Genre: ROCK/HARD ROCK
Released by: Big Machine/Universal
Release date: 1st April 2016
Rick Nielson – Lead guitar
Tom Peterson – Bass guitar
Robin Zander – Vocals, rhythm guitar
Daxx Nielson – Drums
Bun E. Carlos – Drums (not currently recording or touring)
1. Heart On The Line
2. No Direction Home
3. When I Wake Up Tomorrow
4. Do You Believe Me
5. Blood Red Lips
6. Sing My Blues Away
7. Roll Me
8. The In Crowd
9. Long Time No See You
10. The Sun Never Sets
11. All Strung Out
With the industry awash with new bands striving for recognition and members of old bands embarking on solo projects, I find it strangely refreshing to get a nostalgic blast from the past…
Cheap Trick, I’m ashamed to admit, are a band I had all but forgotten about. I had heard nothing by them nor about them in years so I wondered nonchalantly what they had been up to in the interim… Quite a lot it seems. 2015 saw them release 3 compilations – The Epic Archive Vol 1, 2 & 3, the word epic being hugely appropriate considering they have managed to produce 16 studio albums, 7 live albums and 13 compilations amidst four decades of near continuous touring!
Considering the above, I could perhaps be forgiven for thinking that vocalist Robin Zanders’ voice will have suffered more than a little from the unrelenting strain, but the opener, Heart On the Line assures me that I am way off the mark. There’s no easing into this tune, an instant assault of heavy upbeat percussion gives way to strong, raw, raspy vocals with a slightly mellower chorus that IS classic Cheap Trick.
The second number, No Direction Home has a mellower feel generally; steadily paced the vocals are superb as is the guitar riff spiralling towards the end of the track. It’s certainly a catchy number and perhaps for this reason it was chosen to be released on single as the album appetiser.
Do You Believe Me is a surprisingly conflicting track, fantastic in every possible way. Starting and finishing with an enduring repetitive rhythm, the chorus is reminiscent of something from The Beatles Sgt Pepper album. It twists and turns at an astounding pace and the vocals are amazingly strong here – pushed to the limit even and the guitar even more so.
Next up is Blood Red Lips and here lies the hiatus in the album. I disliked this on first listen and it hasn’t grown on me one bit since. Sounding like a bad mix of The Sweet and T Rex, the lyrics are weak and the addition of backing vocals produces an overall sound which is just 70’s Glam Rock at its worst.
They thoroughly redeem themselves however with Roll Me. Its one of those songs that you immediately want to press the repeat button on, straight in, no nonsense, classic hard rock throughout. The heavy percussion and guitar on this track don’t let you up for air and pinnacle before concluding with an abrupt yet perfectly suited ending.
When I Wake up Tomorrow is beyond all doubt the highlight of this album for me, in fact it has quickly risen up the ranks to be my favourite Cheap Trick song ever. In vast contract to any of the other tracks on here, it has an overall air of heartfelt melancholy wrapped up in a medium paced and not necessarily sombre rock song. At just over the half way mark, guitarist Rick Nielsen hams it up with an amazing riff that changes everything, it throws the whole song off balance but it is a temporary deviation only and for some reason, it works…
It is many years now since I had the misfortune to part company with my one and only Cheap Trick LP, ..At Budokan. That was the band at the top of their form and is still their bestselling record to date. In my opinion, their form hasn’t altered much. For a band with such a lengthy career, who have recorded and toured consistently for decades, continuing to produce material of this calibre is nothing short of miraculous.
It’s clear for all to hear, they are musically tight and haven’t strayed too far from the formula in terms of style which may be the key to their success.. whatever it is they are showing no signs of slowing down. Overall this is a superb, fast paced, hard rocking album. Cheap Trick doing what they do best, long may they rock!
Written by: Karen Hetherington
Score: Karen 10/10