Cheap Trick – ‘The Epic Archive, Vol. 1 (1975-1979)’ (2015) – Album Review (The Cheap Trick Collection Series)

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.

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Cheap Trick – ‘The Latest’ (2009) – Album Review (The Cheap Trick Collection Series)

We are now to the band’s 16th Studio album. The album was released on June 23, 2009 and only went to #78 on the Billboard Charts and sadly sales only reached 24,000 records as of 2016 which is an absolute shame as this is a hidden gem. The Latest is the last studio album to feature all four members of the original band of Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson and Bun E. Carlos. In 2010, Bun E. Carlos stopped touring with the band and it led to him not recording with the band. There were lawsuits back and forth and it was ugly. But that is another discussion for another day.

Cheap Trick really lost their way in the mid to late 80’s and early 90’s. But with ‘Woke Up With a Monster’ up to ‘Rockford’, Cheap Trick was slowly remembering who they were. With ‘The Latest’, the band was back in full form and putting out their best album in years. Cheap Trick was back baby, but sadly, no one knew it. This was the Cheap Trick sound I loved. They band sounded refreshed, rejuvenated and reborn. ‘The Latest’ is the best we’ve seen from them in a very long time.

The version of the album I have is a digipak CD with a fold out cover (as seen below). There was no booklet inside as everything was printed on the reverse sides of the flaps below. One thing cool the band did for this release is they released a version of the album on 8-Track. This was 2009 and 8-Tracks were not a blip on anyone’s radar (except maybe Tim Durling).

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Cheap Trick – ‘Rockford’ (2006) – Album Review (The Cheap Trick Collection Series)

Cheap Trick had a lot of touring comments after their last studio album ‘Special One’ in 2003. So while they were touring throughout 2004 and 2005, the squeezed in time to record some new songs. They recorded all over the country in L.A., Nashville, Florida, Boston, New York, Chicago and even in their hometown of Rockford, IL. As a result, there were also a lot of co-producers to help out including Jim “Pinky Beeman, Julian Raymond, Jack Douglas, Steve Albini, Chris Shaw and even Linda Perry (4 Non Blondes). You would think this would make the album disjointed and all over the place, but I think it gels perfectly together. Somehow Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson and Bun E. Carlos pulled it all together to make co-hesive, enjoyable album.

The album title was called ‘Rockford’ which is you didn’t know was the band’s hometown of Rockford, Illinois. It was released on June 6, 2006 and only went to #101 on the Billboard Charts. Cheap Trick was not actually going to get any radio play as most bands from the 70’s didn’t. It is really hard to get these vintage acts on the radio. That in now way is a reflection of the songs or the album overall. They found different ways to get in to the public eye. One thing they did was be a part of McDonald’s ad campaign during that year. And in 2007 on April 1st of all days, Cheap Trick was given their own Day in Illinois. April 1st would now be known as Cheap Trick Day in their home state.

The cover art of the album is fantastic. I love the bright yellow as it makes it a happy feeling record. The art work was done by John Johnson with the art direction by Richie “Britley” Hughes. There is actually no picture of the band in on the front, back or even in the CD booklet. All pictures of them are done in the style of figures on the cover. I am not sure if they were purposely doing that as they didn’t want people to realize how much older they were so younger audiences wouldn’t be afraid to buy the album or what…but I like it nonetheless. But enough about that, let us get to the music shall we.

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Cheap Trick – ‘Special One’ (2003) – Album Review (The Cheap Trick Collection Series)

I know, I know. After the review of ‘Music for Hangovers’, I should be reviewing the live album ‘Silver’ which came out in 2001. However, note the title of the series…this is the Cheap Trick Collection Series and is on the Cheap Trick albums in my collection and that one is not in my collection…sorry. Instead we are jumping to the next studio album, ‘Special One’, which the band released 6 years after their last studio album. This is a massive break in between studio albums for them and for their fans. But the band is still in tact with Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson and Bun E. Carlos. Not many bands can say that (not that it last much longer, but still an impressive run).

After their last label went belly-up, Cheap Trick formed their own label and released two live albums, one of which we discussed already. It took awhile for the band to find themselves again and get in a place to write and record new songs. Sometime during 2001, they started writing. They would bump around from studio to studio to write and record in both 2001 and 2002 and after working in 8 separate studios the album was finished by the end of 2002. Now, since they were self-producing the album, it did take a little while longer to get the album out. This was like today where you could immediately put it out digitally.

The album hit the street on July 22, 2003 and it did chart but not very high. It only reached #128 on the Billboard Top 200 and sadly, only lasted a week before falling off the chart at a blinding speed. They album did have one single, but nothing came of it either. But the album isn’t as bad as it might seem. One great thing is the band wrote every single song on the album with only a couple having any outside co-writes. As far as sound goes, it is a very modern sounding Cheap Trick album which I don’t think is a bad thing and it is guitar-driven with minimal to no use of keyboards.

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Cheap Trick – ‘Music for Hangovers’ (1999) – Album Review (The Cheap Trick Collection 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!!

UP NEXT: ‘SPECIAL ONE’ (2003)

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)

Cheap Trick – ‘At Budokan: The Complete Concert’ (1998) – Album Review (The Cheap Trick Collection 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.

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Cheap Trick – ‘Cheap Trick’ (1997) – Album Review (The Cheap Trick Collection Series)

Let’s see if I get this right. Two albums earlier with ‘Busted’, Cheap Trick leaves their label Epic Records. They then get signed with Warner Brothers and release “Woke Up With A Monster” and then the label drops them. The band finds an indie label called Red Ant Records to release their new album on April 29, 1997, the self titled, ‘Cheap Trick’, only to be label-less again after Red Ant goes bankrupt a mere 3 weeks after the release causing it to only go to #99 with the lack of promotion. The poor guys are having some major issues.

Now, that doesn’t mean the new album is not any good. It just didn’t get the full promotion it deserved from a financially strapped label. The album, ‘Cheap Trick’, was a fresh start. A starting over. A time to re-introduce the band to a brand new generation of kids, thus having the album self-titled like they did with their debut album. This was a band getting back to their roots and remembering who Cheap Trick were. This was the beginning all over again.

What I love about the cover is a play on what the band had done with most of their covers over the years. Their older albums always had Robin Zander and Tom Petersson on the front and Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos would be relegated to the back cover. This time around, Rick & Bun are on the front and Robin and Tom are on the back. However, to switch up, it is the instruments. Well done boys, well done.

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Cheap Trick – “I Want You To Want Me” (Alternate Version)(1996) – 7″ Single (The Cheap Trick Collection Series – Bonus Edition)

I was at a record show back in November or December 2021 and I found this beautiful single sitting in the bin. I naturally grabbed it as it was Cheap Trick so why wouldn’t I. The fact it turned out to be a promotional copy made it even better. Back in 1996, to promote the new box set ‘Sex, America, Cheap Trick’, Epic Records sent out these promos to radio stations and stores in hopes of getting so press behind the box set release. And what a box set it is. This promo singles gives us not 1, but 2 never before released tracks. What more could you want.

The simplicity of the Single jacket is wonderful. All white cover with the band name in bold black and then on the back is the same thing but in reverse and upside down. It is a thing of beauty. So simple, so perfect. The A-Side is an alternate take of the song “I Want You To Want Me” and the B-Side is a Lou Reed penned and Velvet Underground cover “Waitin’ for the Man / Heroin” performed live and with Tom Petersson on vocals.

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Cheap Trick – ‘Sex, America, Cheap Trick’ (1994) – Box Set Review (The Cheap Trick Collection Series)

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.

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Cheap Trick – ‘Woke Up With a Monster’ (1994) – Album Review (The Cheap Trick Collection Series)

After the disappointing sales of ‘Busted’, Cheap Trick left Epic Records and later signed a multi-album deal with Warner Brothers. The were under contract for 10 albums. Warner Brothers had high hopes for the band. Those hopes got the band a massive producer with the great Ted Templeman. Thanks to Ted, the album had a much heavier sound with way more guitar and way less keyboards. I couldn’t be happier with that idea.

The album was released on March 4, 1994 but didn’t sell like the label would’ve liked. The biggest reason was lack of promotion as the two reps that signed Cheap Trick had both been fired prior to release and as a result, the lack of promotion. Well duh, how can the label blame the band. I guess it doesn’t matter whose fault because the label dropped the band after one album. I guess that 10 album deal wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. The boys must have been very disheartened after that. Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Tom Peterrson and Bun E. Carlos were now 12 albums in to their career and now no label.

The band used a lot of outside writers again and some really big names like Jim Peterik, Michael Mcdonald, Mark Spiro, Terry Reid, Todd Cerney and Julian Raymond. The album also featured something different on the cover, the Cheap Trick logo was changed and the normal font was no more. The cover was also scary as hell as it had some clown molesting a woman or whatever he was about to do to her. Not the most flattering and I am missing the normal Robin & Tom on the front and Rick and Bun E. on the back.

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