Cheap Trick has hopped on the Record Store Bandwagon with 3 previous releases for each Volume of The Epic Archives and now for the 2019 Record Store Day they dug in to the archives and are finally releasing their New Year’s Eve concert from the Fabulous Forum in Los Angeles from 1979 in full. Some songs were released on the Expanded Edition of the ‘Dream Police’ album, but never the full show. This is the first time it has been released on vinyl, the first time the full show has been released giving is new mixes from the original master tracks. The only issue is the first reel of the master tapes could not be found, so the first four songs aren’t as clean and crisp as the rest of the album. They had to source those songs from a high resolution tape of the official radio broadcast. You can tell the difference in the listen, but honestly, it has zero impact on the listening pleasure.
RSD has it listed as an exclusive release, but only exclusive in the fact it is the only way to get the vinyl. The show has been released on CD and digitally so the vinyl release isn’t truly exclusive. The package is a 2 LP set in a beautiful gatefold. After getting the Epic Archive albums in multiple colors, here we get the standard black vinyl. I have read a lot of reviews and/or comments that they feel the sound sucks, but it is a personal taste. If you like a live album that sounds live, then this will be great. I wasn’t bothered by any of the sound quality and that won’t be mentioned at all as it was a non-issue for me. I was listening to the music and what we got and we got a lot. Let’s walk through it.
While the band was touring for the release of the album ‘Cheap Trick at Budokan: The Complete Recordings’, the band decided to record some shows. On a four night stint at The Metro in Chicago from April 30-May 3, 1998, the band recorded all the shows. One of the cool things they did at these shows is each night they played one of their first four albums in its entirety which was in celebration of the re-release of those albums. After that they then played songs from throughout their career. From those recordings, they made a compilation which turned in to ‘Music for Hangovers’.
The album was released on June 15, 1999 and it didn’t just have the main members of Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson and Bun E. Carlos, oh no. They also had a guest appearance from the Smashing Pumpkin’s main man Billy Corgan. Billy also wrote the liner notes as he goes through his love of Cheap Trick and him joining the band on stage multiple times. The show isn’t Budokan, but it is still pretty great. There is a DVD of this release, however, I only have the CD and that is what we will review. Enjoy!
The album opener is “Oh Claire” is a little jam that only says “Oh kininichi wa” and was the last song (uncredited) on ‘Heaven Tonight’ from 1978. They then go straight in to their classic track “Surrender” which they sound just as good as they did 20 years earlier on Budokan. It is rocking with a punk flair and enough energy to get the crowd warmed up for the rest of the show. Then comes the high velocity of “Hot Love” which speeds down the stage at breakneck speed and Robin shows he can still sound as great he did when he recorded the song oh so long ago. Always a fun favorite for me and even more so here.
I love how when Rick introduces the next track it is by his favorite singer in the whole wide world Mr. Robin Zander. Good thing because he’s been stuck with him for 20 years now. They sing “I Can’t Take It” which might be the only song not from the first four albums. How is possible that Robin still sounds as young and talented as he did when he started. It is crazy and I’ll stop harping on that subject because you get it now. Next up is one of their most famous “I Want You To Want Me” and how can you not singalong to this one. It is played at such a fast tempo it is almost exhausting trying to keep up as Bun E. just pounds away on that snare. And one cool thing about them playing the entire first four albums, they now have on tape songs you might not expect as that one for me was “Taxman, Mr. Thief” which opens with a cool Rick riff throughout as he is really killing it here. In a song that had them being compared to the Beatles (which happened a lot), live it is a straight-up rocker and sounds amazing.
Billy Corgan gets introduced before the next song and if you have the DVD you see he comes out dressed up as his hero Rick Nielsen which got a big laugh. Billy plays guitar on the song “Mandocello”, he is the main guy on the intro and outro, which is a song I found boring on the studio album, but live has a whole new life and sounds fantastic. Robin’s angelic voice still sounds like perfection and Tom’s bassline drives the song home. What was missing on the studio shines through here. “Oh Caroline” is up next and they attempt this one acoustically which is a really nice twist. Already a great song and a sign of a really great song is if it can be played acoustically and be as good and guess what, it is. “How Are You?” which studio wise opens with a piano, live just goes straight in to a heavy bass line and drum beat and rocks right out of the gate. Before it was a mix of Elton John and The Beatles and now it is a rocking Cheap Trick like only the can do. The chorus is a hell of a lot of fun and perfect for a live performance.
“If You Want My Love” slows things back down and although a little rough around the edges vocally is still a classic must have song in the set. This was the first song I felt you could see the flaws in Robin’s vocals which I didn’t know existed. It is still a fun song waving your arms from side-to-side in the air! Then comes one of my all-time favorite songs “Dream Police”, bet you don’t know what album this one is from?? Tom’s bass is the highlight here as it is the driving force of the song. Without it, the song would’ve felt so flat and two-dimensional. Rick joins the vocal fun at the one break which has him going crazy and nuts belting out the lines, it is great. “So Good To See You” has a whole 60’s Beatles vibe and is another where Robin just attacks the vocals. It sounds as good or better than the studio track. I love the energy coming from the band.
Another song I wouldn’t have expected is “The Ballad of T.V. Violence” off their debut, but I guess it makes sense as it is about a Chicago Serial Killer and they are in Chicago. It is a darker and a heavier song and Rick really shreds on this one and Bun E. slams those skins. Robin sings it with a little more edge and the whole band slays! The final song is another favorite with “Gonna Raise Hell”. Bun E. kicks things off with a great beat, Tom lays down the bass riff followed by Rick’s laying the same guitar riff as the bass. Robin sings it with a gritty, gravelly vocal to try and sound as tough as he can. It is a great, heavy rock song to end the show (or at least this CD). Go out with a bang and leave them wanting more which this does. I hate to see it end.
Although the album is from songs spread over four nights, they did mix it where it works seamlessly as if one complete show. Now, it is no Budokan, but what it is is a band that was still having fun playing live although their albums weren’t selling at the time. They have accepted that people love those 70’s albums and they fully embrace it. Had they become one of the very first “heritage acts”? Probably so, but thank god as they could still perform at such a high level. The show is full of energy, fun and excitement and if there is a band to see live, it is Cheap Trick. My Overall Score is a 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars. I mean you can’t go wrong with Live Cheap Trick!!
The success of the live album, ‘Cheap Trick at Budokan’, kept delaying the release of the band’s fourth studio album, ‘Dream Police’. And that was a great problem to have. The band recorded the album during ’78 and was ready to be released, but the label thought since ‘Bodokan’ had been imported so much in to the US, why not release the live album domestically. And it certainly paid off. They cleaned up a few things in early ’79 and it finally got a released date on September 21, 1979 as Budokan was blowing up the charts. That momentum set the band up for what would become their biggest commercial album to date. Heck, it only took the album a few months to go platinum. The album spawned four singles across the globe and gave the band two Top 40 songs on the Billboard Charts. Yes sir, Cheap Trick had made it to the big time. An audience that wasn’t ready for them a few short years earlier was finally on board.
Cheap Trick brought back Tom Werner for a third time as producer and this time around, the band experimented with their sound and brought in new elements such as orchestration and even songs that were structured to be more complex and definitely longer tracks as one almost hits 10 minutes. This was a band that was not afraid to try new things and this time around, it paid off…big time!! Band members, Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson and Bun E. Carlos were ready to take on the world and now the world was ready for them.