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I Want You To Want Me: Cheap Trick “Complete Epic Albums” Box Offers Remastered Classics, U.S. CD Debuts

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“ELO kiddies, ELO kiddies, whatcha gonna do when the lights start shining?” went the musical question in the first song on Cheap Trick’s very first album.  But one question, naturally, leads to another.  Was the song title simply saying a British ‘elo in a cheeky salute?  Or was it alluding to ELO, a.k.a. Electric Light Orchestra, the orchestral rock outfit founded by Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood?  Why the heck does the song sound more like Gary Glitter than those Brummies?  And where did the boys from Illinois soak up all of those British influences anyway?

You’ll find plenty of questions, as well as deliciously satisfying answers, in the handy 13-album/14-CD cube helpfully entitled Cheap Trick: The Complete Epic Albums Collection (Epic/Legacy 88697 94193 2, 2012).  Produced by Bruce Dickinson and mastered by Vic Anesini, this exclusive box set available from Sony’s PopMarket brings together the formidable 1977-1990 catalogue of one of America’s most electrifying rock bands.  A full five albums (One on One, Standing on the Edge, The Doctor, Lap of Luxury and Busted) have been newly remastered expressly for this set, while Found All the Parts makes its U.S. CD debut and the “Authorized Version” of the Todd Rundgren-produced Next Position Please has its worldwide CD premiere.  In addition, five albums have bonus tracks mirroring their most recent Legacy reissues, and the acclaimed At Budokan is presented in its complete 2-CD form.  Indeed, this is a comprehensive anthology suitable for both longtime Cheap Trick fans as well as for new fans looking to build a library in one fell swoop.

Once Rick Neilsen and Tom Petersson lit The Fuse in the late 1960s, the stage was set for Cheap Trick.  The Fuse didn’t burn for long, though, and the Chicago duo reunited to Philadelphia where they became Sick Men of Europe (presumably by way of South Street).  Returning to Illinois in 1973, Neilsen and Petersson added drummer Bun E. Carlos and singer Randy “Xeno” Hogan to their band, finally becoming Cheap Trick.  Hogan didn’t do the Trick, however, and was replaced in short order by Robin Zander.  From 1975 onward, the band toured relentlessly, and in 1976 Cheap Trick was rewarded with an Epic Records recording contract.  Producer Jack Douglas was tasked with the chore of bringing to record the band’s singular brand of rock: crunchy riffs on top of bright pop melodies, enlivened by eccentric, often dark humor and a subversive lyrical outlook.  The result, 1977’s Cheap Trick, failed to chart in the U.S. but became a major seller in Japan, priming the band for worldwide success.

The quartet’s second album, 1978’s In Color, dented the charts at No. 73 but smoothed out the rough edges of the ’77 debut with a somewhat quieter, even more melodic approach.  The magic finally arrived with Heaven Tonight (1978).  Like In Color, it was produced by Tom Werman, but this time out, he found Cheap Trick’s sweet spot.  Werman didn’t discourage the hook-filled songs inspired by the best of the British Invasion, but they were interpreted via a loud, tough and current sound.  “Surrender” from Heaven Tonight became Cheap Trick’s first Top 100 single, and a calling card for the group.  Heaven Tonight may be a great power pop album, but the emphasis is on the power.  Another band that mastered the heavy-yet-light balance was The Move, and Cheap Trick made explicit its devotion to the quirky rock of Roy Wood with a cover of his “California Man.”

And the fans surrendered to 1979’s At Budokan, on which the aggressive playing is rewarded by the audience’s palpable fervor.  The original Top 5-charting release was expanded by Legacy in 1998 from 10 tracks to the concert’s full 19 by incorporating material first aired on 1994’s Budokan II, and that 1998 set is the version included here.  (A whopping 3-CD/1-DVD set from 2008 expanded the original album further with a second concert included.)  Werman returned for the next studio effort, Dream Police, on which the production was as elaborate as At Budokan was raw.  Then, in 1980, Cheap Trick released the four-track EP Found All the Parts, freeing from the band’s vaults three new compositions and a cover of The Beatles’ “Day Tripper.”  This EP acknowledged the clear Beatles influence on the band, and this box set marks its very first time on American CD in its original form.  So for All Shook Up, released later that year, Cheap Trick went to the source: none other than George Martin.  Since his legendary run with the Fabs, Martin had produced a string of successful albums for America as well as albums by a crop of artists running the gamut from Neil Sedaka to Jeff Beck.  Now, his imprimatur was bestowed on Neilsen and co., and although the album might have been crushed under the weight of its lofty expectations, it’s far more than a mere footnote in the group’s discography.

Hit the jump for much, much more on these Midwestern rock heroes and the new box set, including order link and album listing!

Roy Thomas Baker, well known for his work with Queen and The Cars, followed Martin as producer of 1982’s One on One, which introduced new bassist Jon Brant, but an even more eyebrow-raising match was yet to come.  Todd Rundgren, known for his outré studio experimentation as well as for his own style of power pop, was familiar with Cheap Trick; Robert “Stewkey” Antoni of Rundgren’s first band The Nazz had briefly played in the embryonic Sick Men of Europe with the future Cheap Trick members.  (Rundgren also shared the band’s enthusiasm for The Move; Roy Wood’s band had covered Todd’s “Open My Eyes” and Rundgren repaid the favor with his own take on “Do Ya.”)  Neilsen recalled meeting Rundgren as far back as 1969, at which time Todd had actually advised the singer against working with his old bandmate Stewkey!  For his part, Rundgren wasn’t concerned about stepping into the producer’s chair for the album that became Next Position Please: “My priority as a producer, first of all, is the material.  Show me the music and then, of course, show me the money!”  Joking aside, he added to author Paul Myers, “It’s entirely down to songs, though.”  Engineer Chris Andersen told Myers, “There was just a great vibe in the studio, and a genuine camaraderie between Todd and the band.”  In addition to his production duties, the multi-talented Rundgren also contributed guitars to the album and a song of his own, “Heaven’s Falling,” which was the kind of infectious power pop he seemingly could turn out with ease.  The trouble began when Epic Records didn’t hear a single on the LP, even though Rundgren thought Robin Zander’s big, arena-ready “I Can’t Take It” was prime 45 material.  Epic removed two of the proposed album’s tracks, “Don’t Hit Me with Love” and “Twisted Heart,” and ordered the band into the studio with Ian Taylor as producer for a cover of The Motors’ “Dancing the Night Away” and Neilsen’s own “You Say Jump.”  The album’s “You Talk Too Much” and “Don’t Make Our Love A Crime” were relegated to bonus track status on subsequent cassette and CD editions of the album.

When Next Position Please was released in 1983, it managed a No. 61 chart placement but lacked staying power despite its tuneful melodies, bright production and brash spirit.  In 2006, the band reconsidered the album, digitally issuing an “Authorized Edition” with all of the Rundgren tracks restored, and the two non-Todd tracks sequenced at the album’s conclusion.  This “complete” 16-track version, thankfully, makes its CD debut as part of The Complete Epic Albums Collection, allowing the work of “kindred spirit” Rundgren, according to Bun E. Carlos, to shine fully.

Four more albums for Epic followed in the 1980s.  1985’s Standing on the Edge reunited the group with producer Jack Douglas and yielded the almost-Top 40 single “Tonight It’s You” but the album lacked a strong character even if Carlos pointedly was credited for “acoustic drums” on the album sleeve amidst the decade’s drum machine deluge.  (Even Rundgren had been enamored of the Linn drum machine, with Carlos playing live drums to Rundgren’s programmed track on the previous LP.)  1986’s The Doctor, however, embraced the eighties ethos head-on, with synthesizer and drum machine overload on happily trashy songs like “Good Girls Go to Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere).”  Certain charms aside, The Doctor (produced by Tony Platt) hasn’t aged as well as the band’s more successful albums.  The harder-rocking Lap of Luxury (1988) followed, with a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” and a phalanx of outside co-writers including Diane Warren on “Ghost Town.”  Ironically, though, Cheap Trick scored its first No. 1 hit with Bob Mitchell and Nick Graham’s bombastic power ballad “The Flame,” brought to the group by album producer Richie Zito.  The pop-metal sound of Lap of Luxury (with original bassist Petersson back in the fold) proved that Cheap Trick indeed had a place in the 1980s.

The Complete Epic Albums Collection concludes with Cheap Trick’s first effort of the 1990s, Busted, which turned again to Diane Warren but also looked back to the inspiration of Roy Wood with a cover of “Rock ‘N’ Roll Tonight.”  Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders joined in with vocals on “Walk Away” while Foreigner’s Mick Jones contributed guitar to “If You Need Me.”  The album yielded a moderate radio hit with “Can’t Stop Fallin’ Into Love,” written by Neilsen, Zander and Petersson, but Cheap Trick and Epic soon parted ways.

In the ensuing 20+ years, Cheap Trick has continued to tour and record, offering a handful of new studio albums as well as choice live albums like 2009’s Sgt. Pepper Live, paying homage once again to The Beatles in the band’s typically high-octane fashion.  But the albums contained within this checkerboard are without a doubt the core of the band’s great legacy.  The box set, in addition to its truly superlative sound, also offers a 32-page booklet.  It lacks any liner notes, but contains the personnel info, track listings and discographical annotation for every album included.  Each title is housed in a mini-LP replica jacket.  The new box joins an impressive line-up of similarly complete packages from artists as diverse as John Denver, Judas Priest, Dave Brubeck and the kiddies of ELO themselves!  All of these boxes and many more can be purchased directly from Sony’s PopMarketThe Complete Epic Albums Collection, offering 14 discs of energetic pop and rock from Rockford, Illinois’ favorite sons, can be yours at the link below!  And watch this space for a special video preview of The Complete Epic Albums Collection!

Cheap Trick, The Complete Epic Albums Collection (Epic/Legacy 88697 94193 2, 2012)

Albums Included:

  1. Cheap Trick (Expanded Edition) (1977)
  2. In Color (Expanded Edition) (1977)
  3. Heaven Tonight (Expanded Edition) (1978)
  4. At Budokan: The Complete Concert (1978/1998, 2 CDs)
  5. Dream Police (Expanded Edition) (1979)
  6. Found All the Parts EP (1980)
  7. All Shook Up (Expanded Edition) (1980)
  8. One on One (1982)
  9. Next Position Please: Authorized Version (1983/2006)
  10. Standing on the Edge (1985)
  11. The Doctor (1986)
  12. Lap of Luxury (1988)
  13. Busted (1990)

Written by Joe Marchese

March 20, 2012 at 10:06

4 Responses

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  1. Are those pseudo mini-sleeves? Compelling, but bummed out that all the post One On One releases are bonus track free. I’d love to hear the Doctor demos, as I doubt they are as buried in technology as the final product. Next Position is one of the weakest albums they ever released, yet it gets the upgrade? WTF?Typical Sony missed opportunity to do it right….


    March 20, 2012 at 18:13

  2. These boxed sets from Sony are dreadful. Those single pocket paper sleeve CD covers are pathetic. If they are going to do these things they could at least replicate the original LP covers in Mini form, gate-folds and all. Take a lesson from Japan!


    March 20, 2012 at 20:20

  3. So does Found All The Parts appear twice, or did they remove those tracks from the version of All Shook Up included in the box?


    March 21, 2012 at 09:58

    • Hey Ryan, “Found All the Parts” appears just once, as its own EP, Nu-Disk replica sleeve and all. And Zubb, all of the albums do replicate their original gatefold sleeves. In the next day or two, we’re going to bring you an in-depth look at how this box looks…!

      Mike Duquette

      March 21, 2012 at 10:13

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