Cheap Trick – ‘Special One’ (2003) – Album Review (The Cheap Trick Collection Series)

I know, I know. After the review of ‘Music for Hangovers’, I should be reviewing the live album ‘Silver’ which came out in 2001. However, note the title of the series…this is the Cheap Trick Collection Series and is on the Cheap Trick albums in my collection and that one is not in my collection…sorry. Instead we are jumping to the next studio album, ‘Special One’, which the band released 6 years after their last studio album. This is a massive break in between studio albums for them and for their fans. But the band is still in tact with Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson and Bun E. Carlos. Not many bands can say that (not that it last much longer, but still an impressive run).

After their last label went belly-up, Cheap Trick formed their own label and released two live albums, one of which we discussed already. It took awhile for the band to find themselves again and get in a place to write and record new songs. Sometime during 2001, they started writing. They would bump around from studio to studio to write and record in both 2001 and 2002 and after working in 8 separate studios the album was finished by the end of 2002. Now, since they were self-producing the album, it did take a little while longer to get the album out. This was like today where you could immediately put it out digitally.

The album hit the street on July 22, 2003 and it did chart but not very high. It only reached #128 on the Billboard Top 200 and sadly, only lasted a week before falling off the chart at a blinding speed. They album did have one single, but nothing came of it either. But the album isn’t as bad as it might seem. One great thing is the band wrote every single song on the album with only a couple having any outside co-writes. As far as sound goes, it is a very modern sounding Cheap Trick album which I don’t think is a bad thing and it is guitar-driven with minimal to no use of keyboards.

The opening track and first single is “Scent of Woman” which is a very modern sounding song but still captures the Cheap Trick of old. Robin sings in a much deeper register and the band is heavier and darker in their tone. It is an upbeat rocker and comes at you and makes a statement for the band that they are still kicking and kicking hard. Sadly, no guitar solo, but Rick’s guitar is prominent throughout otherwise. Bun E. is pounding on sounds great and Tom’s bass groove is killer. All around an exceptional track and one of my favorites on the album.

Next up is “Too Much” and the song is far from too much. It might be not enough. It is a mid-tempo track that plods along and goes no where. I don’t like Robin’s vocals and I can’t tell you the last time I have ever said that statement. It is a very boring, lackluster track that killed all the momentum from the first track.

“Special One” opens with a pounding drum, some deep bass and some psychedelic guitar. Robin sings in a similar tone to the previous song which I didn’t care for then and not so much now. The Beatles influence is strong in this psychedelic track but it isn’t interesting in the very least. If you thought the last song felt boring, hello…try not to fall asleep from the additional boredom brought on by this one. Now, the song does pick up at the end but it is too little too late for me.

The next track helps get us back on track. “Pop Drone” comes on with an eerie intensity that is dark and yet inviting. Robin sounds amazing on this one as he sings with that higher pitch that is classic Zander sounding. Rick’s guitar is biting and sounds killer and he lays down a sweet solo that has been lacking so far in the album. It is still a mid-tempo song and isn’t a full on rocker, but it is interesting and inviting and gives me all I want in a Cheap Trick song. Another favorite of mine.

“My Obsession” is a very radio friendly track and was a promo single for the album. However, it is a very generic sounding song and never seems to find the level of interesting I’m looking for in a song. It is catchy and all that great stuff, but still doesn’t excite me like I want and need.

And to keep the boring going we get “Words” which just plods along a road to nowhere. I don’t know if Robin is truly bored with singing or if the lyrics and music is supposed to sound that way. The bright spot to the song is about half way through, the intensity rises, the guitar is brought higher in the mix, the tempo is more upbeat and Robin starts to sound less bored. But is it enough to overcome the drone of the beginning…no not really because by the end of the song, the boredom comes back.

“Sorry Boy” opens with a plethora of sounds all jumbled together and then kicks in to a great drum beat from Carlos and guitar riffing from Nielsen. Zander attacks the vocals with a dark, evil tone accompanied by Petersson’s bass groove. It has a sinister vibe to it that is exciting, thrilling and interesting all at the same time. Cheap Trick push the envelope of experimenting with sounds and it works on all levels for me.

Another of my favorite songs on the album is “Best Friends” as Robin is attacking this one with shouts and screams and some great vocals. He seems really in to it and that gets you in to it as well. It starts off real slow and keeps building and building until it explodes. It is that explosion that grabs hold and really catches your attention. I have found on this album, when they really rock out, they achieve greatness and this is greatness.

Then the band goes all funk with “If I Could” as Tom lays down one funky-ass bass line. There is an hollow effect on Robins vocals to open and then it goes to normal and he sounds great. A very different vibe on this one and I quite like it.

The album ends a little weirdly with the same song twice under two different names. The first is a little over 2 minutes and is called “Low Life in High Heels”, it is mostly Robin humming to a drum beat and then some guitars and bass are added and the guitar eventually sounds like it is humming. It has a great groove and beat. There is some singing scattered about but minimal. It is like an unfinished track, but I love it. Rick’s playing is great and it feel fun. The next is simply called “Hummer” and is basically a remix of the song that takes to over 4 minutes and I like it just the same.  Dan “The Automater” (Beck) was brought in to do the remix. It is all bizarre, strange, weird and totally nuts, but all fantastically strange.

Track Listing:

  1. Scent of a Woman – Keeper
  2. Too Much – Delete
  3. Special One – Delete
  4. Pop Drone – Keeper
  5. My Obsession – Delete
  6. Words – Delete
  7. Sorry Boy – Keeper
  8. Best Friend – Keeper
  9. If I Could – Keeper
  10. Low Life in High Heels – Keeper
  11. Hummer – Keeper

The Track Score is 7 out of 11 Tracks or 63%. It is a bizarre mix of songs that either work or don’t and there is no in between.  It isn’t a great album by any stretch of the imagination, but I will be honest and say I like a lot of what they were trying to do, I just don’t like all of it.  The first half has too many swings and misses while the back half has some serious swings with major contact.  They brought their sound in to the new millennium and still had a little of that old Cheap Trick sound, but it is still missing enough of the old to make people care.  My Overall Score is a 3.0 out of 5.0 Stars as it was a swing for the fences, that might have just careened off the wall and missed going over.  At least I have a handful of great songs to add to the CT playlist.

UP NEXT: ‘ROCKFORD’ (2006)

The Cheap Trick Collection Series:

  1. Cheap Trick (1977)
  2. In Color (1977)
  3. Heaven Tonight (1978)
  4. Cheap Trick at Budokan (1978)
  5. Dream Police (1979)
  6. Found All The Parts (1980)
  7. All Shook Up (1980)
  8. One On One (1982)
  9. Next Position Please (1983)
  10. Standing on the Edge (1985)
  11. “Tonight It’s You” (1985) – 7″ Single (Bonus Edition)
  12. “Mighty Wings” (1986) – 7″ Single (Bonus Edition)
  13. The Doctor (1986)
  14. Lap Of Luxury (1988)
  15. “The Flame” (1988) – 7″ Single (Bonus Edition)
  16. “Ghost Town” (1988) – CD Single Promo (Bonus Edition)
  17. Busted (1990)
  18. Woke Up With A Monster (1994)
  19. Sex, America, Cheap Trick (1996) – Box Set
  20. “I Want You To Want Me” (Alternate Version) (1996) – 7″ Single (Bonus Edition)
  21. Cheap Trick (1997)
  22. Cheap Trick at Budokan: The Complete Concert (1998)
  23. Music For Hangovers (1999)
  24. Special One (2003)

14 thoughts on “Cheap Trick – ‘Special One’ (2003) – Album Review (The Cheap Trick Collection Series)

  1. I’d say the usual “I haven’t heard it” but I also didn’t even know it existed. I was starting to think that was a good thing as I was reading but it appears the latter half of the album picks it up a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I heard the track Scent of a Woman but I never took the bait on this record. I will add its good to see the album get stronger towards the end but this one would be a straight streaming job by the looks of it. Thanks for the pics as well. Never seen the packaging before either…

    Liked by 1 person

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