence for Into The Fire was Bryan's involvement with Sting, Peter Gabriel and U2 on the six-city "Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope" tour in June 1986. It seemed to me, after the Amnesty tour, Bryan wanted to be taken more seriously as a songwriter and recording artist.  He believed a change in musical direction was the way to achieve that.

"We wanted to make a record with more lyrical depth", Bryan told Rolling Stone magazine. And so it began.  Where previously we'd used guitars as our main song-writing tool, for "Into The Fire" we employed the latest in "sampling" technology ... the Emulator-II.
Amnesty International logo
I'd first encountered the Emulator while working on Glass Tiger's Thin Red Line album in 1985. So when Bryan returned from the Amnesty tour and proposed that we approach our songwriting in a different way, I introduced him to the "Emu".

Here's Bryan in a May '86 interview with International Musician magazine:

"Without the help of electronic gear nowadays we would have a lot more trouble writing songs.  The Emulator and the Linn have advanced my songwriting immeasurably. I wish I could say I write all my songs on acoustic guitar, but it's not true."
Linn "LM2" programmable drum machine, circa 1985

Ultimately however, I believe the technology just got in the way.  It became a barrier to our creativity.  The electronic sounds (particularly the drums) lacked dynamics or any human quality.  On top of that, "sequencing" software was still in its infancy.  Sometimes it took me hours to program a basic track, and that drove Bryan crazy.

Previously, when Bryan recorded albums he'd always remained faithful to our home-studio tapes, adhering religiously to the arrangements we'd created in the basement.  For the most part that "basement magic" came from the combination of Bryan on guitar and myself on keyboards, bass and drums ... real instruments, real performances.

On Into The Fire Bryan also remained true to our demos, except this time, as a result of the technology, our home recordings were lacking in "feel" and devoid of human nuance.  Some of that robotic quality found it's way onto the master studio recordings. 

Producer Bob Clearmountain got great sounds, and Bryan's band played as passionately as ever, but to my ear there's a hollowness, a "wooden" feel to some of the tracks ... an absence of the energy and spontaneity that had defined Reckless, the album that all future Adams albums would be measured against.

Into The Fire sold a respectable 2 million copies, a number that many artists wish they could achieve.  However Bryan's previous album, Reckless, had sold more than 10-million copies... and in that context Into The Fire can only be viewed as a disappointment.

Here's what Bryan had to say about it: 

"I have to laugh when the press say [Into The Fire] didn't do well because it did as well as "Cuts Like Knife", but I suppose the perception was it wasn't "Reckless" II!  Who cares? There were some songs that were slightly different than what we had written before ... some were, lets say, slightly more exploratory than we'd written in the past.  Vallance was up for the songwriting challenge of not repeating Reckless."

The bulletin board on my studio wall which was used to keep track of songs for the "Into The Fire" album.  Click to view larger image.

MTV website:  When he released INTO THE FIRE, Bryan Adams was an established and extremely successful rock & roller. Styles had changed over the decade, but Adams's brand of melodic hard rock was still very much in vogue, and even flourishing, as bands from Guns & Roses and Aerosmith to the so-called hair-metal bands made the power ballad a genre unto itself. Teaming up with longtime producer Bob Clearmountain and songwriting partner Jim Vallance, Adams sticks with this approach. Clearmountain brings his trademark ultra-clear, '80s-style production to the proceedings, especially evident on the gleaming title track. And the songs continue to mine the basic rock idiom. Yet Adams shows a desire to evolve. He looks at the lives of the working class a la Bruce Springsteen on "Another Day" and "Rebel," while "Remembrance Day" is a homage to World War Two soldiers. He even addresses Native American issues in "Native Son." Although the record doesn't feature what could be called a signature Bryan Adams song, the collection offers what any Bryan Adams record has: big drums, big guitars, lots of strong and memorable hooks, and that voice.

Steve Hochman, Rolling Stone Magazine:  If U2 has been this decade's Who, then Bryan Adams has been its Grand Funk. Though that hardly sounds like a compliment, it's not meant as an insult either. Good populist rockers are hard to come by, and for the past few years, Adams – mixing stadium-perfect kids-wanna-rockers with an occasional stab at a message or evocative nostalgia – has been the best of a thin, inconsistent lot.

Unlike Bruce Springsteen, Adams was born to rock the upper decks. While the emotions Springsteen has dealt with may be universal, his settings are not, and as he's widened his canvas, his magic has diminished. With Adams, though, it's the bigger the better. His songs couldn't possibly be more effective in a club than in a hockey arena, and you know that's not true with the Boss.

Even John Cougar Mellencamp relinquished his average-guy credentials with Scarecrow, a praiseworthy achievement that elevated him to the ranks of the special. He may be more popular than ever, but he can no longer get away with simply rocking the house down – he's got to get more special every time out.

Bryan Adams faced the same problem once his hook-laden last album, 1984's Reckless, took him to the top of the arena heap. No longer could he merely be Everyman – writing 1985's "Tears Are Not Enough" (the Canadian "We Are the World") and singing with Tina Turner (who is anything but Everywoman) were enough to blow that cover. So like Mellencamp and Bob Seger before him, Adams came to the point where he had to move from speaking to the masses to speaking for them. If he didn't, he risked stagnating as a good-time rocker with every Tom, Dick and Bon Jovi poised to supplant him.

So with Into the Fire, his fifth album, Adams follows Mellencamp and Seger up the mountain but fails to come within sight of the peak. Though Into the Fire is Adams's all-around strongest work, it doesn't rival Scarecrow or Seger's Beautiful Loser. Where Seger offered some kind of hope to a lost and rootless generation and Mellencamp pretty well captured the mood of the nation, Adams shows that he has a will to speak but nothing in particular to say.

Ostensibly – and predictably – inspired by Adams's participation in the Live Aid and Amnesty International benefit shows, the themes of the album seem to revolve around various personal and political struggles for freedom. That's hardly a new area to explore, and a scan of the song titles ("Heat of the Night," "Only the Strong Survive," "Into the Fire" and so on) shows that the best Adams and co-writer Jim Vallance could come up with was a series of clichés.

The lyrics rarely rise above such catch-phrase assemblages as these lines from "Only the Strong Survive": "'Cause you gotta understand that there ain't no second chance/No one gets outa here alive – only the strong survive." Worse are the vague pro-Native American message of "Native Son" and the antiwar message of "Remembrance Day," the lyrics of which read like earnest but clumsy high-school poetry. Even Mellencamp's most heavy-handed rhetoric seems graceful by comparison.

On the other hand, Adams has come up with the best-sounding record of his career, actually recording it in his living room. Except for "Heat of the Night," which opens the record on a somewhat plodding note, each track has a winning quality – ranging from the hazy groove of the title song (sort of a cross between the Beatles' "Rain" and the Who's "Baba O'Reilly") to the Stonesish electricity of "Hearts on Fire." With coproducer Bob Clearmountain and a crack band that now includes former Hall and Oates drummer Mickey Curry as a full-time member, Adams keeps his arena sound a step ahead of the pack without resorting to gimmickry. Bombastic? Of course. But it's clear, clean bombast. And if at times Adams's voice sounds like Bonnie Tyler on a bad day, at least it's got some memorable melodies to work with.

What's more, Adams still displays his knack for reaching the rafters with such ready-made fist pumpers as "Rebel" (an earlier version of which was recorded by Roger Daltrey) and "Victim of Love." But relying on crowd pleasers isn't enough for Adams anymore, and Into the Fire makes no case that he can grow beyond that. It's still possible that he has a Scarecrow in him – he's only twenty-seven, after all. But at this point he would appear to be stuck between his rock and a hard place.
  Proceed to the next album, "Live, Live, Live"