After the disappointing results of the George Martin produced ‘One on One’, the band went back to their earlier Power Pop sound using producer Todd Rundgren. Now, hearing Rundgren was the producer made me think this might get just as experimental as the previous one, but surprisingly it doesn’t. It sticks to a sound of the band’s earlier albums like ‘In Color’ and ‘Heaven Tonight’. As we are now dead in the middle of the new wave movement that Cheap Trick influenced the bands in this genre greatly, it was a strange thing to have them go back in time with their sound and not push the sound further forward. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t sound like the 80’s at times because it does, it is just when they do they classic Cheap Trick sound, it really works well.
The band at the time was still Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Bun E. Carlos and newer member Jon Brant. And from what I’ve read, many members of the band feel this is one of their favorite albums. I can’t say I agree with that statement, but we will get to that in a minute.
The album was recorded back in December 1982 at Utopia Sound in Lake Hill, New York which I am guessing is Rundgren’s studio as he has an album called Utopia which I own. But the album didn’t actually see the light of day August 15, 1983 which to me is quite a long stretch between recording and releasing. That would be normal in today’s timeframe with delays on vinyl pressing, but back then turnaround time was much faster. Not sure why the delay. The album charted only as high as #61 and the two singles on the album didn’t break the Top 40 and in fact, not sure if they even charted at all. The album didn’t even go Gold. This was not turning out to be a very shining example of the who the band were.
The cover of the album pays homage to Bruce Springsteen’s album ‘Born to Run’ and I love the fact that it has the famous Rick Nielsen’s Hamer double neck guitar. I mean what guitarist wouldn’t want a guitar that looks like themself. If you notice on the cover (well the back cover), Rick has 8 fingers out and a half folded pinky finger, that was because the working title of the album was actually 8 1/2 for the number of albums they band had put out. 8 albums plus an E.P., but obviously that idea was scrapped.
And that is enough blabbering about the album, let us actually get to the meat of the thing and talk about the songs as that is what we really want to hear anyway. So away we go….
The opening track and second single on the album was “I Can’t Take It” supposedly solely written by Robin Zander which was actually quite rare. I say supposedly because former bass player, Pete Comita, claims he had a huge part in writing the song with Robin and it was part of two songs called “I Can’t Take It” and “Move’n On”. They combined the best parts of the songs in to one. Well, whoever wrote it deserves some credit as this song is classic Cheap Trick. It has that power pop sound, it is catchy as hell and takes me back to the sound of their earlier albums. It is actually one of my favorite Cheap Trick songs. Another interesting note, Cheap Trick wanted this to be the first single, but the label balked and wanted to do the one cover song on the album. Label guys no nothing as this was by far the better choice (even if it didn’t chart).
Next up is the song “Borderline” and it is a good mid-tempo track but really falls flat as it has nothing unique or new to offer and sounds too laid back with no heart. Pure filler and for the second song on the album to feel like filler, has me worried.
Then we get a saving grace with the song “I Don’t Love Here Anymore” which has a great simple riff from Rick. It builds and then when we get to the chorus which is interesting and has a little more energy. The song seems to be about a relationship that was probably good at first, but rules were broken, problems were had and Robin doesn’t want to play in that arena anymore. It is a little earworm of a song that got stuck in my head has I bobbed it up and down.
“Next Position Please” is an older song from Cheap Trick that was re-worked for this album and I am glad they finally got it to work for an album as it is a quirky track and its craziness is its charm. Robin’s vocal delivery was different and cool. The song sounds really 80’s and that is okay as we are in the 80’s. I am assuming this song is about sex as there is talking of mirrors and getting on your knees and sounds like a good time is had by all…even the listener.
Then we get “Younger Girls” which has an old school rocker vibe. It is a slower tempo and I do like the drumming on it, but at the same time it is uninspiring and a little too repetitive. It is missing some heart and soul. A song that maybe could’ve gone somewhere but never found its direction.
The final track on Side 1 is a cover of the Motors song “Dancing the Night Away”. The label forced this one on the band and Todd Rundgren was so pissed, he refused to produce it so it was produced by the band with Ian Taylor. The label even forced this to be the first single and it flopped…big time!! The suits know nothing!! However, the song really isn’t bad. It is a decent cover and since I was unfamiliar with The Motors song, I though this was a Cheap Trick song all along. It is a catchy song, but it doesn’t fit with the feel and vibe of the album.
Side 2 kicks off with the most Rundgren influenced track called “3-D”. There is a big Beatles influence to the song as well which is nothing new to the band. The song is upbeat and catchy and Rundgren had a ton of effects put on the vocals in the chorus as well as at one point the same line is repeated (You Like What You See) and with each turn a different effect is used until it gets to sound like a robot. There is even electronic drum sounds and a ton of riffs and a cool solo by Rick. Even with all the strangeness it is one of the better songs on the album and keeps my interest throughout as I keep hearing different things.
Another of my favorite tracks is “You Say Jump” as it is a great groove and the bass just pushes the song along. But it is the chorus that is golden as it is infectious and a great melody. There is even a short guitar solo that fits perfectly with the song. The song makes me want to bob my head and move my feet. It is pure fun and I need that in my life.
Then we get a ballad with “Y.O.Y.O.Y” which is really Why, Oh Why, Oh Why. It is a slow tempo song and Robin’s vocal are full of melancholy. As much as I like it, it does drone on a little and doesn’t go to where I feel it should go. It sticks to the same tone and there is no power in this ballad at all, but there is still a quaintness to it.
Another British influenced track is “Won’t Take No For An Answer” which has some great drumming by Bun E. and is rocker that slows a little during the verses and explodes with excitement during the chorus. Robin sounds great as usual but Bun E. is the highlight for me, well until you hear Rick bring it on guitar with one of his better performances on the album. All around great deep cut and a favorite on the album.
Next we get the Todd Rundgren penned track “Heaven’s Falling” which I don’t believe is a cover but more of a collaboration. It is an upbeat power pop track that harkens back to some classic Trick and still staying pure with the 80’s and might’ve been a better song to be a single. I can hear Rundgren’s influence a lot on the song and that is a good thing. The band feel comfortable and in a sweet spot with this one. It won’t set the world on fire, but it is catchy and enjoyable enough for the masses.
The final track is “Invaders of the Heart” which starts like the Who’s “My Generation” with its start/stop sound. It then kicks in full force and it does have a British sound to it which I like a lot. The highlight on the song is again Bun E. His fills are fantastic and gives the song a great punch and his drum solo…wow!! Need more of that! And I think it might be Rick (I don’t know for sure) counting way more than 1-2-3-4 which gives the song a very playful feel. That is a good way to describe the song, it is playful. They sound like they are having a blast…at least Bun E. is enjoying himself as it is his spotlight song.
- I Can’t Take It – Keeper
- Borderline – Delete
- I Don’t Love Here Anymore – Keeper
- Next Position Please – Keeper
- Younger Girls – Delete
- Dancing the Night Away – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- 3-D – Keeper
- You Say Jump – Keeper
- Y.O.Y.O.Y. – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Won’t Take No for an Answer – Keeper
- Heaven’s Falling – Keeper
- Invaders of the Heart – Keeper
The Track Score is 9 out of 12 or 75%. The first half of the album is really sketchy for me. I love some of the songs, but too much filler which is normally reserved for the back half. Except the back half is actually pretty good. This album was a very slow grower. I was not digging this thing at all but over the last few listens it finally started to hit home and connect with me. Still, not a favorite of mine for that reason but not near the bottom either. Overall, My Score is 3.5 out of 5.0 Stars as I think it is a little underrated, but only a little. As strange as I though this might be with Rundgren on the boards, I was pleasantly surprised that Cheap Trick was Cheap Trick on the album and they didn’t stray too far down any weird path. Check it out.