After the disappointing sales of their debut, the band quickly jumped back in to the studio to work on their second album, ‘In Color’. By September of 1977, the album was done and released. The album was far more polished than the rawness of the debut. I am sure they were hoping for a more radio-friendly sound and hoping for a big single. Which sadly, they did not get in the U.S. However, the band became superstars with this album in Japan. Yep, Japan. When they went and toured that country the next year, they were welcomed with a whole Beatlemania type vibe and the country just loved them. But we will get to that later.
The album cover as interesting. On the front, you have Robin Zander and Tom Petersson on the front riding motorcycles and in vivid color. But when you turn the cover over, you get an upside picture of Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos riding bicycles and in black & white. I loved the contrast between the two pictures as it shows a playful band that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is having a little fun. Although the album is a single LP, you get a gatefold album jacket and in the inside picture is of the whole band in bright, bright color and again split between the same two members on each side, but at least Bun and Rick are not upside down this time.
As I mentioned early, the album sound was way more polished and lost a lot of the raw sound of the debut. This can be attributed to producer Tom Werman who was hoping to get the band on the radio. I don’t think it sat well with the band as they actually re-recorded this album in 1998 to make it sound like they originally intended, but it never saw the light of day…maybe someday it will. Now, the fact that the band wasn’t thrilled with the sound doesn’t take away from the greatness that is this album. In fact, Rolling Stones magazine finds this to be on of the Top 500 albums of all time as it was #443 on the list. This was the original list from Rolling Stone back in 2003 and not the new list from 2020 which they didn’t even make the list…shame on Rolling Stone!! Why don’t we get started with the music.
The song kicks off with the energetic song “Hello There”. The song asks the audience if they are ready to rock and the song does just that. It is short and sweet and is actually a perfect song to open their concerts with which is what they did. There is a great line in it that asks, “Would you like to do a number with me?” and I wonder what that number would be…nudge, nudge, wink wink! It is a killer opening track.
Up next we go straight in to “Big Eyes” which is a foot stomping great track. The guitars are immense and the rhythm section on this is also something to be heard. Tom’s bass is highlighted nicely and what I love is that you can hear each instrument so cleanly and it really is a great production. I don’t mind the loss of rawness because these songs still song great.
“Downed” is a slower paced song and very Beatles-like. It is a little trippy, a little psychedelic and a whole lot of awesome. There are some great musical moments here and the keyboards by Jai Winding are used nicely for added texture.
The first single and one of their most well-known songs is up next. “I Want You To Want Me” did nothing as a single and didn’t chart, not until it was released as a single off Budokan and we will talk about that in a couple reviews. This version doesn’t have the energy as the live version, but doesn’t mean it isn’t good. The song is a real treat as it is so playful and a finger-snapping good time. There is a some cool guitar picking with almost a country twang and a piano interlude that is fast and frenzied. The song might like the power of the live version, but you can’t deny its whimsical stylings.
“You’re All Talk” goes right back to a rocking sound with some punk vibe to it. It is some gritty guitar playing from Mr. Nielsen and great drum fills from Mr. Carlos. It is an energetic romp that gets you moving and let’s you remember a little of the band’s roots. They are a little punk and a little rock at heart.
“Oh Caroline” kicks off side two and there is still a little punk edge to it. It another rocking track and a great song to kick off side two. There is no denying the band is the king of that power pop sound as this is a great example. Simple and sweet!
Next up is “Clock Strikes Ten” which was released as a single, but only in Japan. It starts off with the ticking of a clock and then explodes in to an old rockabilly stylings with that old school 50/60’s rock & roll. I even feel there is even a little Aerosmith vibe going as well. It is a fireball of a song that will get you on your feet and moving which is all we really want in a song anyway, right!
One of my favorite songs on the album is “Southern Girls”. Now, this isn’t about “Southern” girls from the deep South in the U.S. Nope! This is Canadian Southern Girls. Didn’t know there was any such thing. The beat is perfect for hand clapping as it bounces along and feels you with joy. It is pure pop fun with a little gritty guitar work thrown in for good measure along with some playful piano fills.
“Come On, Come On” is another infectious song with more hand-clapping, more Beatles stylings and more enjoyment had be all. And they even throw in a few “ya’s-ya’s” for good measure. Robin even does his best McCartney in this one a well. It is almost magical.
The album ends with “So Good To See You” which gives us a mixture of classic 60’s and 70’s rock all mixed together. It has a huge sound and Robin’s vocals are so smooth and soar throughout. I love Rick’s playing along with Tom’s bass and you get a couple guys that no how to fill a song with sound. Throw the headphones on and listen as you can’t keep up with all that is going on with the song. Great way to end this masterpiece.
- Hello There – Keeper
- Big Eyes – Keeper
- Downed – Keeper
- I Want You To Want Me – Keeper
- You’re All Talk – Keeper
- Oh Caroline – Keeper
- Clock Strikes Ten – Keeper
- Southern Girls – Keeper
- Come On, Come On – Keeper
- So Good To See You – Keeper
The Track Score is 10 out of 10 or 100%. It is pure magic. Yes, the band lost some of the raw feel that I loved on the first one, but there is no denying that power pop magic they have with this one. And this album has the songs. So nothing was a big hit, it doesn’t matter. The album was wrongly overlooked by the buying public. Japan got it right as this album is fantastic. I can drop a needle on this and not want to skip anything but only want to hit repeat again and again. Robin, Rick, Tom and Bun E. delivered a career defining album for me. Well, until maybe when we get to another of my favorites down the road. The Score on this one is 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars as if you didn’t already figure that one out. Grab this one if you haven’t or drop the needle on it if you already have it (or shine a laser on it if you only have the CD)
UP NEXT: ‘HEAVEN TONIGHT’ (1978)
The Cheap Trick Collection Series:
- Cheap Trick (1977)
- In Color (1977)