CHEAP TRICK

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Cheap Trick arrived on the music scene in the mid-70's, when heavy metal was becoming silly and the punk/new wave explosion was just around the corner. Cheap Trick's earliest and best records were irreverent and compulsively enjoyable takes on hard rock and power pop. All four of the band's members were talented and wildly energetic performers. After their initial popularity faded in the early '80's, the band's career has had many ups and downs, but the band still performs to this day (without original drummer Bun E. Carlos) and they released their most recent studio album in 2009. For a thorough telling of the story of Cheap Trick's first two decades, the book Reputation Is A Fragile Thing: The Cheap Trick Story by Mike Hayes and Ken Sharp (Poptastic, 1998) is recommended reading.

Fuse


Cheap Trick's roots extend at least as far back as the late '60's, when the band's future founder/guitarist Rick Nielsen and bassist Tom Petersson were members of a band called Fuse. Not to be confused with any of three '90's artists who used the same name, Fuse played blues-tinged hard rock on the order of Cream and the Yardbirds. At the time of the release of Fuse's only album in 1968, Nielsen was 21 and Petersson was 19, and the band's other three members were a year or two younger still. Their youthful vigor makes the self-titled album riveting and fun. Although the music of Fuse bears little resemblance to that of their future band, the presence of Nielsen and Petersson is evident and distinctive throughout; the two clearly had remarkable chemistry from the start. It's easy to imagine the Nielsen composition "Sad Day" being performed by Cheap Trick. Fuse is well worth discovering. In 2001, the album was briefly available on CD in the U.S. with two bonus tracks from the band's first single: a garage-rock version of the classic "Hound Dog", and its band-written B-side "Cruisin' For Burgers".

Track Listing:

1. Across The Skies
2. Permanent Resident
3. Show Me
4. To Your Health
5. In A Window
6. 4/4 3/4
7. Mystery Ship
8. Sad Day



In 1980, Epic records released a 10-inch vinyl EP called Found All The Parts with the band's endorsement. The EP contains four songs, allegedly representing each of the four years between 1976 and 1979, which arguably made up the band's best period. Side One contains two live cuts: a 1979 performance of the Beatles' "Day Tripper" that is both faithful and irreverent, and a 1978 performance of "Can't Hold On", recorded at Budokan. That same recording of "Can't Hold On" later appeared on Budokan II and Cheap Trick At Budokan: The Complete Concert, but the sound quality is better on Found All The Parts; perhaps the master tape has degraded. Side Two contains two previously unreleased studio tracks: "Such A Good Girl", a bubbly power-pop number from 1976, and "Take Me I'm Yours", a sweet ballad supposedly recorded in 1977. The band has since admitted that the packaging is not entirely truthful: "Day Tripper" was actually recorded in the studio with dubbed-in applause, and "Take Me I'm Yours" was actually recorded in 1979. Regardless, it's good stuff. As an added bonus, the vinyl EP also came with a 7" promo single, both sides of which contain the frenetic "Everything Works If You Let It", the George Martin-produced theme song from the moronic 1980 film
Roadie. Found All The Parts was released on CD in Japan in 2003. In the U.S., all five of these songs were included as bonus tracks on a 2006 reissue of the album All Shook Up, and were also included on a 2-on-1 CD with Busted in 2010.

Track Listing:

1. Day Tripper (live, 1979)
2. Can't Hold On (live, 1978)
3. Such A Good Girl (1976)
4. Take Me I'm Yours (1977)

Bonus single (vinyl only):
Everything Works If You Let It (Epic AE7 1206)



In 1980, bassist Tom Petersson left the band for a solo career. This had a noticeable effect on the band's chemistry; the four albums they recorded without him were inferior to the ones that came before, and their popularity faded. Petersson returned in time for the 1988 album Lap Of Luxury, which was their comeback album. So what did Petersson do during those years in between? He formed a band with his then-wife Dagmar Peterson, and called it Tom Peterson and Another Language (his name was then spelled with one "s" instead of two). The band also included ex-Nazz drummer Thom Mooney and session guitarist Jeffrey Rollings. Their only released recording was a 1984 five-song EP on the now-defunct Enigma label.

The songs on the EP were co-written by Tom and Dagmar. Most of the vocals are by Dagmar, who sounds like a German-accented Debbie Harry, and Tom makes an occasional vocal appearance. Tom produced and arranged the record, which is nicely atmospheric at times; he also played guitar, piano, and 12- and 18-string bass. The music is the type of post-Blondie new wave that was prominent in the early '80's, and is recommended for fans of that genre. Fans of Cheap Trick should note that only one song, the standout "Living In Another World", sounds remotely Trick-like. It may not leave you crying for more, but Tom Peterson and Another Language makes a cool 25-minute listen.

Track Listing:

1. Lose Your Mind
2. All I Need
3. My Car
4. Living In Another World
5. Rainy Day



1985's Standing On The Edge and 1986's The Doctor found the band trying desperately to fit into the mid-'80's -- and failing miserably. Both albums sound amazingly uninspired. Bassist Jon Brant, Petersson's replacement, makes no impression at all on either album.

Standing On The Edge was produced by Jack Douglas, who helmed the band's superb 1977 debut album. But lightning didn't strike twice; this album mainly consists of dull formula rock that could have been recorded by almost any mid-'80's band. It's a dispiriting example of a band struggling to do what it once did best. In its losing defense, Standing On The Edge does contain the lovely ballad "Tonight It's You" and two revved-up rockers ("Cover Girl", the title track) that recall the band's better days.

Things didn't get any better on The Doctor, an annoying album grossly overproduced by Tony Platt (who mixed Standing On The Edge). The Tricksters don't even sound like the stars of their own recording here. Engineer/co-mixer Paul Klingberg played keyboards; wouldn't you know it's the dominant instrument on most of the album? The combination of those overbearing keyboards and Platt's high-tech warp-speed production makes The Doctor sound like it was recorded by Starship after a sugar and caffeine binge. The Doctor is generally considered to be the band's worst album. In all fairness, it does contain some truly awful songs ("Man-U-Lip-U-Lator"?) and a few half-decent ones ("Kiss Me Red", the title track) that would sound pretty weird on any other Cheap Trick album.

Note: Both of these albums were reissued by the Wounded Bird label in May 2010.

Track Listings:

STANDING ON THE EDGE

1. Little Sister
2. Tonight It's You
3. She's Got Motion
4. Love Comes
5. How About You
6. Standing On The Edge
7. This Time Around
8. Rock All Night
9. Cover Girl
10. Wild Wild Women


THE DOCTOR

1. It's Up To You
2. Rearview Mirror Romance
3. The Doctor
4. Are You Lonely Tonight
5. Name Of The Game
6. Kiss Me Red
7. Take Me To The Top
8. Good Girls Go To Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere)
9. Man-U-Lip-U-Lator
10. It's Only Love



In 1988, after Petersson returned to the band, Cheap Trick had a surprising resurgence. In fact, they reached their commercial peak that year, scoring a #1 single ("The Flame", from the album Lap Of Luxury).

1990's Busted was the all-important follow-up album to Lap Of Luxury. One would have hoped that Petersson's return and the band's commercial fortune would give them the needed self-confidence for a return to form. But Busted found them only halfway there. The album is frustratingly uneven, consisting of good hard-rock numbers ("I Can't Understand It", Roy Wood's "Rock 'N' Roll Tonight") and bad ones ("Back 'N Blue"), as well as good pop songs ("Walk Away" with Chrissie Hynde, "Had To Make You Mine") and bad ones (the hit "Can't Stop Fallin' Into Love", Diane Warren's "Wherever Would I Be"). Busted indicated that the Cheap Trick mechanism still needed fixin'. (Note: Busted was reissued by the Wounded Bird label in May 2010, as part of a 2-on-1 CD with Found All The Parts).

Track Listing:

1. Back 'N Blue
2. I Can't Understand It
3. Wherever Would I Be
4. If You Need Me
5. Can't Stop Fallin' Into Love
6. Busted
7. Walk Away
8. You Drive, I'll Steer
9. When You Need Someone
10. Had To Make You Mine
11. Rock 'N' Roll Tonight



In 1993, Cheap Trick's vocally agile frontman Robin Zander recorded his first and so far only solo album. Stylistically, the self-titled album sounds more like a Tom Petty album than one by Cheap Trick. This is not surprising, since most of the album was co-produced by Zander and veteran Petty producer Jimmy Iovine, and members of Petty's Heartbreakers (Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench) play on the record. In fact, a surprising number of familiar names participated in the songs: Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood both guest on "Secret"; Dr. John plays piano on the slightly Stonesy "Emily", co-written by Zander and Eurythmics' Dave Stewart; Don Felder of the Eagles contributes a guitar solo on the lovely ballad "Time Will Let You Know"; and Maria McKee provides backing vocals on a few songs (including her song "Show Me Heaven"). That's Christina Amphlett of Divinyls (remember "I Touch Myself"?) duetting with Robin on "Boy (I'm So In Love With You)". Not all of the songs work; the cover of Harry Nilsson's wild "Jump Into The Fire" is produced in an annoying way. But overall, Robin Zander is a decent solo effort by the gifted vocalist.

Track Listing:

1. Reactionary Girl -- (Rob Laufer)
2. I've Always Got You -- (Mike Campbell, Robin Zander, J.D. Souther)
3. Show Me Heaven -- (J. Rifkin, E. Mackin, M. McKee)
4. Jump Into The Fire -- (Harry Nilsson)
5. Time Will Let You Know -- (Robin Zander, Brian O. Who)
6. Boy (I'm So In Love With You) -- (Fred Reynolds, Robin Zander)
7. Tell It To The World -- (Mike Campbell, Robin Zander, J.D. Souther)
8. Emily -- (Robin Zander, Dave Stewart)
9. I Believe In You -- (Neil Young)
10. Secret -- (Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Billy Steinberg, Tom Kelly)
11. Everlasting Love -- (Robin Zander, Mick MacNeil)
12. Walkin' Shoes -- (Robin Zander, Mark Spiro)



In the early '90's, Cheap Trick were finally free from their long and often troubled alliance with Epic Records. They were signed by Warner Bros., and were given more creative freedom to make an album the way they wanted to. Their first and only album on that label, Woke Up With A Monster, does sometimes sound like a return to the sound of their late-'70's heyday. But it isn't quite a return to form. The record is given lead-footed production by rock veteran Ted Templeman (who has produced everyone from Van Morrison to Van Halen). Templeman's production works to good advantage on the harder-rocking numbers, but it weighs down the ballads and mid-tempo songs. Although Woke Up With A Monster is not the great album it might have been, it is easily superior to most of the band's '80's output. The title track and "Girlfriends" are among the standouts. The Stones-like "Ride The Pony" sounds like it was intended for Zander's solo album. "Cry Baby" is intriguingly bluesy. Although the band had high hopes for Woke Up With A Monster, it was an unexpected commercial failure. Warner Bros. soon released the band from its contract, and the album was deleted from the label's catalogue.

Track Listing:

1. My Gang
2. Woke Up With A Monster
3. You're All I Wanna Do
4. Never Run Out Of Love
5. Didn't Know I Had It
6. Ride The Pony
7. Girlfriends
8. Let Her Go
9. Tell Me Everything
10. Cry Baby
11. Love Me For A Minute



Gift was a Christmas CD that the band recorded for charity. Containing two tracks and running all of 4 minutes and 11 seconds, it consists of two quick, rowdy holiday songs. The first features vocals by various children of band members; the second is a casual Christmas version of their song "Come On Come On" (which was included on the Sex America Cheap Trick box set). Gift is a cute little collectible item, though it hardly seems worth the jewelcase and the disc it's printed on. A 7-inch vinyl 45 would have been cooler.

Track Listing:

1. Christmas Christmas
2. Come On Christmas



Cheap Trick 1997

 

In 1997, Cheap Trick released a self-titled album on the indie label Red Ant. (It turned out to be another one-album deal, because Red Ant went out of business shortly after the album's release). Not to be confused with their 1977 debut -- this album's black-and-white cover photo is of the band's instruments, not the band -- Cheap Trick was presented as a new beginning for the band, and it followed up on that promise. Produced by the band and Ian Taylor, the album is refreshingly free of the production excesses that plagued too many of their post-1979 albums. This album had more great moments than any other one they had made after the '70's, containing ferocious rockers ("Wrong All Along", "You Let A Lotta People Down"), heartfelt ballads ("Say Goodbye", "Shelter"), and numerous other reminders of what made Cheap Trick a great band in the beginning. It's a shame that the album disappeared as quickly as it did; it would have been nice if more people could have heard Cheap Trick regain their footing.

Notes: Some CD copies from the first printing came with a bonus CD single, containing two songs produced by the uncompromising Steve Albini. The band-written "Baby Talk" is full of raw punkish fury, while the cover of the Move's "Brontosaurus" is a fast-paced rock-and-roll treat. The Japanese CD includes "Baby Talk" and "Brontosaurus" as bonus tracks.

Track Listing:

1. Anytime
2. Hard To Tell
3. Carnival Game
4. Shelter
5. You Let A Lotta People Down
6. Baby No More
7. Yeah Yeah
8. Say Goodbye
9. Wrong All Along
10. Eight Miles Low
11. It All Comes Back To You

Limited edition bonus CD-single (Red Ant PROR7-2):

1. Baby Talk
2. Brontosaurus


Music For Hangovers was a live album recorded over the course of four nights at Chicago’s Metro in the spring of 1998. Presenting further evidence that the quartet was going back to their roots, these four shows concentrated on songs from the first three Cheap Trick albums (although four post-1978 selections are present here as well). But Music For Hangovers is not the work of a nostalgia act; instead, it is the sound of a great band cutting through nearly two decades’ worth of missteps and returning to what made them great in the beginning. In fact, Music For Hangovers withstands comparison to the classic At Budokan, but it is not a recycling of it. Many different songs (mostly from the same era) were chosen, and the inclusion of such selections as “Hot Love”, “The Ballad of T.V. Violence”, and “Gonna Raise Hell” give Music For Hangovers a harder edge than the earlier live album. The entire set is quite solid, although “Oh Caroline”, “How Are You”, and “Dream Police” make particularly good impressions.

Note: Music For Hangovers was also released as a DVD in the year 2000 (Rhino Home Video R2 976071). The DVD is also out of print.

Track Listing:

1. Oh Claire
2. Surrender
3. Hot Love
4. I Can't Take It
5. I Want You To Want Me
6. Taxman, Mr. Thief
7. Mandocello
8. Oh Caroline
9. How Are You?
10. If You Want My Love
11. Dream Police
12. So Good To See You
13. The Ballad of T.V. Violence
14. Gonna Raise Hell

Silver

 

They topped that one with Silver, a 2-CD live set celebrating the band's 25th anniversary. Recorded in August 1999 in their hometown of Rockford, Illinois, Silver has the band playing songs from virtually every known aspect of their first quarter-century, including at least one song from each of their 13 preceding studio albums, as well as "Time Will Let You Know" from Zander's solo album (on which Zander sings a duet with his daughter Holland), John Lennon's "I'm Losin' You" (Nielsen and Carlos played on an alternate version of Lennon's studio original), and their theme song from That 70's Show (based on Big Star's "In The Street"). Most of the performances stay faithful to the studio originals, but none of them are by rote; the entire set is marked by a high level of festive enthusiasm. Zander's vocal talents get a splendid showcase, especially towards the end of the first disc. Guest stars include Jon Brant (who plays bass on "If You Want My Love" and "She's Tight", the two selections from One On One), Slash (an inspired choice of a guitarist to play on "You're All Talk"), Billy Corgan (who adds a layer of Pumpkins-style guitar crunch to "Just Got Back"), and Everclear's Art Alexakis (who gives enthusiastic vocal and guitar support to their cover of the Beatles' "Day Tripper"). A great night of rock and roll.

Note: Silver was also released as a DVD in the year 2001 (Image Entertainment ID1265CSDVD). The DVD is also out of print.

Track Listing:

DISC ONE

1. Ain't That A Shame
2. I Want You To Want Me
3. Oh, Candy
4. That 70's Song
5. Voices
6. If You Want My Love
7. She's Tight
8. Can't Stop Fallin' Into Love
9. Gonna Raise Hell
10. I Can't Take It
11. Take Me To The Top
12. It All Comes Back To You
13. Tonight It's You
14. Time Will Let You Know
15. World's Greatest Lover


DISC TWO

1. The Flame
2. Stop This Game
3. Dream Police
4. I Know What I Want
5. Woke Up With A Monster
6. Never Had A Lot To Lose
7. You're All Talk
8. I'm Losin' You
9. Hard To Tell
10. Oh Claire
11. Surrender
12. Just Got Back
13. Day Tripper
14. Who D' King

Special One 1         Special One 2

Left: the original cover art for Special One. Right: the cover art for later pressings.

 

Those two live albums helped to tide fans over until the release of the next studio album in 2003. It would have been nice if Special One had lived up to its title, but the album turned out to be a merely adequate one. It's highlighted by two decent power pop numbers ("Scent Of A Woman", "My Obsession"), and it shows some creative spark with three quirky yet accessible experiments ("Pop Drone", "Sorry Boy", "Best Friend") and a charming moment of George Harrison-like Eastern music (the title track, co-produced by the band and Jack Douglas). On the downside, the ballad "Too Much" obviously cops part of its melody from the Three Degrees' "When Will I See You Again"(!), and the album ends on a false note with the last two tracks: "Low Life In High Heels" is a Steve Albini-produced trifle that Zander mostly hums through; it's a weak idea that gets beaten to death by "Hummer", a pointless four-minute Dan The Automator remix of the same song. Heard together, those two tracks come across as either a time-filler or a bad joke -- either of which is fairly inexcusable after a six-year studio hiatus. It's a shame that those last two tracks leave the listener somewhat cold, because otherwise, Special One is not a bad album -- and, by that point in time, we knew all too well what a bad Cheap Trick album sounded like.

Note: Early pressings of Special One -- with the cover art pictured on the left above -- came with a limited-edition bonus DVD containing five music videos: "Say Goodbye" (from the 1997 album), "Hot Love" (the live version from Music For Hangovers), "Hard To Tell" (the live version from Silver), "Woke Up With A Monster" (the bizarre video for the 1994 studio version), and "He's A Whore" (from the 1977 debut album).

Track Listing:

1. Scent Of A Woman
2. Too Much
3. Special One
4. Pop Drone
5. My Obsession
6. Words
7. Sorry Boy
8. Best Friend
9. If I Could
10. Low Life In High Heels
11. Hummer


See also Bun E.'s Basement Bootlegs, Volume One, Two, Three, Four

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