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Friday, July 11, 2008


My first memory of Cheap Trick was a photo of Charlie Huhn from Ted Nugent's band wearing a Cheap Trick tour shirt in '78. Then 'At Budokan' hit, and Cheap Trick was suddenly huge. Certainly name checking Kiss on 'Surrender' was a major factor in grabbing my attention.

For years all I had was 'Budokan' and 'Dream Police', the studio LP that followed 'Budokan'. I figured that 'Budokan' had all their good songs up to that point, no need to buy the studio albums, besides, I had heard the studio cuts of 'Surrender' and 'I Want You To Want Me', and found them lacking in comparison.

I was wrong, of course, but it took until the re-release of 'Budokan' in 1998 for me to realise exactly how wrong I had been.

In my record collecting over the years, I had picked up the first three Cheap Trick albums, the self titled debut, 'In Color', and 'Heaven Tonight', but with the exception of 'Ello Kiddies' off the first record, I never listened to the records, I simply needed them for the collection.

Then my room-mate Kory gave me the re-release of 'Budokan', which had a second disc with all the songs that didn't make the first edition. Holy Lost Treasure of the Sierra Madre! There was some great stuff there, songs I'd never heard, songs that knocked my stinky socks off.

I immediately went and dug out those first three albums, and I found that all the songs that had bowled me over on the new 'Budokan' disc were from 'In Color'.

What a great record!

The songs from 'In Color' that appeared on the initial release of 'Budokan' are 'Clock Strikes Ten', 'Hello There', and 'I Want You To Want Me'. As previously mentioned, I much prefer the live version of the latter. The studio version attempts a decidedly un-Rock approach that fails in my opinion, but the other two feature the same arrangement and feel that they brought to Japan for the recording of the live record, a Big Rock feel.

The big 'a-ha' moments, however, are 'Big Eyes', 'Downed', 'Oh, Caroline', and 'Southern Girls'. How did I miss these stellar tracks!

'Downed' is easily a better song than any other Cheap Trick tune, other than 'Surrender' or 'Dream Police'. Rick Nielsen gives us a peek on 'Downed' at the more complex type of composition he'd spend much of the 'Dream Police' record working up, but it never gets cumbersome as it does at times down the road.

'Big Eyes' is simply another great Hard Pop tune that would have made a great single instead of the light version of 'I Want You To Want Me'.

'Oh, Caroline' is an example of the classic Cheap Trick style, a slightly quirky arrangement that makes the tune feel different from the standard Rock fare of that era, but with the familiar tones and vibe that you'd expect from a late '70's Hard Rock act.

That's what's special about Cheap Trick, they had an approach that was fresh but well worn at the same time. One foot in the '80's with the other hanging out with Nugent and ZZ Top of the '70's.

'Southern Girls' presages the High Pop of late '80's 'The Flame' era of Cheap Trick but without the over-production and gloss that took the fun out of the band.

'You're All Talk' is another highlight featuring the under-used angry Robin Zander vocal style ('Gonna Raise Hell', 'Cold Turkey').

Jackson implores you to purchase 'In Color' immediately.

After 'Dream Police', Cheap Trick had both feet squarely in the '80's and they lost some zeal, and consequently appeal. They resurfaced in the mid 90's with some gusto in the form of two cover tunes. On their Greatest Hits package they included a wicked version of the Beatles 'Magical Mystery Tour', and true disciples that they are, they delivered an astounding treatment of 'Cold Turkey' on the Lennon tribute record. The original, when it came out in '69, dumbfounded Beatles fans with it's sheer painful vibe. Heroin withdrawal is a horrific experience, and John sought to represent it as honestly as he could. Cheap Trick manages to kick it up a notch. That track alone is well worth the purchase of the disc.

Tony Alva and I saw them a year ago opening for Alice Cooper. They received the sound shaft that opening acts tend to get. I couldn't believe that Cheap Trick was given such shoddy treatment, but bad sound or not it was clear that they still loved to play, and that Zander's voice is still 50 times larger than he is. He has such power, and he looks like a fucking Nelson twin, truly puzzling.

Jackson, you probably know this, but you MUST seek out the Steve Albini studio 'In Color' versions that Cheap Trick rerecorded earlier this decade. It's out on the web in the torrents - it SMASHES the original In Color to pieces.
Is that Albini mixes of Cheap Tricks recordings? Love Albini the producer, hate Albini the performer.
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