After the last studio album, 2009’s ‘The Latest’, Cheap Trick went a little quiet. The did release a a live album, ‘Sgt Pepper Live’ in 2009, but that album is not in my Collection and this is “The Collection Series” so it won’t get reviewed at this point. Then in 2010, Bun E. Carlos stopped touring and he ended up suing the band in 2013 as they weren’t allowing him to record or participate in anything with the band. The lawsuit was settled and the band continued on without Carlos as a 3-Piece. Of note, Rick Nielsen’s son, Dax, has filled in for Bun E. as the drummer. And in 2014, they did release a compilation album called ‘The 70’s’, but again, not in the collection.
So, what is in the Collection that can be reviewed next? I will tell you. We have ‘The Epic Archive, Vol. 1 through Vol. 3 to review that were all released in 2015. All three albums were released on November 27, 2015 digitally. There was no physical product at the time. That has since been corrected as they eventually did release these on vinyl for Record Store Day on three separate occasions. I was lucky enough to get all 3. We will start with ‘The Epic Archive, Vol. 1 (1975-1979) since that is the first one in the series.
After three labels on three different albums, things weren’t going great for Cheap Trick. Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson and Bun E. Carlos needed to rebuild and find themselves again. One way they did this was by Epic Records re-releasing their stellar live album ‘At Budokan’, but this time they did a 2 CD release of the entire concert. All 19 tracks in order just as one done in the concert the show was from back in 1978. It was the 20th Anniversary of the original album and time to show the fans what all the fuss was about once again but in glorious full setlist detail.
The album came out on April 8, 1998 which was only 20 short days from the release of the official album which makes me wonder why they didn’t just wait a few more weeks. But what do I know. The concert was completely remastered and fully restored with all the tracks. And since we’ve already been through the original album track by track, we will focus on only the songs that were not included on the original.
That means we will kick things off with “ELO Kiddies” from their 1977 debut album. Live the song has even more of the band’s early punk aggression. It sounds rich and full and ready to rock your face off. They go straight in to the Terry Reid cover of “Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace” also from their first album. Tom Petersson starts it off on bass and he gives us a little solo rather than the normal blues guitar opening. We get a two minute instrumental instrumental before the song really gets going. The song rocks more than before and Robin sounds as great as ever.
After the disappointing sales of their debut, the band quickly jumped back in to the studio to work on their second album, ‘In Color’. By September of 1977, the album was done and released. The album was far more polished than the rawness of the debut. I am sure they were hoping for a more radio-friendly sound and hoping for a big single. Which sadly, they did not get in the U.S. However, the band became superstars with this album in Japan. Yep, Japan. When they went and toured that country the next year, they were welcomed with a whole Beatlemania type vibe and the country just loved them. But we will get to that later.
The album cover as interesting. On the front, you have Robin Zander and Tom Petersson on the front riding motorcycles and in vivid color. But when you turn the cover over, you get an upside picture of Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos riding bicycles and in black & white. I loved the contrast between the two pictures as it shows a playful band that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is having a little fun. Although the album is a single LP, you get a gatefold album jacket and in the inside picture is of the whole band in bright, bright color and again split between the same two members on each side, but at least Bun and Rick are not upside down this time.