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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Cheap Trick

Heaven Tonight

Review by Gary Hill

Heaven Tonight really seemed to be a transitional album for Cheap Trick. It found them shifting from the more straightforward old rock and roll based power pop of their first couple releases and the more dramatic and lushly arranged sounds of Dream Police. For my money, the title track here might be the best song they ever recorded and is worth the ticket price all by itself. Listening to these albums, it’s amazing how influential Cheap Trick were, and how good they were at taking an arrangement that was actually quite complex and making it feel simple and catchy. When I reviewed the Cheap Trick compilation album, the opening track here was included in that review. I’ve used the track review from that article here for the sake of consistency.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Surrender

This is a Cheap Trick classic that really holds up well over time. “Mommy’s alright / Daddy’s alright.” It’s a pretty safe bet you’ve heard this track.

On Top of the World
This song still has some classic Cheap Trick sounds, but fits, in a lot of ways with a more AOR type of pop rock sound. The thing is, the hard hitting, driving bass line and guitar work in the transitional sections of the cut really set it apart. It’s a catchy tune that works very well.
California Man
Here’s a track that frequently graced the airwaves in the 1970s. It’s a classic Cheap Trick powerpop track. With hints of the Beatles’ style of old school rock and roll, there are no real surprises here. But, when it’s this good, who cares?
High Roller
This number seems to merge the older and newer sounds of Cheap Trick. It’s quite a dynamic piece with both a heavier, darker sound and some more pop oriented elements. It’s a fine example of power pop at its best.
Auf Wiedersehen
It’s hard to believe that a song about suicide could be this much fun. It’s dark, and yet still poppy. That’s a hard trick to pull off, but Cheap Trick make it happen.
Takin' Me Back
This catchy cut about nostalgia really feels like it could have come from The Beatles or even ELO. Of course, there’s still plenty of trademark Cheap Trick in the mix.
On the Radio
There’s definitely a nostalgic rock and roll feeling to this, but it’s still trademark Cheap Trick. It’s catchy and fun, but still manages to have a slight edge of darkness at times. It includes some riffs that feel like they might have been lifted from classic rock tunes, too.  There’s a cool jam with a DJ rolling his best fast announcements.
Heaven Tonight
This is possibly my favorite Cheap Trick song. That Beatles/ELO sound is very present here. It’s dark and incredibly dramatic and powerful, yet it’s also quite a catchy song. There’s an earlier song of theirs called “Downed” that had a similar vibe, but this is probably more effective than that. This type of sound dominated a lot of their later Dream Police album. It is Cheap Trick at their best. This one by itself is worth the price of admission.
Stiff Competition
Here’s a cut that does a nice job of combining a hard rocking, power pop sound with a killer, dramatic vocal sound to great effect. It is a strong piece that is just plain cool. Cheap Trick were always great at taking contrasting sounds and making them work. This arrangement also shows that something that sounds quite simple, when delivered by them, can be deceptively complex. This is just an all around great tune.
How Are You?
A good chunk of this song is pretty standard pop rock dittie. They throw in a dark and glorious movement mid-track, though, that calls to mind The Beatles and ELO again, but with a darker, heavier sort of majesty. This is in some ways a filler track for the album, yet on another disc, it would be a really strong piece. That shows the strength of Cheap Trick.
Oh Claire
This is just a short tune. It’s a cool jam that showcases a great Cheap Trick sound. I’d say listening to this (which is either a live recording or made to sound like one) that Jane’s Addiction must have been heavily influenced by Cheap Trick.
Stiff Competition (Previously unreleased outtake)
On this version of the earlier track (a bonus track), the song feels a bit rougher. Of course, considering it’s an outtake, that makes sense. This is good, but the version on the main portion of the album is far superior. It’s obvious from this version that Cheap Trick had some sort of an impact on punk rock. Of course, I remember seeing them listed as a punk rock band in the early days of that genre.
Surrender (Previously unreleased outtake)
Here’s another bonus track, it’s a rougher rendition of the classic Trick song “Surrender.” This is good, but there’s no wonder why the other one is the piece that made the cut. There seem to be a few differences in the lyrics on this.
 
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