Cheap Trick (1977)


 
1.ELO Kiddies 2.Daddy Should Have Stayed in High School 3.Taxman, Mr. Thief 4.Cry, Cry 5.Oh Candy 6.Hot Love 7.Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Piece 8.Mandocello 9.He's a Whore 10.The Ballad of T.V. Violence --Bonus Tracks-- 11.Lovin' Money 12.I Want You To Want Me (early version) 13.Lookout 14.You're All Talk (early version) 15.I Dig Go-Go Girls

 

One of the best debut albums by any band, anywhere, any time in rock and roll history. The sad thing is that no one really knew it at the time. It would take years before this band received the credit they deserved for this masterpiece, and many still feel that the band still hasn't yet been given their full due. The somewhat off-beat members of this band had been together since 1973, playing in the mid-western Illinois-Wisconsin circuit and slowly developing a name for themselves. In many ways, they were rebelling against the state of music in the early seventies when pomp and glam was overtaking the simple hard driven riffs of what was so loved by everyone a decade or so before. They had a back-to-the-basics sound in their music, but they had a hard bite to their tunes that gave the definition "power pop" a distinct meaning. Yes, they were pop oriented. Their music was catchy - full of hooks and memorable melodies, yet they had a hard crunchy sound that was pretty revolutionary for its time. In many ways, their music had more in common with the punk sound of The Sex Pistols and/or The Ramones than anything else that was mainstream at that time. Their overall sound, however, was much more accessible to the mainstream audience and had the tendency to bring in curious audiences rather than turn them away.

Their lyrics (on this album, anyway) had some strong themes with many taboo subjects for the mid 1970's. There are all sorts of curious yarns here - serial killers (The Ballad of T.V. Violence), middle-age perversion (Daddy Should Have Stayed in High School), male whores (He's a Whore) and suicide (Oh Candy). Perhaps this is why the album wasn't strongly received when it was initially released. The irony is that all of the above mentioned songs (along with everything else) never felt angry and bitter. No, all of this was very easy to bop your head, sing along to and dance. This was never really a band for hostile rebels wanting to destroy everything.

Not to mention that this band was also interesting to look at. If there was ever such a thing as an image band, well, Cheap Trick fit the bill. Other than bassist Tom Petersson, none of the members really even looked like they belonged in a Rock-and-Roll band. Guitarest (and main song writer) Rick Neilsen looked like Huntz Hall from the Bowery Boys with his trademark beanie, cardigan sweaters and bow tie, and Drummer Bun E. Carlos looked exactly like a stereo-typical insurance salesman/tax accountant. Lead Singer Robin Zander had the traditional rock and roll long-haired blonde locks and handsome face, yet in the early days he was usually garbed in suits and ties that, again, made him look slightly out of place. Speaking of Robin Zander, it must be said that his golden voice and wide variety of singing sounds is probably more important to this band's success than just about anything else. He proves that here on the only slow song Madocello.

So it would still be several albums before most people had heard of this band, and to be honest, there was only a brief period in their history where they were extremely popular, but this album truly sounds just as fresh thirty-five years after it was recorded. The compact disc was re-released in the 1990's with five bonus tracks that are just as good as anything else on the album. The highlight is an early version of I Want You To Want Me that would later appear, first as an inferior studio version on the band's second album In Color, and later as their biggest hit single at the time on the live release At Budokan. The version of the song here is arguably the best of the bunch.


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