With the help of the success of “The Flame” from the bands prior album ‘Lap of Luxury’, creative control of the bands next album was given back to the band. As result, the help of outside writers was extremely minimal. This time around, the band, with Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Bun E. Carlos and Tom Peterrson, would get some help from friends like Mick Jones of Foreigner and Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders. Producer Richie Zito was also brought back to man the boards. Creative control and famous guest was a recipe for success…or was it.
The album came out on June 27, 1990 and did spawn one Top 40 hit with the first single, but the following two did only #50 and not even chart. The album sold poorly and within one year after release, the band was dropped from Epic Records. Think about that…a band with the success they had, got dropped by their label. Around 14 years with the label, 11 Studio labels, millions sold and then goodbye! Would this be the end of Cheap Trick? Would they soldier on with more music? What would happen to them? Before we can answer that, we need to discuss this album.
The album opens with “Back ‘N Blue”, a fun and upbeat rocker full of “nah, nah, nah’s”, a big singalong chorus and yet flat and uninspiring to me. Not their best opener. With so many hands in the pot on the songwriting as it was written by Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander along with Taylor Rhodes and Robert Johnson (not that Robert Johnson), you would think something more lively and plain better would come from it, but nope.
“I Can’t Understand It” is up next and is catchy as hell. It might’ve felt at home back in the 70’s, but here in 1990 I’m not sure works as well as this is not the era of power pop. The verses seem to meander along going nowhere while the chorus is the only remotely tolerable. I guess I can’t really understand what they are doing here.
Then we get a Diane Warren penned song with “Wherever Would I Be”. The album’s first ballad. It was the second single and topped out at #50 on the Billboard Chart not quite making it to Top 40 status and this probably because the song sucks ass. Robin sings with as much emotion as he can muster to make the song as dramatic as possible, but ballads had been played to death by 1990 and this one has no power and is over-the-top cheesy. It does have a decent enough solo which is its only redeeming quality.
“If You Need Me” brings us a co-write between Robin, Rick and Foreigner’s Mick Jones which also got us Mick on guitar as well. A song that has hints of both Cheap Trick and Foreigner in it, it is a true pop song. After the previous song is a step up, but honestly it still plods along like every song on the album so far and leaves me feeling empty.
We get to the albums first single and second ballad and finally a song that is remotely decent and one I can get behind and support. “Can’t Stop Fallin’ Into Love” went all the way to #12 on the Billboard Top 40. It is pop bliss with some great guitar work and Robin’s smooth, clean vocals soar over the lyrics and putting us in to a dreamlike state as the music washes over us. Originally written as an instrumental back in 1987, it was demoed with Harvey Scales on vocals and shopped to Rod Stewart who eventually passed. Cheap Trick ended up doing it and you can definitely hear a Rod Stewart vibe to it and he would’ve slayed it. And Cheap Trick slays it as well. With the success of “The Flame”, this was an obvious choice for the first single and it was the right choice…plus based on what I’ve heard so far on this album, it is the only choice.
Then things finally get on track with the title track “Busted”. It is a rocking track with killer leads by Rick on guitar. Bun E.’s drums pound away a killer beat and Tom lays down a nice groove. Robin’s vocals have some life and that chorus is catchy and you can’t help but singalong. An upbeat, fast tempo piece that finally gives the album the energy it has been lacking. Why this was not a single, I do not know.
And now we get ballad #3…a little too many if you ask me. “Walk Away” though is not too bad. It is not as sweet and sugary as the others and they actually take a different approach with it. It has an old school feel to it, a throwback of sorts. You get Chrissie Hynde on backing vocals along with Robin but she should’ve been used more as I love her tone. At least it isn’t your typical ballad and for that they get props on it.
Next up is the song “You Drive, I’ll Steer” and is a fun jaunt of a song. I love the title and it even has a shout out to the title of the last album “Lap of Luxury”. It is upbeat, a little silly but a whole lot of fun. Robin’s delivery of the vocals is great as he is a little tough and serious despite the song not being that serious. Rick’s guitar tone is killer and he has some great riffs and overall a solid track.
“When You Need Someone” is he fourth ballad. Way too many guys. I get it they had a hit with one ballad on the last album so they overfill this one with ballads, but come on. It was co-written with Rick Kelly, Nic Graham and Rick Nielsen. I will admit it isn’t bad as ballads go so I don’t want to ding it just for being the fourth one. If it wasn’t for how great a singer Robin is and that guitar work by Rick, this might get a delete, but it won’t. However, this many ballads kills the flow of the album.
We finally get a glimpse at the old Cheap Trick and that Beatles influence with “Had To Make You Mine”. It is upbeat, full of life and energy and who doesn’t love a little of that Beatles sound. This is more my speed for them and a favorite of mine on the album.
The final song on the album is the one cover on the album as you always expect at least one cover. This time around we “Rock ‘N’ Roll Tonight” which was Roy Wood and performed by his band Wizzard from 1974 even though then it was called “We’re Gonna Rock ‘N’ Roll Tonight”. It has gritty guitars, a slamming bass groove and thunderous drums and the vocals, oh the vocals. The album goes out with a bang as they were full of energy and appreciation for a good song.
- Back ‘N Blue – Delete
- I Can’t Understand It – Delete
- Wherever Would I Be – Delete
- If You Need Me – Delete
- Can’t Stop Fallin’ Into Love – Keeper
- Busted – Keeper
- Walk Away – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- You Drive, I’ll Steer – Keeper
- When You Need Someone – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Had To Make You Mine – Keeper
- Rock ‘N’ Roll Tonight – Keeper
The Track Score is 6 out of 11 or 55%. The first half of the album was extremely weak. It was lifeless and dull. Things finally picked up with the second half as we saw more of the band we love, however, they stuck 4 ballads on this thing and it totally ruined the flow. Too many lifeless songs and not enough energy and that old power-pop sound. When they finally did have the rockers, they were great and all keepers, when they didn’t, it was hard to get through. I felt they were still lost and trying to figure out where they fit in to the world at this point in their career. My Overall Score is a 2.5 out of 5.0 Stars as it is not a favorite of mine but still some killer songs worth checking out.
Now, I know their Greatest Hits album should be next, but I actually don’t have it. I have the studio albums, some live albums and a box set, but no greatest hits. Instead, we are going to jump to their next studio album…
UP NEXT: “WOKE UP WITH A MONSTER” (1994)
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)
- “The Flame” (1988) – 7″ Single (Bonus Edition)
- “Ghost Town” (1988) – CD Single Promo (Bonus Edition)
- Busted (1990)