Bryan Adams
Get exclusive access

USA TODAY Premiers ‘GOD ONLY KNOWS’ from Tracks of My Years

USA Today premiers “God Only Knows’ from the upcoming album, Tracks Of My Years, in stores Sept 30th in USA & Canada and October 6th Internationally.

When Bryan Adams decided the Beach Boys’ 1966 song God Only Knows, he thought he’d approach it like one of Tony Bennett and Bill Evans’ classic voice-and-piano duets. “There was no way I would ever want to duplicate a Beach Boys song,” says the Canadian rocker, who included the song on his forthcoming album Tracks of My Years.

“I wanted to have the vocal featured up front, with no echo and no reverb. I wanted people to hear the nuances of the voice, without any color on it. There’s nothing more beautiful than piano and voice together — other than maybe voice and guitar.”

God Only Knows, premiering at USA TODAY, closes the standard edition of Tracks of My Years, out Sept. 30 via Verve Music Group. For the album, Adams chose material from the late ’50s through the early ’70s, “songs that were around at the time I decided music was going to be what was happening.”

Producer David Foster, now chairman of the Verve Music Group, pitched Adams on the album concept. For the most part, Adams — who had a long string of rock hits in the ’80s and ’90s that included Cuts Like a Knife, Summer of ’69 and Everything I Do (I Do It for You) — steered clear of the music that most influenced him. “Who wants to hear me do a version of Whole Lotta Love or something from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band?” he says.

Instead, he tended to favor less-than-obvious choices from iconic acts like the Beach Boys, the Beatles and Bob Dylan, as well as songs that might have played back-to-back with them on AM radio, like Bobby Hebb’s Sunny, The Association’s Never My Love or The Manhattans’ Kiss and Say Goodbye.

The album opens with a version of The Beatles’ Any Time at All. “I couldn’t choose a bigger Beatles song. They’re already quite untouchable,” he says.

For the Dylan song, Adams went with Lay Lady Lay. “As soon as a guy with a voice like mine sits down to sing a Dylan song, it just sounds like Dylan,” he says. “I chose Lay Lady Lay because I sing it up the octave from where Bob sings it, so it sounds different.”

The album also includes covers of hits by Chuck Berry, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Miracles and Ray Charles, as well as a new original song, She Knows Me, written by Adams and Jim Valliance.

“When I was a youngster, AM radio was really king,” Adams says. “I used to hang on to my little transistor radio. I hark back to that time, when I was trying to work out what I wanted to do.”