Friday, January 09, 2009

Cheap Trick - In Color and In Black and White

The second album by CT is much more polished and smooth and not nearly as nasty as their amazing debut record. A new producer was brought in to give this a more commercial sound and while that is accomplished, it still didn’t give the band the elusive hit. That wouldn’t come until the live Budokan album, but this is still a terrific release.

One of Rick’s best “intro” songs came out of their opening band status where they needed to sound check each instrument as they began their set. Thus, Rick starts it, Carlos pounds his way in, Tom joins as Robin sings “Hello There”. I’m sure they almost thought of this as a throw-away but it is stellar and a phenomenal start! Robin sounds almost as threatening as inviting with his “would you like to do a number with me” double (at least)entendre.

Another head-banging, pounding rhythm introduces the weird vibes of “Big Eyes”. The band plays with dynamics and their interplay on this and Rick even gets to show off a little with an all-too-short solo. A true power-pop classic is unveiled in “Downed” – picked guitars, pretty melodies, clever harmonies and then plenty of power chords. This is the precursor of classics such as “Surrender”.

“I Want You to Want Me” was slicked up considerably from the version that appeared on the outtakes of the debut’s bonus tracks with sorta corny honky-tonk piano and it all comes off a little too schmaltzy. The band preferred the earlier take but listened to the producer and the record company – for all the good it did them! Their later, stripped down live take was the hit, funnily enough!

More propulsive rhythms are featured in “You’re All Talk” and this is not that different from the earlier, unreleased version. Great and insistent! Among my faves on this release is the minor chord pop of “Oh, Caroline”. Rick opens the tune with a beautiful guitar line before the fantastically powerful verses and exceptional chorus. Impossible harmonies highlight the chorus and there is a break-down, exceptionally short bridge that is clever as the rest of the tune!

My other preferred number is “Clock Strikes Ten”, which begins with Nielson impersonating Big Ben and then moves into a non-stop rocker! There are weird counter rhythms in the chorus that still manage to work and it just builds in energy after the Big Ben bridge and closes with multiple key changes! Damn near breath-taking!

The band performs a sparser, somewhat slower number with “Southern Girls”. Still catchy as hell and far from a ballad, this is a change of pace after the last couple of intense rockers. Beatle-esque in a “8 Days a Week” kinda way is “Come On, Come On” – more fine pop/rock. The album closed with an appropriate “So Good To See You”, which, to me, does sound like a closer – maybe due to my over-familiarity with this release. This is a mix of their pure pop and darker tendencies. A nice farewell.

The bonuses on this CD include an instrumental version of “Oh Boy”, which of course is not as successful without the vocals. There is a rawer “Southern Girls’ which is pretty cool and I like the demo version of “Come On, Come On”, also. The third take of “You’re All Talk” on these first two CDs is an unreleased live number that’s good and edgy. The final cut is a live remake of “Hello There” which was used as their closer and re-titled “Goodnight”! Funny and terrific!

Not as thoroughly essential as the debut but still tons of great pop’n’roll here.