Welcome to the final post in the Cheap Trick Collection Series. We are going to rank all 20 of their studio albums from their worst to their absolute best. I am sure there will be some disagreement, but these are my choices and not necessarily yours so it is okay to disagree. I have spent the last 9/10 months going through every piece of Cheap Trick music in my collection and that gave us 37 posts so my choices are well documented and please check them all out if you have time.
We started back in 1977 with their debut and finished with their latest studio album, 2021’s ‘In Another World’. We didn’t hit everything in between because I missed a few live albums and a ton of greatest hits compilations, but it was still a pretty immersive catalog to go through. Cheap Trick’s core group was always Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson and Bun E. Carlos with changes here and there, but those are the original guys we all know and love.
Their Beatles influences, pop-punk style was all their own. You heard a Cheap Trick song, you basically knew it was a Cheap Trick song. Robin Zander’s vocals have never aged a bit and at times sounds even better today than 45 years ago. Rick’s crazy guitars weren’t to make up for the fact he can’t play because he sure as hell can as he filled every album with some great solos and killer riffs. Tom Petersson’s bassline was the driving force behind the rhythm section and with Bun E Carlos on drums, that rhythm section was pretty freakin’ tight. These four guys could produce a lot of sound and gave us a lot of great music. Let’s celebrate now with the Ranking from Worst to First!!
THE WORST – ‘THE DOCTOR’ (1986):
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.
#19 – ‘BUSTED’ (1990):
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.
#18 – ‘STANDING ON THE EDGE’ (1985):
There is no heart in this album at all. Yes, it does have one of their best songs with “Tonight It’s You”, but outside of that there is nothing up to the level of previous albums. Jack Douglas might have had a vision of a much rawer and edgier Cheap Trick, but Tony Platt’s mix and Mark Radice’s song writing and keyboards really wimped it out and lost any passion or even Cheap Trick out of it. It sounds a little dated and it sounds like an album that won’t get pulled out very often. My Overall Score is a wimpy 2.5 out of 5.0 Stars. Cheap Trick is better than this.
#17 – ‘LAP OF LUXURY’ (1988):
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.
#16 – ‘SPECIAL ONE’ (2003):
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.
#15 – ‘NEXT POSITION PLEASE’ (1983):
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.
#14 – ‘CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS’ (2017):
I have to say, I really enjoyed this one, but only on the songs that were rock and punk all rolled in to one. Give me the fun, crazy songs and that will get me in the Christmas spirit as Christmas is a crazy, nuts filled time to begin with. If they would’ve done all traditional songs and the ones most every covers, this would have been a pile of…well…you know. Going the punk way and picking some non-standards they made it interesting. My Overall Score is a 3.5 Out of 5.0 Stars as I think it is a Christmas album worth having. I might actually need to run out and buy this one when I can find it. I can’t believe I just said that!!
#13 – ‘ALL SHOOK UP’ (1980):
I did enjoy this album and the experimentation. Sometimes I do feel they play the Beatles influence too much on their sleeves but at the same time, why not. They do it well. The first half of the album was really strong and one of the most enjoyable sides for me. The back half slogs along with more misses than hits and brings the album down for me. I can’t say for sure of George Martin helped or hurt, but I am sure he taught them a lot. Overall, I will give the album a 3.5 out of 5.0 Stars as is it is an above average album, but no where near the level of what they are capable of doing.
#12 – ‘ONE ON ONE’ (1982):
I do love the variety on this album. You get hard rock, you even get a little metal, you get some Beatles sounds, some Queen and then they go and incorporate some new wave on a couple to keep current with the times. The album also has two of my favorite Cheap Trick songs with “If You Want My Love” and “She’s Tight”. With all those things, it should get a high score, but it won’t. It won’t get a bad score either. My issue with it was it was a little too inconsistent and even felt like it had some filler. They would have a really great song and then the next song would pale in comparison and it was noticeable at times. Still, I don’t think they had reached their peak and there was still a little gas left in the tank. I will always like this one as it was some of the first songs I remember seeing on MTV and loving. Overall, I am going to give it a Score of 3.75 out of 5.0 Stars.
#11 – ‘WOKE UP A MONSTER’ (1994):
Being 1994, you would have thought they would’ve gone darker like the grunge era was defined, but they didn’t. They might have had a harder edge at time, but underneath it all, it is still Cheap Trick. Ted Templeman helped pull out of them some great songs like only Ted can do. He kept them focused and brought a little life back to the band despite the overall disappointing sales that is no thanks to the label as it definitely wasn’t the music. My Overall Score is a 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars. If you missed this one, go back and check it out as you are missing some solid Cheap Trick here.
#10 – ‘ROCKFORD’ (2006):
I have to say this is a great album, better than the track score says. It has some uplifting moments, some great melodies, some great harmonies, some great riffing and definitely some great vocals. It is a band that has become comfortable in their own skin again and not afraid to do what they want to do. They are at a point in their career where they don’t have to worry about being told what to do any more. They can just be Cheap Trick and with this album, they are that and more. My Overall Score is a 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars. I think this will get pulled out a lot to be played.
#9 – BANG, ZOOM, CRAZY…HELLO’ (2016):
The album is a blast, a fun-filled rocking set of songs that take you back to the good ol’ days of Cheap Trick. The band seems to have found their groove again and stuck to a formula that is welcome and now expected to keep the old fans interested. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it kind of thing. However, as much as I enjoy the album, and I do enjoy it, it still doesn’t have all the heart and soul of the early band albums. It could be Bun E. being gone, but I think it is that stuff was just so good. Either way, this is great as well on its own. My Overall Score is a 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars and if you haven’t found your way back to listening to Cheap Trick again, this is one you should pick up to fall in love with them all over again.
#8 – ‘IN ANOTHER WORLD’ (2021):
Now, how many bands can be 20 albums in to their career and still produce magic like this? I don’t think you can name many, if any at all. Cheap Trick over the last few albums, with Julian Raymond behind the boards, have tapped in to their roots and have been delivering consistent and pure Cheap Trick albums. Their influences are right there where we want them to be, front & center. Cheap Trick still feels fresh, new and comfortable in their skin. They know what works and what doesn’t. ‘In Another World’ delivers on all fronts with only a could missteps. If they would’ve cut it down a few songs, we’d be at perfect but we are not. My Overalls Score is a 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars which a band 44 years in to their career at this point…that is pretty damn awesome!!
#7 – ‘CHEAP TRICK’ (1997):
The band has found their way again. They hoped this would be a return to the public eye and a fresh start with a new generation, but the label going bankrupt three weeks after the release of the album didn’t help things at all. As a result, one of their best albums in 15 years went completely unnoticed. Which is a shame because the band sounded rejuvenated, refreshed, excited, focused, determined, hungry and everything you want a band to be. The album had some darker edges and rocked really hard but still has that Beatles influence and that 70’s Cheap Trick vibe when it needed it. This is not a good album for the time, it is one of their best in my humble opinion. I would give it a 4.5 out of 5.0 Stars as Cheap Trick is back!!!
#6 – ‘CHEAP TRICK’ (1977):
This thing is fantastic. I love the raw energy, the power pop sound, the punk attitudes and the fact they didn’t shy away from any topic on the album. When you really listen to this album, you really hear the fine guitar playing of Rick Nielsen as it sounds so simple, but there is more meat on the bone than you realize. Tom Petersson’s bass smoking and when you pair him with the finesse of Bun E. Carlos, you have one of the great rhythm sections out there. And then the Voice Man himself, Robin Zander, who I think has one of the greatest rock voices to every come along and he still sound great today. This band is special but the world wasn’t ready for them yet. But they didn’t have long to wait. I give the album a 4.5 out of 5.0 Stars as it wasn’t perfect, but it was damn near close to it.
#5 – ‘HEAVEN TONIGHT’ (1978):
If you liked the rawness of the debut and the power pop of the sophomore release, then this album will take both those sounds and delivers a stellar album for everyone. They seem to be finding who they were with this one and although not perfect, it is pretty damn close. Robin hasn’t sounded better, Rick’s guitar riffs and solos were getting better and better, Bun E. was tearing up the skins and always giving just the right touch to the songs and Tom’s 12-String bass was a thing of beauty laying down great grooves and the driving force on all the songs. Overall, I Score the album a 4.5 out of 5.0 Stars as it is a personal favorite.
#4 – ‘THE LATEST’ (2009):
The moment I put this on and played it the first time, I had a smile on my face from beginning to end. I threw it on for my drive to work and the next I knew I was at the office and didn’t remember the drive, only this album playing gloriously in my ear. The band sounds like they were teenagers with a unmeasured maturity beyond their years. The songs flow so perfectly together and have the perfect track placements regardless of the two ballads at the end. It is all magical and just works. It is by far the best album in years. My Overall Score is easily a 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars as I wouldn’t skip anything and just let it play over and over. I loved it from the first note to the last.
#3 – ‘WE’RE ALL ALRIGHT!’ (2017):
Cheap Trick has delivered an album I have always wanted them to deliver. It is one of my favorite Cheap Trick albums now. When I originally listened to this back in 2017, I had not really listened to much their new stuff and to think that this is what they are still capable of is utterly amazing. Bands of any age wish they could do an album like this let alone a band that has been playing for over 40 years. Just because they are an old band, don’t count them out. The sound is classic and fresh and new at the same time. The album title sums them up nicely…“We’re All Alright!”. My Overall Score is 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars.
#2 – ‘IN COLOR’ (1977):
It is pure magic. Yes, the band lost some of the raw feel that I loved on the first one, but there is no denying that power pop magic they have with this one. And this album has the songs. So nothing was a big hit, it doesn’t matter. The album was wrongly overlooked by the buying public. Japan got it right as this album is fantastic. I can drop a needle on this and not want to skip anything but only want to hit repeat again and again. Robin, Rick, Tom and Bun E. delivered a career defining album for me. Well, until maybe when we get to another of my favorites down the road. The Score on this one is 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars as if you didn’t already figure that one out.
#1 – ‘DREAM POLICE’ (1979):
This album sees the band come in to their own. They were exploding on to the world stage and at the same time they are exploding creatively. They tried so many things with this album from their power pop to heavy rocker to orchestration to Tom singing to everything in between. No matter what they threw at you it stuck and it sounded perfect. This was a band hitting on all cylinders that could do no wrong. Overall the score is simple…it is 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars and I have no hesitations with that score. This has always been a favorite and will continue to be forever.
And that is The End of the Cheap Trick Collection Series. I hope you enjoyed it. Come back and check out as on the Jeff Scott Soto Series and we will soon be starting The Scorpions Collection Series as we will go through all Scorpions albums in my collection…and I have a few. Until then, thanks for hanging and have a great day
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)
- Woke Up With A Monster (1994)
- Sex, America, Cheap Trick (1996) – Box Set
- “I Want You To Want Me” (Alternate Version) (1996) – 7″ Single (Bonus Edition)
- Cheap Trick (1997)
- Cheap Trick at Budokan: The Complete Concert (1998)
- Music For Hangovers (1999)
- Special One (2003)
- Rockford (2006)
- The Latest (2009)
- The Epic Archive, Vol. 1 (1975-1979) (2015)
- The Epic Archive, Vol. 2 (1980-1983) (2015)
- The Epic Archive, Vol. 3 (1984-1990) (2015)
- Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello (2016)
- We’re All Alright! (2017)
- Christmas Christmas (2017)
- Are You Ready? Live 12/31/1979 (2019)
- “Gimme Some Truth” (RSD Black Friday 2019)
- Out To Get You! Live 1977 (2020)
- In Another World (2021)
- The Albums Ranked Worst to First