Cheap Trick (Epic) 1977
1. "Elo Kiddies"
I am a child of the 70's. While most kids were busy trading baseball cards and listening to the Bay City Rollers and the Jackson 5 in grade school, I was a hard rock fanatic by the time I was 7. One of the bands I discovered early on was Cheap Trick. Unfortunately it wasn't until the band's wildly popular "At Budakon" that I discovered them and then began checking out their back catalog. What I liked about Cheap Trick on that live album was that heavy raw sound mixed with those infectious pop hooks. These guys were doing pop metal before there was pop metal. Well, the second album I ever heard was this self titled debut. Like "Budakon", this CD has a tough meaty sound thanks to producer Jack Douglas, who was well known for his work with another huge 70's band, Aerosmith. Douglas gave guitarist Rick Nielson a tough guitar sound, reminding of Aerosmith in parts. Zander's smooth vox stood in stark contrast to Nielson's guitar sound, yet it worked perfectly together. Unfortunately for both the band and this fan, nothing else the band released ever had this same raw edge. This album, along with "Budakon" proove that Cheap Trick never did need all that studio sheen. Cheap Trick is pack full of classics and is held by many as the first in Cheap Trick's classic trilogy, along with "In Color" and "Heaven Tonight". Tracks like "ELO Kiddies" and the Beatles inspired "Taxman, Mr Thief" are downright infectious. The band also steered faily clear of the typical 70's lyrical trappings with songs about youth cynicism ("Elo Kiddies"), modern culture's fixation with death ("The Ballad Of TV Violence") pedophiles ("Daddy Should Have Stayed in High School"), and even people selling themselves out for the mighty dollar ("He's a Whore").
The bonus tracks are a nice inclusion, especially the unreleased outtake "Lovin' Money", the early version of "I Want You To Want Me" and the incredible "Lookout". The remastered version also offers vastly improved sound quality and some interesting liner notes, although no lyrics. I use to own the original ten song CD release and the songs are in a completely different order here. I can't remember which one mirrors the original LP release, but I assume it's this remastered version.
Cheap Trick - In Color (Epic) 1977
1. "Hello There"
Second of the classic trinity of Cheap Trick albums. "In Color" features brilliant pop tunes played with a hard rock sheen. Unfortunately Jack Douglas was not brought back in to produce this album and new producer Tom Werman came in and watered down the band's sound. The "At Budakon" versions of songs like "Clock Strikes Ten", "Hello There", "Big Eyes" and most certainly "I Want You To Want Me" smoke these versions. While Douglas managed to capture that live aggression, Werman has purposely spit shined the band. Despite my complaint about the recording, the songs here are undeniable. The aforementiond songs as well as "Southern Girls" and "Downed" are fantastic. Nielsen's manic riffing on "Big Eyes" the smoking "Clock Strikes Ten" can't be denied. My least favorite song here is actually "I Want You To Want Me." While I actually enjoy the version on "At Budakon", this version more than other songs on the album from the slick studio sheen.
The expanded edition features significantly upgraded audio quality, detailed liner notes and photos, and five bonus tracks: instrumental B-Side "Oh Boy"; 1975 demos of "Southern Girls" and the anthemic "Come On, Come On" that may even be better than the album version. The remaining tracks are all recorded live at L.A.'s Whiskey in 1977.
Cheap Trick - Heaven Tonight (Epic) 1978
The last in line for what many fans feel was the classic releases from Cheap Trick. One thing for sure is they are still churning out the concert classics including "Surrender", "Auf Wiedersehn " and the haunting title track. Even the cover of The Move's "California Man" is essential listening. Actually, I think most fans would agree that Cheap Trick made this song their own, in much the same way that Aerosmith made "Come Together" their own this same year. As with "In Color", I much prefer the dirtier sound of the debut to the cleaner pop production here. For years Cheap Trick fans have argued and debated the production techniques of Tom Werman as opposed to Jack Douglas, who produced the criminally underrated debut. "Heaven Tonight" attempts to combine the harder edge of the band's debut with the pop tunefulness of "In Color", but just doesn't seem to capture that raw sound. This become painfully obvious with the release and subsequent popularity of "At Budakon" which takes these wonderful songs to a whole other level. While this may seem like a huge negative, I still rank "Heaven Tonight" as one of Cheap Trick's finest. No amount of studio gloss can take away the wonderful guitar licks of Neilson, nor can the studio destroy their wonderfully infectious songs.
The expanded edition features significantly upgraded audio quality, detailed liner notes and photos, and two bonus tracks, both of which sound like demo versions of album tracks. While these bonus tracks are not all that essential, the remastering certainly is. I had the original CD pressing of this CD and the difference is night and day.
Cheap Trick - At Budokan (Epic) 1979
In the mid to late 1970's there was a influx of incredible live albums being released. These live albums were taking great songs and giving them that raw, live energy that couldn't be captured in the studio. Albums like Thin Lizzy's "Live & Dangerous", Kiss "Alive" and Peter Frampton's "Comes Alice" were just incredible, became huge hits for the bands and pushed these band's into even larger concert halls. Cheap Trick's "At Budakon" was also one of the excellent live albums to be released during this time. "I Want You To Want Me" became a huge single for the band. While this was an already great song mixing power pop and 70's guitar rock, the live version gave the song a beefier, heavier feel that added to the appeal. On top of the band's energy, that crazy Japanese audience screaming at helium high decibels also adds to the appeal. The song selection here was perfect. Rick Neilsen's guitar work is outstandin, Robin Zander is just nailing the vocals, Tom Peterson and Bun E. Carlos are the ever strong rhythm section. With all that being said, a 'complete' expanded, remixed version of this live album is also now available on CD. However, I really wanted this version as I wanted to hear it just the way it was on vinyl. I remember wearing the grooves out on my vinyl copy back in the day, especially side 2. Perhaps someday I will invest in the newer version, but for now the ten songs offered up are near perfection. "At Budakon" is a total pop-rock masterpiece.
"Ain't That A Shame" is a Fats Domino cover.
Cheap Trick - Dream Police (Epic Records) 1979
1. "Dream Police"
"Dream Police" followed the hugely successful "At Budakon" release. Surprisingly the band did not go for the heavier sound that made "At Budakon" so successful, but rather returned to the more pop sounds of the band's past studio outputs. Part of the reason for this was because "Dream Police" was actually recorded at the time "At Budakon" was released and was placed on hold as the band rode a wave of success off the live album. At the time I was a Cheap Trick fanatic and I wore the grooves off this record. After selling off my vinyl collection in '89, I sort of forgot about this gem and didn't revisit it until almost a decade later. Listening to this album again after not having heard it for so long I discovered that I like it as much as I ever did. "Dream Police" is still one of Cheap Trick's finest albums. The title cut is one of the band's best songs ever. This song is seriously a classic rock masterpiece. "Gonna Raise Hell" and "Need Your Love" are excellent, extended jams with Nielson throwing out some choice leads. "Gonna Raise Hell" really could have been a Kiss song. I can imagine Gene Simmons singing this song, blood dribbling down his white face. Ahhh, gotta love the 1970's! "Voices" is a beautiful ballad. "I'll Be With You Tonight" is an underrated gem. Tom Petersson makes his only lead vocal appearance on this CD with the punky "I Know What I Want." "Way of the World" and "House is Rockin" are rockers that remind me of early Aerosmith. "Dream Police" also sports one of Cheap Tricks' coolest covers as well.
The 2006 remastered, expanded CD includes all the original album artwork, which was missing from the CD version. It also includes song by song comments by the band and lyrics. I think it might have been nice had the inside pages been in color, rather than black and white, but that is a minor complaint. The bonus tracks are a good listen as well. "Dream Police (No Strings Version)" is essentially a demo. Actually, I sort of like this alternative version. The live tracks are a cool inclusion, particularly "I Know What I Want." The remastering is most certainly an improvement over the original CD version that I own. I've read on some sights that the Japanese remaster is better.
Cheap Trick's first album without their original lineup. "One on One" features new bassist Jon Brandt taking over for Tom Peterson. Jon even looks a bit like Tom, which helped the band continue on with their bizarre image. However, from what I have read, Jon didn't actually play on this album. Rather, Rick Nielson performed all the bass parts as well as the guitar parts. What results is still a good album. At the time this came out, I suppose I had moved on and was listening things like Iron Maiden and Twisted Sister. So, it wasn't until many years later that I heard this album, save for the hits "If You Want My Love" and "She's Tight". As such, "One on One" doesn't have that same nostalgic hold on me that some of the other Cheap Trick albums had. However, I can say without hesitation that this would probably be the last Cheap Trick album to have that same heavy 70's sound until their 1997 self titled release. Songs like "I Want You" and "Looking Out For Number One" rock hard and heavy. Even the ballads like "If You Want My Love" are well done and aren't of the same sap that future hits like "The Flame" would be. "She's Tight" remains an FM rock radio staple to this day. "Saturday At Midnight" and "I Want Be Man" have a bit of a new wave flavor to them, as was the trend in the early 80's. "Saturday At Midnight" in particular reminds me a bit of Alice Cooper's "Flush the Fashion". It's sort of a shame that "Reach Out" from the "Heavy Metal" soundtrack wasn't included here as well, as it would fit and make an already good album even better. Perhaps someday this album will receive the same re-mastering treatment that the first five studio albums received and the "Heavy Metal" tracks can be added on as bonus tracks. That would be very cool. It's also should be noted that "One on One" was produced by Roy Thomas Bake, best known for his work with Queen.
Cheap Trick - One on One/Next Position Please (Sony) 1982/1983/2010
Cheap Trick - Standing on the Edge (Wounded Bird) 1985
Cheap Trick - The Doctor (Epic) 1986
Cheap Trick - Lap of Luxury (Epic) 1988
1. "Let Go" (4:25)
"Lap of Luxury " is ultra-glossy,
plastic, keyboard saturated, 80's radio pop that is devoid of life and lacking
that humor and wit that was Cheap Trick. Whereas Cheap Trick have always worn
the "pop" label, they have always been more than just that. This album lacks
he meat that past albums had. This would probably be one of their weakest releases,
along with "Busted" and "Doctor". Part of the problem here, as seemed to be
with many 70's bands still existing in the 1980's, is their record company forcing
them to use outside songwriters. Heart and Molly
Hatchet fell prey to this. Aerosmith did the same thing, but managed to score big with some huge hits. Well, the
same can be said for Cheap Trick. "The Flame" actually scored Cheap Trick a
huge hit and gave the band some fuel for their fire. (Ok, I admit, I sort of
like this ballad. I know I'm cheesy.) Likewise, their Elvis cover "Don't
Be Cruel" did well for the band. However, "Ghost Town" is really the only track
on here that sounds like the Cheap Trick we know and love. "Space" is a catchy
track as well, albeit a bit too keyboard, poppy for my tastes. The rest of the
album is just forgettable and can't even touch the greatness of their first
four studio albums. This one is a space filler in my Cheap Trick collection
than a CD I seriously listen to. I see copies of this CD in the used bins just
about everywhere for under $5. Finally scored this copy and "Busted" in a trade. (Thanks Saxon)
1. "Black N Blue"
"Busted" is a lackluster release from Cheap Trick. There is so much outside influence on this release that it just doesn't sound like Cheap Trick. Of course Robin Zander's unique voice is recognizable but the songs sound like they could have been written by any number of generic 1980's radio rock bands. It's almost like the entire album was another attempt at the success of "Flame" and it just didn't work. "Wherever Would I Be" is a Diane Warren ballad and "When You Need Someone" sounds like it also could have been written by Diane Warren (see Aerosmith "Don't Want to Miss a Thing" or Kiss "Nothing Can Keep Me from You"). "Busted" and "Black n Blue" are decent rockers, but in order to hear these few decent tracks, one must wade through 45 minutes of sappy radio piddle. This is a filler in the collection and nothing more. "Busted" actually sold very well for the band and even generated a couple singles. However, copies genuinely sell for less than $5 and can be found in just about every used CD bin.
I had someone ask me, how I can like Aerosmith's 80's output and not like this Cheap Trick album. I don't know. I have no definite answer for that. The outside songwriters worked well for Aerosmith. They retained a charisma despite all the influence from Sony. Cheap Trick just didn't seem to retain their style and charisma. The same thing happened to Molly Hatchet in the late 80's. The outside influences worked to make them sound generic, and they lost their appeal.
Cheap Trick - Woke Up With A Monster (Warner Bros.) 1994
1. "My Gang"
I must confess, while I loved Cheap Trick in the 70's up and through 1980's "All Shook Up", I lost interest in the band in the 80's when they went for a more slick pop sound. In recent years, however, my interest in the band has been rekindled and I decided to check out some of the band's catalog that I was unfamiliar with. "Woke Up With A Monster" is one of those albums. Much to my surprise, this is actually a pretty strong record for the band and has many of the qualities I liked about the band in the 70's. It's hard to believe that Warner Bros. didn't put a little more effort into marketing this one considering this was the band's comeback album and their first on that label. With this CD, Cheap Trick returned to more of a hard rocking sound. "Didn't Know I Had It" and "You're All I Wanna Do" are both immediately likeable and easily could have been hits for the band. Once again, it just goes to show that it takes more than a good song and even a legendary status to make a hit song. The title track is an excellent, hard rockin' song in the tradition of Cheap Trick's glory days. "Ride the Pony" is a bit experimental but still an interesting listen. Really the only downside was the built-for-prom ballad "Never Run Out of Love". However, even this song wasn't atrocious. "Woke Up With A Monster" is now relegated to the cut out bins and can easily be found for under $5. If you are even remotely a Cheap Trick fan, do yourself a favor and shell out the $5 and give this one a chance.
Cheap Trick (Red Ant) 1997
This is one of those records that you can find in just about any used music store and for some odd reason it sells for unusually cheap. I have seen copies for below a dollar. I picked up this copy brand new for less than five bucks. Aparently this album was released with severe problems with their record label. Cheap Trick's second self titled album remains to be their last album to crack the top 100, and might have easily brought them the same kind of commercial success as "Lap Of Luxury" if it were not for the fact that the Red Ant label went under within weeks of the record's release. Also, since this CD was released during the musically depressing years in the mid-90's, many feared that Cheap Trick, a band that influenced thousands of bands, might start following trends. Cheap Trick were always very tongue-in-cheek and had a sound that was a mixture of sweet bubblegum pop and tough rock 'n roll. While Cheap Trick (1997) is slightly more modern sounding than their 1970's classics, this still essentially sounds like the Cheap Trick we all know and love. The album opens with the angry snarl of "Anytime". Track number two could have easily been a big hit for the band with the right marketing and a bit of luck. "Hard to Tell" has a great chorous and some noteworthy drumming from Bun E. Carlos. The ballad "Shelter" has a distinct Beatles-influence, which is not something new for Cheap Trick. The songs throughout are instantly likeable and brimming with pop hooks. Zander's voice is flawless throughout as is Neilsen's guitar work. I must also make mention that the cover art is very cool. I dig the black and white look, that recalls the band's 1977 debut.
Cheap Trick - Say Goodbye (Red Ant) 1997
1. "Say Goodbye (Cheap
Rock Mix)" (3:28)
Nothing more than a collector's single that I picked up in the discount bin for two bucks. Sad thing is, I paid the same amount for the whole Cheap Trick (1997) album. These two tracks should have been playing on FM rock radio everywhere. Unfortunately that wasn't the case.
"Music for Hangovers" was recorded over a four-night stand at Chicago's Metro in 1998, with each of the four nights representing one of the band's early albums that they played in full. Therefore most of the material here is culled mostly from those early classics (Cheap Trick, In Color, and Heaven Tonight). The exceptions are "Gonna Raise Hell" and the title track from Dream Police, "If You Want My Love" from One on One, and "I Can't Take It" from Next Position Please. Because of the classic song selection, this live collection is doomed to be compared to the bands 1979 breakthrough, Cheap Trick at Budokan. There is no denying the nostalgia factor for that recording. However, putting that nostalgia aside, this is actually a better recording. On Budakon the bass guitar was buried whereas on this recording it's crystal clear, as is all the instruments. However, the sound is not over polished, but retains that raw live energy that a studio cannot capture. The recording alone, along with the excellent track selection should please any long time Cheap Trick fan. Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan joins the band on stage to perform "Mandocello," from Cheap Trick's sef-titled debut album. As an added incentive, there is one semi-acoustic re-interpretation of "Oh Caroline", which is quite interesting as well. My only real complaint is that I wish there were room to include more songs here. This live recording is also available in DVD format, but since I tend to listen to music more than I ever watch it, I prefer the CD format.
Cheap Trick - Special One (Big 3) 2003
1. "Scent of a Woman"
Special One was Cheap Trick's first studio album in six years but "Special One" picks up where the 1997 self-titled CD left off. Fans preferring the band's tougher sound from their classic 70's period should also enjoy this album. Whereas the 80's stuff was chock full of outside songwriters, horrid slick production, and synthesizer-heavy stuff (ie. "Lap of Luxury'), "Special One" offers up that mix of raunchy guitars and power power song writing that fans have longed for since those 1970's outputs. The CD opens with a song as worthy of Cheap Trick's legacy as any album they have made, "Scent of a Woman." It is, however, the only instantly likeable song on the album. The rest of the album will take a few listens to digest and appreciate. Once that happens you begin to find the hooks in the rest of the material. The title cut has the Beatles quality to it that albums like "All Shook Up" also had. This song has a co-writing credit by Jack Douglas. Album closer is an appropriately titled song that has more of an experimental vibe to it that the rest of the album. The lyrics to this song, for the most part, are nothing more than a hummed melody. That may sound incredibly stupid, but it actually works and makes for an interesting listen. There are some words scatter throughout, but these are not the basis of the song. Overall, I think "Special One" is a good follow-up to the underrated 1997 self-titled release and a worthy Cheap Trick release.
Cheap Trick - Silver (Big 3/Cheap Trick Records) 2004
Following a 1999 Cheap Trick fan convention, Trickfest, Cheap Trick performed a celebratory 'Silver Anniversary Homecoming Concert at Davis Park in Rockford, Illinois. This release memorializes that concert and features 29 songs that marked the 25-year point in the band's career. The three hour show featured a song from every album and guest many guest musicians including members of the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, the Harlem High School Choir, the Phantom Regiment Drum Corp, Nielsen and Zander's children, longtime Cheap Trick keyboardist Tod Howarth (ex-Frehley's Comet), Slash (ex-Guns 'n Roses), Billy Corgan and Art Alexakis (Everclear). Even former Cheap Trick bassist Jon Brant, who played with the band in the 80's, was brought in to play bass on "If You Want My Love" and "She's Tight". Songs such as "The Flame" and "Dream Police" are given the full string section. "Just Got Back" features 3 drummers and Billy Corgan on guitar. Neilson's song Miles Nielsen gives up an impressive vocal performance on John Lennon's "I'm Losin' You," a song his dad originally recorded with the ex-Beatle. "World's Greatest Lover" sounds very cool with the live symphony band playing along. Overall, a solid performance by the band and guests alike with an incredible selection of songs. Neilson sounds a bit sarcastic when he flips off the critics who lambasted "The Doctor" at the end of "Time Will Let You Know," but otherwise it sounds like the band is overjoyed to be on stage and performing. "Silver" may not be an album for the casual Cheap Trick fan, as there are an abundance of hit packages, but "Silver" should be a priority CD for any longtime Cheap Trick fan. This disc is available in a digi-pak or a jewel case version and was also recorded and released on DVD.
1. "Welcome to the
Ever since Cheap Trick ditched the need for radio singles and big record labels, their music has continued to be of a high caliber. "Rockford" is as good as the 1997 Cheap Trick release, and better than some more recent releases such as "Special One". "Rockford" is simplistic, pop-based, hard rock. Cheap Trick is one of the few surviving bands from the 1970's that still features their original line-up and is still creating relevant music decades later. Vocalist Robin Zander, bassist Tom Petersson, drummer Bun E. Carlos and guitarist Rick Nielsen sound as good as they ever have and have lost nothing with age. Frankly, I am surprised that "Perfect Stranger" didn't become a hit for the band. This is easily one of the best power pop songs they have written since some of their big hits in the 1970's and 80's. Of course the reason for that is there is no big label behind Cheap Trick paying off the conglomerates like Clear Channel to play the song. Instead we'll hear "The Flame" from 1988 or the same version of "I Want You To Want Me" that they've been playing for thirty years. However, the real fans of the music can take solace in the fact that Cheap Trick are still cranking out quality rock and roll three decades later.
"Rockford" is wrapped in a very nice tri-fold digi-pack. The scan above doesn't do the packaging justice. The cool band caricatures and band logos are actually embossed and finished off with a gloss varnish. Included in the digi is a full color booklet with lyrics, liner notes, and more band member caricatures.
Cheap Trick - Super Hits (Sony) 2007
Cheap Trick's "The Latest" brings in all the classic elements that Cheap Trick are know for. There are the uptempo power pop rockers, the heartfelt acoustic ballad, the Beatle-esque influences and even some of strings, not unlike "Dream Police". Much like "Rockford", "The Latest" sounds like classic Cheap Trick, yet doesn't sound at all dated either. The cover of Slade's "When the Lights Are Out" is a great way to open up the CD. "Sleep Forever" is but a short intro. "When the Lights Are Out" should have been on every classic rock and hard rock radio station in 2009. "Sick Man of Europe" is classic Cheap Trick flavored power pop rock. Being that Cheap Trick's last album was a live recording of the Beatles "Sgt. Peppers", I sort of expected there to be some big Beatles influences on this album. I wasn't wrong either. "Miracle" sounds like it could have been a John Lennon composition. "Miss Tomorrow" is an acoustic driven song with a slightly modern undertone. Robin Zander's vocals still sounds fantastic whether it be on the harder rockin' song or the softer ballads. He has lost very little with age.