Thursday, May 18, 2017

Cheap Trick - Heaven Tonight

I just noticed that I have only spoken about the first two Cheap Trick LPs, which isn't that much of a surprise as they are by far my favorites. The rawness of the debut record can't be beat and while In Color is a bit more polished'n'pop, it still rocked heartily. Heaven Tonight, their third record, has some fantastic songs, but the production was always a bit too glossy for my tastes. Live versions of these songs were always pretty exceptional.

One of their most famous songs is, of course, the amazing "Surrender". Kinda pop perfection in its songwriting, though, as I said, I prefer the live versions without the extra added keys'n'synth. Still, an incredible opener for any record. Rick Nielsen pulls out some great guitar pyrotechnics before turning over "On Top of the World" to the incredible voice of Robin Zander. They show how hip they were to great British music by covering the Move's "California Man" (even giving a nod to their tune "Brontosaurus"), while "High Roller" hearkens back to the darker numbers from the first record though still with a pop edge, naturally. Another showcase for Zander is "Auf Wiedersehen", where he gets to croon long, drawn-out notes and then scream with a wild edge while Rick riffs around him. Of course, Bun E. and Tom (using a 12 string bass for the first time on record, according to Wikipedia!) keep the groove rockin'.

The group gets a bit Beatles-y and psychedelic in the ballad-y "Takin' Me Back" and then give a pop dedication to the radio DJ's who used to make the airwaves special, back to the Beatles for the "She's So Heavy"-like title track, which is taken much more menacingly in this context - more of a threat than a promise of pleasure. Back to a basic (and great) rock'n'roll number in "Stiff Competition", with more than a hint of the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" in the power chord hook. They reference their own "I Want You to Want Me" in the vaudeville-esque "How Are You?" and then close with an ode to a fave concert stop, Eau Claire, Wisconsin in the brief closer "Oh Claire", sung in Japanese, foretelling their massive hit with Live at Budokan.

The CD gives a couple of outtakes as bonus tracks - a bit rawer take on "Stiff Competition" (Robin positively growls throughout this one) and a more stripped down "Surrender" where Robin forgets some words and loses his voice here'n'there, which makes it fun.

Yeah, the hard edges have been glossed over a bit, but still a great power-pop record!