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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Cheap Trick

Rockford

Review by Gary Hill

Rockford, Illinois' best-known band is back with a new studio album and this time they've named it after their hometown. I've read reviews where some people have compared this CD to Trick's Dream Police, citing it as a return to the band's roots. Well, I really don't hear Dream Police except on one track. That said, I would have to agree with it being a return to their earlier days. It's just that in this case it seems the roots the band are returning to run deeper than that. From my take this disc has quite a bit in common with such albums as their eponymous debut and In Color. Even so, they still stretch out quite a bit from that basis. The truth is that this is the strongest disc they've released in quite some time.

The Beatles were always a huge influence on Cheap Trick. In fact in one of his last interviews John Lennon said that if the Beatles had stayed together they'd probably sound a lot like Cheap Trick. Those Beatles influences are still present on this album, but they are joined by a lot of other sounds. There are moments that remind me of ELO (another Beatles-heavy outfit), Grand Funk Railroad, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. Throughout it all, though, the Tricksters maintain their own individual edge. There are only a couple songs here that I might consider "weak" and quite a few that are standouts.

The long and short of it, this is a great album that might certainly be the one that breaks the Tricksters into the elite class of rock and roll again. They haven't put in a stronger performance in a very, very long time. I should add to that statement that I really did enjoy albums like Standing On The Edge and Woke Up With A Monster - this is just more powerful than those. I haven't mentioned it, but every member of the band puts in an admirable performance here. I'd have to say that Rick Nielsen, as always, truly amazes at points on this disc. I'd have to say my only complaint is the sequence of the first few tracks. Other than that this is the perfect Cheap Trick album.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Welcome to the World
This is definitely not the best choice for album opener. It's not bad, but has a rather high learning curve. That's not exactly a quality you look for in opening numbers. It's one that you eventually warm up to, but some folks might not give it the chance coming in the opening primary position like it does.
Perfect Stranger
This one has a rather classic Cheap Trick sound, but just seems a bit too generic in some ways. It also goes a bit overboard on the arrangement. It feels a lot like Electric Light Orchestra at times. This one is another that's not bad by any means, but just seems to fall a little short on the race to greatness. Had they opened with something stronger this coming in second place might not be an issue, but they really needed a more potent one two punch for the opening slots.
If It Takes a Lifetime
The sound here seems to merge that ELO like texture with very vintage Trick in a solid marriage. This one is not one of the biggest standouts on the disc, but a step up from the first two tracks. This would have been better in the opening position, but not as good as the one that comes next.
Come On, Come On, Come On
Had I been setting the order of the songs, I think I would have led off with this one. The track has a Cheap Trick does Led Zeppelin central riff and is extremely catchy. My guess is most people will be singing along to this one the first time they hear it. That's just what you want in an opening number. It's also one of the strongest pieces on the album.
Oh Claire
"Oh Claire" is one of the most Beatles-like numbers on the disc. This ballad-like cut feels a lot like something John Lennon would have written. It makes for a nice change of pace, and works really well.
This Time You Got It
The intro on this one has somewhat of a fun textured, rather R & B like feel to it. As they pump into the song proper, though, the mode is very much like the good time Trick and Roll found on their first album.
Give It Away
The main riff on this one feels a lot like the old chestnut "Bits and Pieces," but this one is all Cheap Trick. It's another winner on a disc that has a lot of them.
One More
This is an intriguing one. The verses on it feel to me a lot like a cross between vintage Trick, the funky side of 1970's Rolling Stones and a bit of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The chorus is all CT, though and takes on more Beatles like elements later.
Every Night and Every Other Day
This one starts off with more of that funky sound, but after the brief introduction it launches into something that is pretty much trademark Trick.
Dream The Night Away
Here they give us sort of a repeat performance of the same general song as the last one. The truth is, as potent as these cuts are, who cares?
All Those Years
While in many ways this starts on much the same path as a lot of the material here, a typical Trick jam, they change it up in wonderful ways later. As the chorus comes through in the late sections of the track they put together a great rocking sound that is so strong it's scary. It's hard to describe this texture, but suffice it to say that it reminds me a bit of some of the really dramatic material on the first few albums. Think of the songs, "Downed" and "Heaven Tonight," and then remove the darker textures of those cuts and you will be close.
Decaf
While I take my coffee leaded, they close out the disc with "Decaf" and it is the only number from the disc that seems to have that Dream Police feel at all to me. It's also one of the standout pieces on show here. It has a rather heavy texture at times that reminds me of such numbers as "Gonna Raise Hell."
 
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