After recording the fantastic track, “Mighty Wings” for the Top Gun Soundtrack, Cheap Trick headed in to the studio to record their next album. At the time, not knowing that song wasn’t written by the band, I had high hopes that their album would come out rocking like that song. Yeah, but it didn’t…AT ALL!! Thanks to the production by Tony Platt, Cheap Trick came out with an album that had no balls and sounded so dated with the massive keyboards that you threw your hands up in the air and said “what is this crap”. Yes, I am ruining this review by telling you the ending right away…that is how bad this album is to me.
The band was really fighting with their label as the label kept screaming more keyboards and the band, in the end, just threw up their hands and finished the album in 3 weeks. I don’t think they even realized at the time how weak and lame this would turn out to be. They probably had an idea as it was Tony Platt that mixed their last album after Jack Douglas had to back out due to legal problems with Yoko Ono (that is whole other story for another time). Tony turned their album. “Standing On the Edge” in to a wimpfest when it was supposed to be a rocker…at least that was Jack’s vision. Why would they expect anything different with this one.
The band line-up was unchanged from the prior as we still had Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Bun E. Carlos and Jon Brant. However, this would be the last album to feature Brant as the band’s next album would see the return of founding bass player Tom Petersson. And not a moment too soon. The album finally saw its release on November of 1986 and it didn’t do well at all. It peaked at #115 on the Billboard Charts and only had one U.S. single which didn’t even chart. That says all you need to know right there. The band had probably hit rock bottom at this point in their career which would make you think that after this, there was no where to go but up. We will see if that happens.
At least on the bright side, if you pick up the Japanese edition you get a pretty cool set. I love the OBI strip and the booklet that was all in Japanese. Plus, look at the stickers on the front…the CD is Blu-Spec which I have no idea what that means but it probably means it is supposed to sound awesome and then look at the bottom sticker, again all in Japanese. I don’t know why I find it fascinating, but I do. The also made the CD packaging like a vinyl album. You got in record sleeve insert that is a replica of the actual vinyl plus the CD was designed to look like vinyl. All really cool. However, the biggest plus is you get 5 bonus tracks. I won’t grade those tracks, but we will talk about them later.
For now, let us get to the music…as painful as it will be. I say that because I spent 3 weeks with this album hoping I would grow to like it. I knew if I kept listening there would be something that would eventually stick and I would start enjoying it. Well, I can honestly say that never happened. Ugh!! I wanted to like it, I really did. Ok, I have procrastinated long enough, here is the review of the music.
The album kicks off with “It’s Up To You” which immediately an assault on the ears with all the keyboards. Robin speaks the opening verse and you are wondering what the hell are you listening to as your ears bleed profusely from the torment. Now, don’t get me wrong. Robin sounds great when he starts singing but the keyboards are too in your face…it is way too much. This song actually has promise if you could completely remove those keyboards. Oh, and the drum sound…Holy Crap why do they have the electric drum sound behind Bun E.’s great drum playing. As a result, you hear this song and it screams 80’s!!
“Rearview Mirror Romance” explodes next and almost sounds promising with some great drumming by Bun E. and Robin attacks the vocals. Thankfully, the keyboards aren’t in your face or that noticeable at all…well, into you get later in the song. It isn’t a rocker at all as it is still more pop than anything else. The chorus is catchy but so perky and upbeat that it is almost a turn-off. Rick does lay down a small solo and this is 86 so should be filled with guitars. The keyboard solo was probably longer. However, I might say it is one of the better songs on the album…sadly.
Then we get the horrible, horrendous title track, “The Doctor”. If this was your doctor, you would probably die from whatever was ailing you. It does have some heavy guitar and I thought we were going to get a rocking track, boy was I wrong. But this is a great showcase for Rick’s guitar playing that is the best part of the song. The tempo is way too fast and the chorus is plain awful that is as creative as I can get it has drained the word out of my head. The lyrics are probably as bad as the words I am writing for this review…man, that is bad!! Everything that is wrong with the song is the production. Slow it down, turn up the guitar a little and you have a rocking track. I am blaming this on the producer.
“Are You Lonely Tonight?” has this chipper sounding keyboard sound that sounds like it is coming from a kiddie toy and so water downs the song. I mean seriously what the hell were they thinking. I feel Cheap Trick came in and had some great songs and played their heart out to have the producer layer in so much shit that totally ruined everything you had done. I bet they just gave up and washed their hands of it. Oh god, make it stop!!!
Then we get “Name of the Game” and comes at you with some pounding drums and minimal keyboard. Robin’s tone is nice and all is promising. It is a little rock and a little pop. We might have the first real decent track on the album. This is the first song that I feel was more like the Cheap Trick I have grown to love. We get a bonafide Rick guitar solo and all is right with the world. There is still some keyboard but it is not the focus and yes there are some electronic drums too, but again, not high in the mix thankfully. I love near the end, it starts to sound like a Bee Gees song with the high vocal harmonies. And I am good with that. The song itself is an okay track, but I’ll take okay in spades right now.
“Kiss Me Red” was supposed to be a single in the U.S. but only released as a promotional single, but a full blown, full press kind of single. It did get released in the Netherlands of all places. It is another keyboard heavy track and very poppy, but let’s be honest. It works here. This is a solid song through and through. It isn’t over-the-top and feels like a well thought-out, crafted pop song where the keyboards are heavy, but necessary and not thrown in for filler or to have that sound. I never thought I would like it, but is infectious and burrows in to your ears. It turns out this wasn’t even written by the band. It was written for them by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly.
Then we get to an almost somber “Take Me To The Top”. Robin’s vocals are really high on this one, the tempo is slowed down and it has a serious, sincere tone that is actually quite pleasant. There isn’t a lot going on which is nice to have. It isn’t slammed with production. Some times less is more and in this case, I would say it worked.
“Good Girls Go To Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere)” is a great title, but execution wise I think the song is cheesy and corny. The chorus is so weak and the keyboard takes away punch in the song. Total filler that was probably kept in only because the title is so gimmicky. There is no heart in this song at all.
Next up is “Man-U-Lip-U-Lator” and it sounds like a dance track that every new wave band was doing at the time. It doesn’t sound like Cheap Trick. They tried to add cool elements such as female background singers in hopes to make it sound cool, but it sounds disjointed and feels all over the place. Another song where they think they have a cool title, but can’t execute the song to make it work.
The final album track is the only single we got from the album called “It’s Only Love”. It is heavy on the keyboards as well, but thankfully heavy on Rick’s guitar as he has a nice riff with this one. I can see the potential in the song and why they thought it would do well as it is a catchy song and will stay with you. I think they missed an opportunity to rock it out a little as it is hiding their underneath. Still, it is one of the better tracks for sure. The video for this has the recognition of being the first video to prominently incorporate American Sign Language. At least it has that going for it.
The bonus tracks are a plenty. First up is “In This Country” by Robin Zander from the soundtrack to the movie “Over The Top”. It is a ballad and does have a lot of keyboard, but this is a Robin Zander song and not a Cheap Trick song so I am okay with it. It is a decent ballad and better than most of the album. Next up is the singel version of their only single for “It’s Only Love”. It is a little over a minute shorter and actually I think is a better version as it keeps it short and sweet.
The remaining three tracks were all released on the box set ‘Sex, America, Cheap Trick and out demos or outtakes from ‘The Doctor’ sessions. “Funk #9” isn’t really all that funky. It is an instrumental track with Robin just scatting lyrics as there were none at that time. It is a pretty rocking track and the drums are all out in front and a killer guitar solo by Rick. Might be best track so far!! Another outtake is “Money is the Route of All Fun” and the first thing you notice is it isn’t overproduced nor keyboard added as this album should have been. Another killer track. Lastly, we get the demo “Fortune Cookie”. It has a Beatles and Zeppelin vibe to it to me and a totally fun. Crazy that these tracks, not over produced, are better than most of what finally landed on the album. Man, this could’ve been such a good album with a different producer.
- It’s Up To You – Delete
- Rearview Mirror Romance – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- The Doctor – Delete
- Are You Lonely Tonight? – Delete
- Name of the Game – Keeper
- Kiss Me Red – Keeper
- Take Me To The Top – Keeper
- Good Girls Go To Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere) – Delete
- Man-U-Lip-U-Lator – Delete
- It’s Only Love – Keeper
- In This Country (Robin Zander from the “Over the Top Soundtrack) – Bonus
- It’s Only Love (Single Version) – Bonus
- Funk #9 (Original Demo of The Doctor) – Bonus
- Money is the Route of All Fun (The Doctor Outtake) – Bonus
- Fortune Cookie (Demo) – Bonus
The Track Score is 4.5 out of 10 or 45% and that is being generous. As I said before, thanks to the production by Tony Platt, Cheap Trick came out with an album that had no balls and sounded so dated with the massive keyboards that you just throw your hands up in the air and say “what is this crap”. It was someone who’s vision for the band that does not fit the band. The keyboards were way too much and when you have someone like Bun E. Carlos on drums, why the hell do you need electronic drums added. It is beyond me. Okay, I’m beating a dead horse here, which might be more fun actually…no…it wouldn’t…sorry…bad comment. My Overall Score is a 2.0 out of 5.0 Stars and that might be too generous.
UP NEXT: ‘LAP OF LUXURY’ (1988)
The Cheap Trick Collection Series:
- Cheap Trick (1977)
- In Color (1977)
- Heaven Tonight (1978)
- Cheap Trick at Budokan (1978)
- Dream Police (1979)
- Found All The Parts (1980)
- All Shook Up (1980)
- One On One (1982)
- Next Position Please (1983)
- Standing on the Edge (1985)
- “Tonight It’s You” (1985) – 7″ Single (Bonus Edition)
- “Mighty Wings” (1986) – 7″ Single (Bonus Edition)
- The Doctor (1986)