By 1988, Cheap Trick’s popularity was dropping fast. Their last few albums didn’t really light the charts on fire and the record company you could say was quite unhappy. As a result, the record company forced the band to work with outside writers or song doctors. This was 1988 and all bands were now doing that. There was only one song on the album that was written solely by the band, all the others were co-writes by other people and some even entirely written by others.
But it wasn’t all bad news. The band was back to the four original members as Tom Petersson returns to the fold replacing Jon Brant on bass. As a result, the gang of Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Bun E. Carlos and Tom Petersson were back which made the world think of this as sort of a comeback album for the band. Now don’t think it was a comeback in forms of that 70’s Power Pop. Nope, it was more plain pop with this one, however, we did the see band hit the platinum status and garner their first ever #1 song.
The album was produced by Richie Zito and was released on April 12, 1988. It did really well and went all the way to #16 and had three of their four singles chart on the Billboard Top 40 and all four going to the Hot 100. There was a fifth single that was only released in Australia.
If you look at the album cover, you see the brought back the tradition of putting Robin and Tom on the front cover which obviously relegates both Rick and Bun E. to the back as was done on at least 3 of their 70’s album. I do like the throwback with that concept. My copy, when bought, was sealed but as you can see from my pictures, I had to unseal it to get the pictures of the inner sleeve and vinyl. I don’t have many albums that are sealed as I think they are made to be heard and when you break the seal, I always swear I hear the vinyl say…”thank you” ever so softly.
The opening track and Australian Only single is “Let Go” which was written by Rick Nielsen with the help of Todd Cerney (who had written for Eddie Money and Loverboy). The song has a constant drum beat from Bun E. Carlos and along with the bass is a solid rhythm section. It is a simple sounding song with a very short, anthemic like chorus which is highlighted exceptionally well by Robin Zander’s stupendous vocals. There is a horn section added that gives it a little fun punch and overall is a pretty decent opening track. It, like a lot of songs on here, are missing that power piece of the whole Power Pop sound they were most famous for in the past.
“No Mercy” is entirely written by outside writers by the name of Jon Lind and Jim Scott. The song has a some exotic, tribal sounding percussion beats. The verses are softer, but the choruses is bombastic and more powerful. Honestly, the song doesn’t feel like a Cheap Trick song. It sounds more like a song from a soundtrack as it has that movie feel to it being very dramatic like it should be played during some climatic scene in a movie. That doesn’t make it bad, in fact, it really is a great song. You do get a winning guitar solo from Rick and Robin’s vocals again are the champion here.
Another song that was not written by the band is “The Flame”. It was penned by Bob Mitchell and Nick Graham. The song would end up going to #1 on the Billboard charts and was their first and only #1 song. It is a power ballad and is one of Robin’s finest moments ever captured on tape. A song the band was apprehensive about at first, but warmed up to it and we are all better for it. The acoustic guitar helps give it this melancholic feel to it and I love the reflective nature of the lyrics. Robin’s vocals give it the emotion and voice the song needs to express itself and is pure splendid bliss. Then throw in Rick’s emotive guitar solo that fits perfectly with the tone of the song and you see why this went to #1.
“Space” is up next and is a Charlie Sexton cover. It was written by Mike Chapman and Holly Knight who Kiss and Aerosmith fans know very well. I would say this song is the first misstep on the album as it lacks any heart and feels more like filler as it certainly ain’t killer. The only thing this song has going for it is that is one of the more rocking songs on the album but not sure it is enough to save it although that guitar solo under Robin’s “oh-oh-oh’s” is pretty great so don’t entirely write it off.
The end of “This Side” is the old time rocker “Never Had A Lot To Lose” written by Robin and Tom and is the only one solely written by the band. The cross between old school rocker and new wave is a nice combo yet it doesn’t save it for me as I am not a fan of some of Robin’s singing on it and the drum beat throughout is a little annoying after awhile. There is a solid Rick speed metal riff (if you can call it a riff) that counts for the solo, but it is still forgettable overall.
The Other Side kicks off with the Elvis Presley cover of “Don’t Be Cruel” written by Otis Blackwell and Elvis Presley. The song did really well for the band going to #4 and I think any single after “The Flame” would’ve done well. The band makes the song lively and fun and an enjoyable song paying tribute the late, great Elvis but honestly, I find it cheesy and pointless but what do I know as the people sure did love it. Elvis for me is one of those people that once he sings a song it is his and I can’t hear it any other way…but that’s just me.
“Wrong Side of Love” is another Nielsen and Cerney song and has a cool bass riff at the beginning. It might be the most 80’s rocker song on here and I am good with that. There is a strut to it and Robin’s vocals carry that swagger as well but I don’t feel it saves the song as it seems it meander along not really going anywhere. It is missing something special, but I couldn’t tell you what that is so I will leave it at that.
Then we get “All We Need Is A Dream” which was written by Nielsen, Zander and one Gregg Giuffria of the band Giuffria and House of Lords. And with Gregg on board you would expect keyboards and you get that on this one. Robin’s vocals go to a much higher register than normal on this album and I dig it a lot. There is another great solo by Rick and I find the song catchy and fun.
“Ghost Town” is up next and this one is by Rick and the great Diane Warren which gives us another Aerosmith connection. This is the albums second ballad and while it has some acoustic elements there is some good guitar work with the solo and the bass and drums give us a nice rhythm section. I would say the song isn’t as strong as “The Flame” but there is still enough on here to make it enjoyable. It is missing the power of a power ballad.
The final track on here is “All Wound Up” which is by Robin, Tom and Janna Allen who has written with Hall & Oates. The song is an upbeat rocker that feels punchy and lively and more power pop that we know and love from the band. This is the type of song we love from the band and brings much needed energy to the album. I hate that we don’t get it until the very end as it could be wasted down here, but it still saves and album from total disaster.
- Let Go – Keeper
- No Mercy – Keeper
- The Flame – Keeper
- Space – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Never Had A Lot To Lose – Delete
- Don’t Be Cruel – Delete
- Wrong Side of Love – Delete
- All We Need Is A Dream – Keeper
- Ghost Town – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- All Wound Up – Keeper
The Track Score is 6 out of 10 tracks or 60%. The album might have done well for the band going platinum, but for me overall it is a lackluster affair that has some winning moments but misses the mark. We have two lackluster covers, one lackluster ballad and a back half of an album that isn’t as impressive as the front. You get three solid opening tracks that makes you think this is going to be a great album, but falls quickly as that middle part of the album almost makes you turn it off. Thankfully it is saved by “All Wound Up” and “All We Need Is A Dream”. My Score on this is not going to be as good as people probably expected as I only give it a 3.0 out of 5.0 Stars. It was close, no cigar.
UP NEXT: “THE FLAME” (1988) – 7″ Single (Bonus Edition)
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)
- Lap Of Luxury (1988)