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.
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!!
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.
By 1994, Cheap Trick was no longer with Epic Records, they had jumped ship to Warner Bros. Epic was going to take that lying down, no they weren’t. They still had the rights to all the bands material up to ‘Busted’, so they were going to still capitalize on the Cheap Trick name. They released a compilation of Cheap Trick’s biggest hits. However, this was just an ordinary greatest hits set, no sir. Epic did what their name implies…they made an epic box set that had four CDs of hits, album tracks, b-sides, live songs, alternate takes and a ton of previously unreleased tracks. In fact, 17 previously unreleased tracks. A super fan’s wet dream, if you will.
There are 64 tracks on the album, plus 4 hidden little bits of weirdness at the end of each disc. It comes housed in a hard cover book type case that feels pretty solid. Inside, attached to the case, which I don’t like at all, is a booklet filled with pictures, stories and other Cheap Trick goodness. It would’ve been nice if the booklet wasn’t attached and you could take it out and enjoy it on its own. Minor flaw though. I liked the fact that the front cover of the book was actually Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos and the back was Robin Zander and Tom Petersson because most of their albums was the reverse with Robin and Tom on front and Rick & Bun relegated to the back cover. Nice little twist that did not go unnoticed.
After the release of Cheap Trick’s second album, ‘In Color’, the band was getting quite a bit of recognition in Japan. So, a week after third album, ‘Heaven Tonight”, was released, the band did a quick tour in April of 1978 and they didn’t waste any time playing those songs. The band’s reception was nothing short of amazing. It was Beatlemania 2.0 as the Japanese fans went…well…fanatical. While in Japan, they decided to record the shows at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo and release the album in Japan only.
Here is a little fact for you, the recordings done at Nippon Budokan really sucked and the recording is actually the show in Osaka, but don’t tell anyone. Okay, don’t know if that is a fact, but I did read that somewhere so we will continue that statement here as it is cool if it is true. Regardless of where it was recorded, the show is amazing and the release in Japan on October 8, 1978 saw tremendous success, so much so that 30,000 copies of it were sold as imports to the US which prompted the label to finally release it in the US in February 1979 under the name ‘Cheap Trick at Budokan’. The album would go on to be one of the biggest selling albums in the band’s career selling over 3 million copies and go to #4 on the Billboard Charts. Rolling Stones said it was one of the 500 greatest albums of all time in 2003 where it ranked at #426.
The album also introduced us to 2 new songs that had not been released yet and one of those, “Need Your Love” would wind up on their next album ‘Dream Police’. The other song, “Lookout”, was a leftover from their debut and would end up being released as a bonus track on later editions of the album starting in 1998. Due to the popularity of Budokan, the ‘Dream Police’ released date got pushed back as they were still having hit singles from this album. Not a bad problem to have actually.
The band finally started to catch on to the world with the release of their third album, “Heaven Tonight”. The album was released on April 24, 1978 and what is interesting is four days later they were touring Japan and played at a little arena called Nippon Budokan and we will get to that story in the next review. First, we need to talk this album. The band’s third album, which in some circles is considered the best, but it is way too early to make that call. This one though does bring the best of the first two albums in to focus. It has some of the first albums raw sound and then it takes some of the power pop sounds of the second and makes a pretty damn fine combination. The album did well as it charted at #48 on the Billboard Charts and going Gold a year later. By 1995, it has since been certified Platinum.
There are also two big firsts on this album. The first is they finally had a single chart with “Surrender” as it went to #62 on the Billboard Hot 100. The other first is more of a recording history fact in that this is the first recording to ever feature a 12-String Bass…yep…that is a right…12 strings. Not the wimpy-ass 4 string bass, nope four strings are for pussies. Only bad ass bass players play a 12 String bass!! Okay, I have no idea if that is true, but it sounds good…to me at least.
This is also the second album in a row to feature only Robin Zander and Tom Petersson on the cover similar to ‘In Color’. Based on the cover, it looks like a standard background, but when you flip it over you see Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos standing in bathroom. Yes, great place for a group photo. As a result, the record company wanted to call the album ‘American Standard’ as that is a very popular brand of plumbing supplies. Thankfully, that was nixed and they went with the ‘Heaven Tonight’ title.
One great thing about Matt Nathanson (there are a lot) is that he has been releasing E.P.s in between albums to keep his fans happy. Last year we got the absolutely incredible Def Leppard covers E.P. called ‘Pyromattia’which was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Now he brings us another covers E.P. titled ‘Postcards (from Chicago)’.
Matt took some time while in Chicago to put together another covers release. There are 6 songs from quite a diverse group of artists which makes it a very interesting release. Here is the track list…
Same Drugs (feat. Patrick Stump) – original by Chance the Rapper
Perfect World – original by Liz Phair
Hum Hallelujah – original by Fall Out Boy
Surrender (feat. Richard Marx) – original by Cheap Trick
Hold On to the Nights – original by Richard Marx
Whiskey Bottle – original by Uncle Tupelo
The album is out now on digital and I had to wait for 3 months on the vinyl. It is sweet. It has an autographed postcard of Chicago and it is on a really cool looking Orange Vinyl and here it finally is after the long wait…