On first impact, Ashes and Fire is lost to its own minimal momentum, or a craving for a change in pace that most ballad-heavy records of this ilk give off. And yet what ultimately surfaces from within the rattling acoustic guitars and buttery double basslines that lead in and lay under the likes of Dirty Water, the joyous Save Me (complete with wispy pedal-Steel and Norah Jones vocal harmonies), or the thumping waltz-time drums fixed to the title track, is an aura of real restraint, with Adams undisguised, and at his most reflective lyrically.
If Ashes and Fire’s tender tread momentarily slips, it’s down to the bouncier Chains of Love, a song which, not unlike the album’s big single Lucky Now, resembles the kind of organ-swirling, reverb-slapped songs Springsteen continuously coughed up during the 1980s. Elsewhere, Invisible Riverside adopts a more robust and lazy feel, washed over with electric piano and a wispy Wah-wah solo as to reinforce Adams’ lofty vocal ambitions.
But its the record’s more divested moments, during songs like Rocks or the album’s highly sensitive and emotive climax I Love You But I Don’t Know What To Say, that Adams’ genius as a songwriter and vocalist transcends even his own former glories, billing Ashes and Fire, if not his most memorable record of the decade, then most certainly his most moving.