Cheap Trick – The Latest (2009, independent release)
- Sleep Forever
- When The Lights Are Out
- Miss Tomorrow
- Sick Man Of Europe
- These Days
- Everyday You Make Me Crazy
- California Girl
- Everybody Knows
- Times Of Our Lives
- Closer (The Ballad Of Burt And Linda)
Tom Petersson – Bass, Guitars & Background Vocals
Robin Zander – Lead Vocals, Guitars & Keyboards
Bun E. Carlos – Drums & Background Vocals
Rick Nielsen – Guitars, Keyboards & Background Vocals
Producers: Cheap Trick, Julian Raymond & Howard Willing
Total Time = 41:05
Cheap Trick has always been one of my favorite bands. When I started listening to music on my small transistor FM radio (it was as big as a CD and as thick as a brick!), the one Rock station I could get always played this one song that I never forgot…..’Dream Police’. Now this is going back to 1979/1980 when I was 8 yrs old and that transistor radio was my lifeline for a few years until I bought my own stereo with birthday money and started buying cassettes and records and reading Circus and Hit Parader. I wouldn’t say I was the biggest Cheap Trick fan as a kid but, as I got older, I knew all the hits and I started to pick up the band’s albums. Turns out I have almost all of Cheap Trick’s records and each one is pretty good. Cheap Trick is just one of those classic rock band’s that continues to make great new music and release solid albums while maintaining a yearly touring schedule.
The band’s latest album, aptly titled THE LATEST, finds Cheap Trick doing exactly what they do best: playing catchy AOR/Melodic Rock with plenty of well written songs that are catchy, melodic and Rock! It’s a pretty simple formula really and the band has never strayed from it, their consistency and quality is what always grabs my attention. The opening song, ‘Sleep Forever’, is basically a quick minute and a half intro piece that features Robin Zander’s beautiful singing voice with an accompanying piano. It’s a simple and quiet song that seems a little out of place opening the record, it’s more of an intro than a song. ‘Sleep Forever’ ends and the band explodes into a great cover of Slade’s ‘When The Lights Are Out’. I must be softening my stance on cover songs because this is just a classic, catchy, melodic rocker that brings the stadium anthem right to the CD. Now this is a classic cut from Slade and it fits Cheap Trick perfectly. The next track is ‘Miss Tomorrow’ and it’s another good uptempo rocker that is very melodic and catchy and is backed by a string arrangement. One thing you notice right away is the cool harmonies the band always has on their songs, Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson are definitely underrated in this area. Up next is the rocking ‘Sick Man Of Europe’. I was able to hear parts of this song live when I caught Cheap Trick open for Def Leppard and Poison back in late June. The song’s title is really the band’s original name before they became Cheap Trick and it’s a full on rocker with plenty of Nielsen’s signature guitar and Petersson’s thumping bass. Robin Zander proves that he can go from melodic crooning to balls out singing at the drop of a hat.
Slowing things down a bit, the band breaks into their first proper ballad with ‘These Days’ and it’s basically your standard Cheap Trick ballad, not bad but not a standout track. One thing that Cheap Trick isn’t afraid to admit is that they are influenced by The Beatles and the British Invasion of the 1960s so a song like ‘Miracle’ sounds like a John Lennon written/performed song. It’s a ballad and it also has this cool ELO/ quiet Tom Petty vibe to it as well. Actually, I can hear some similarities to Tom Petty’s ‘Into the Great Wide Open’ especially in the guitar tone. ‘Everyday You Make Me Crazy’ is a very quick rocker that clocks in at 1:27! Can you even call that a song?! It’s pretty standard Hard Rock fare from the band who are well known for some quick songs like this. ‘Everyday You Make Me Crazy’ moves right into another Beatles influenced track called ‘California Girl’. Actually, the song is a remake of Scotty Moore’s (Elvis Presley) ‘Bad Little Girl’ and it is an uptempo garage band style song that has that cool blues influence to it. Another Beatles influence shows up on the mid-tempo ‘Everybody Knows’, very Sgt. Pepper’s sounding, very John Lennon. It’s almost like a long epic, seeing that it’s about losing a ship at sea that’s as epic a topic that you can get I guess. It’s very trippy and mellow but the chorus has some kick to it and the guitars sound really cool.
‘Alive’ moves the band into their signature Hard Rock style with the guitars and bass right up front in the mix and the vocals definitely spot on. I like the keyboard flourishes that back up the guitar, it reminds me of my favorite ‘Dream Police’! The band moves back into the Lennon-esque mid-tempo balladry with ‘Times Of Our Lives’ and it’s a really cool mellow song that has cool guitar and excellent vocals. There really isn’t much to the song but for some reason it’s catchy and I really like it. Slowing things down even more is the ballad ‘Closer (The Ballad of Burt & Linda)’. It’s another Beatles influence with some psychedelic trippiness to it and it’s not one of my favorite songs on THE LATEST. It’s decent but not enough to keep me from hitting the <SKIP> button to the next song. The last track is ‘Smile’ and guess what? It’s ANOTHER ballad! Normally I would really complain about ending an album on such a slow note but ‘Smile’ is one of the better ballads on THE LATEST and, yes, it does have a Beatles influence but it sounds more like Cheap Trick than The Beatles. There are some good strings and piano backing the guitar and Zander’s vocals are strong as ever.
Like I usually am with new Cheap Trick albums, I’m not usually impressed when they are released and I usually take my time buying them. I bought this a few weeks after it came out and I admit that I underestimated the band again because this is one of the better albums of the year! There are a couple of quick throwaway songs…..but they are good. There are a couple of covers, normally a death sentence from me…..but they are excellent. There are a lot of mid-tempo tracks and ballads…..and most are beautifully done. The bottom line is that Cheap Trick has made another classic album and they continue to be one of the most underrated bands from the Classic Rock genre. I’ve played THE LATEST almost daily since I picked it up and I’m a little surprised that I’ve enjoyed it this much! Definitely one of the best albums of 2009…..I just hope more people pick it up and support the band on tour.
‘When The Lights Are Out’, ‘California Girl’, ‘Smile’, ‘Sick Man Of Europe’, ‘Everybody Knows’