Cheap Trick – ‘Christmas Christmas’ (2017) – Album Review (The Cheap Trick Collection Series)

I know this is The Cheap Trick Collection Series, but I have to do this one album even though I don’t actually own a copy (yet) so I am able to complete an album rankings of all their studio albums. The album I don’t own is their Christmas album called ‘Christmas Christmas’. I am not a massive fan of Christmas albums so I will do my best to not be too biased on this one…I can’t promise anything. The album was released on October 20, 2017 and actually has 3 original songs written by the band which is Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson with Daxx Nielsen on drums. The remaining 9 tracks are covers with only one of those being a full on traditional song. The album is their 19th Studio album and went to #93 on the Top Album Sales and #5 on the Holiday Charts…not too bad for a Christmas album.

And one other thing. We are reviewing this in May for a posting in June and it is so not time for Christmas music, so getting in that frame of mind is difficult. I watched some Christmas movies, wore a Santa hat, wrapped some presents to give to my kids, made some eggnog and all that jazz to get in the mood and it worked!! So, let’s get going…(note: none of that is true!!)

The album kicks off with an original, “Merry Christmas Darlings”, and let me tell you…it is a great Christmas song. Robin sounds amazing, joyful and all in the Christmas spirit. The song is bouncy and has little rocking edge so don’t expect sleigh bells but lyrically it does touch on a lot of the cliches and there are a lot of “la la la las”. Robin, Rick and Tom actually wrote a decent song. And to keep it the rocking edge going we get “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” by Roy Wood and the Wizzards. Another upbeat track that sees Cheap Trick go full glam with lots of angst and yuletide fun.

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Cheap Trick – ‘The Epic Archive, Vol. 2 (1980-1983)’ (2015) – Album Review (The Cheap Trick Collection Series)

Last time around we reviewed ‘The Epic Archive, Vol. 1′ and like that one all 3 Volumes 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. And since we started with ‘The Epic Archive, Vol. 1 (1975-1979) since that is the first one in the series, it is now time to review ‘The Epic Archive, Vol. 2 (1980-1983).

My copy is the 2018 Record Store Day Release and let me tell you it is quite stellar. As the sticker below says, it is a 2-LP Gatefold Set that is limited to 1,500 copies and both LP’s are on a beautiful clear translucent vinyl. And Bun E. Carlos might not be in the band anymore, but he was involved as the liner notes on the inside of the Gatefold are track-by-track commentary by Mr. Carlos as well as Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson as you can see below. This Volume didn’t have the “Golden Ticket” like the last one where you received a band picture autographed by all four original members. Nope, nothing like that in here.

But what I did get was a beautiful set of vinyl and a great collection 16 tracks spanning from 1980 to 1983, which includes demos, live recordings, early studio recordings of later released songs and alternate versions. I would say this is for the more hardcore fan and maybe not the casual listener so I believe I qualify for the more hardcore fan, I mean I am doing a whole review series on the band. I don’t think that makes me a casual listener.

But before we get to the music, let us take a look at the vinyl. I actually really think they are stunning. Hard to believe that the absence of color could be so cool…but it is…

Okay, Okay, enough already…on to the music…

SIDE 1 & 2:

The first three tracks are from the E.P. ‘Found all the Parts’. The first track is a live version of the Beatles song “Day Tripper” recorded live on their 1978 US Tour. Only that it wasn’t. Nope! They planned on using that version, however, it sucked so they went back in to the studio and re-recorded it while still using the crowd noise from the live version though. I do like the fact that they kept the studio version rough around the edges and gave it a live feel. If I wouldn’t have told you, you probably wouldn’t have noticed. Next up is “Such a Good Girl” and it is a happy little track that feels like sunshine. Meaning it is uplifting and bright in its sound. The final track from Found All the Parts E.P. is “Take Me I’m Yours” which is a lot slower and more bluesy almost lounge-singer style. Rick sings it in a weird way almost gimmicky. Think early Roy Orbison style except not as high in the vocal range as Roy can get. Lastly on Side 1 is the Vocal Version of “Oh Boy”. Intended for the first album, but Jack Douglas didn’t like it. He thought it was too poppy and not hard or edgy enough and I would agree.

Side 2 kicks off the demo of “Loser” which is a very simple song with only 3 chords because that is what Rick wanted. A song you didn’t have to look at your guitar to play. It is a slower song and doesn’t feel flushed out fully. Robin sings it with a gritty tone and sounds a little sad and lonely to keep in line with the loser theme. The chorus is pretty simple as well and maybe is sung badly on purpose, who knows. The next two tracks are live from the L.A. Forum from December 31, 1979 when the headlined the arena after playing it before as an opening act with Kiss. First is “The House is Rockin’ (with Domestic Problems)” which has “Goodnight Now” included at the end which I have always loved when the do that one and then we get “Way of the World” which is one of the rare times that song has been played as there some very hard vocal parts to do live. The last track is the single edit for a song I really like called “World’s Greatest Lover” off 1981’s ‘All Shook Up’. It knocks about 30 seconds off trimming a little bit and there. The band loves this one for how different it sounds to their other songs and Rick loves the chord changes.

SIDE 3 & 4:

Side 3 kicks off with “Everything Works if You Let It” (Single Version). The song was written for the movie “The Roadie” and released as a single. It is a great, high energy track and deservedly released as a single. Then we get two tracks from the Heavy Metal Movie Soundtrack. First is “Reach Out” which to me is not very heavy or metal. Way too much on the keyboards, but that was the time. The cool thing is I don’t have to get the soundtrack for these two songs…although I probably want it for all the other songs. The next one from the movie is “I Must Be Dreamin'” and the first half is an instrumental with lots of keys and I am sure fits the animated movie it was used for, but the second half has Robin and helps the song find its groove. The last track on Side 3 is the demo version of “If You Want My Love” and do I really need to anything. We already know it is a great song and the demo proves it was great from the beginning.

Side 4 kicks off with a song I would love to just skip. It is A Super New Dance Remix of the song “Saturday at Midnight” and you lost me at Dance Remix. It is over 6 minutes of 80’s keyboards and fake ass drums and a total waste of my time. Then we get a cover of the Motors song “Dancing the Night Away” (Short Version). The album version is the long version. The label forced this one on the band and Todd Rundgren was so pissed, he refused to produce it so it was produced by the band with Ian Taylor. The label even forced this to be the first single and it flopped…big time!! The suits know nothing!! However, the song really isn’t bad as it is quite catchy. It is a decent cover and since I was unfamiliar with The Motors song, I thought this was a Cheap Trick song all along. The we get the song “Spring Break” from the movie of the same name. Let us just say this song is just as bad as the movie. Inspired by the Beach Boys, it is an upbeat, energetic track, but thankfully was not on a Cheap Trick album as it doesn’t work. Lastly we get “Get Ready” which was the B-Side to the “Spring Break” single and I like it so much better. Inspired by a Humble Pie song, it rocks out so much more and sees a heavier edge of the band.

There are no unreleased tracks on here. These are all released in some other form, mostly on expanded editions, B-Sides or soundtracks. But if you don’t have all those, then this set will compile them for you nicely. I think the Record Store Day release really did a great packaging job and those clear translucent vinyl are simply beautiful. The 80’s started to be an uneasy time for the band and some of the songs on here show that. But I love demos, live songs, B-Sides and all that stuff is just great for a collector. I really like these releases as sometimes I like to just hear the more obscure rarer tracks like demos and alt arrangements, I’m strange that way. And this compiles them up nicely, but I don’t like it as much as Vol. 1 . I will give this one a 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars.

UP NEXT: ‘THE EPIC ARCHIVE VOL. 3 (1984-1992)’ (2015)

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)
  25. Rockford (2006)
  26. The Latest (2009)
  27. The Epic Archive, Vol. 1 (1975-1979) (2015)
  28. The Epic Archive, Vol. 2 (1980-1983) (2015)

Cheap Trick – ‘Busted’ (1990) – Album Review (The Cheap Trick Collection Series)

With the help of the success of “The Flame” from the bands prior album ‘Lap of Luxury’, creative control of the bands next album was given back to the band. As result, the help of outside writers was extremely minimal. This time around, the band, with Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Bun E. Carlos and Tom Peterrson, would get some help from friends like Mick Jones of Foreigner and Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders. Producer Richie Zito was also brought back to man the boards. Creative control and famous guest was a recipe for success…or was it.

The album came out on June 27, 1990 and did spawn one Top 40 hit with the first single, but the following two did only #50 and not even chart. The album sold poorly and within one year after release, the band was dropped from Epic Records. Think about that…a band with the success they had, got dropped by their label. Around 14 years with the label, 11 Studio labels, millions sold and then goodbye! Would this be the end of Cheap Trick? Would they soldier on with more music? What would happen to them? Before we can answer that, we need to discuss this album.

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Cheap Trick – ‘In Color’ (1977) – Album Review (The Cheap Trick Collection Series)

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.

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