Despite not reaching the heights of ‘Lap Of Luxury’, Cheap Trick still deliver a glossy AOR laden Affair which definitely deserves a revisit years later.
Written by: Lee South Africa
ARTIST: Cheap Trick
SERIAL: EK 46013
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Robin Zander – lead vocals, guitars * Rick Nielsen – lead guitars * Tom Petersson – bass * Bun E Carlos – drums, percussion
TRACK LISTING: 01 Back N Blue * 02 I Can’t Understand It * 03 Wherever Would I Be * 04 If You Need Me * 05 Can’t Stop Fallin’ In Love * 06 Busted * 07 Walk Away * 08 You Drive, I’ll Steer * 09 When You Need Someone * 10 Had To Make You Mine * 11 Rock And Roll Tonight
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Flushed with success after a long drought, ‘Lap Of Luxury’ had restored Cheap Trick to the top flight of AOR. Epic quite naturally wanted a repeat dose for the next one, so Ritchie Zito was retained as producer for the ‘Busted’ album, and the outside songwriters were still around, but not to the same extent. A little more songwriting freedom allocated to the band then, and good to see.
Between the albums, Cheap Trick dished out two soundtrack songs, ‘You Want It’ and ‘Stop That Thief’. Both AOR, ‘You Want It’ being the better track by far. Some special guests joined Trick in the studio, notably Mick Jones, Chrissie Hynde and Russell Mael (Sparks). So how would all of this translate into the vinyl grooves?
‘Back In Blue’ reveals just how deeply the band were steeped in AOR gloss at this stage, a killer hook and cavernous drum sound awash in keyboard magic. Zander brings out the ‘na na na’s’ here and there, hardly a rarity in the late 80’s scene. The chorus is good but sounds just a tad unfinished in the melody department to me. A good song, but not the killer opening track you’d expect.
‘I Can’t Understand It’ shows the way though, irresistable melody managing to blend power pop and AOR sensibilities into a classic cut, just try to resist the call and response chorus. No question, this should have opened the record.
‘Wherever Would I Be’ is the first ballad, and would become the second single. A strong melody at work and Zander sings the hell out of it, adding the necessary charisma to overcome Diane Warren’s overly formulaic songwriting. Unfortunately the public did not warm to it, peaking outside the top 40 despite a well crafted video.
‘If You Need Me’ introduces Foreigner‘s Mick Jones and you can tell, the track is a perfect AOR hybrid of the two bands, check out the simple elegance of the hook and chorus for evidence. This was a sure fire hit, and Epic had promo copies pressed up, then canned it after the Diane Warren ballad flopped. Record company stuff ups are hardly a new topic here at GDM, but this one remains a doosie, those involved deserving a serious gatskop.
The album’s lead single and major hit is up next, ‘Can’t Stop Falling Into Love’ pressing all the right AOR buttons for me. Everything about the arrangement, the synth/guitar execution and a searing vocal from Robin Zander, a genuine classic. The video was a little zany with a lot of cartoon speech bubbles, but it seemed to work as the single climbed to number 12 on Billboard.
‘Busted’ roars into life as Nielsen unleashes some trademark riffing, the track further propelled by Bun E’s urgent driving tempo. Loving the synth support in the chorus, but it’s the way they keep it AOR with power pop colouring in the edges that steals the show. Play this one really loud.
Chrissie Hynde enters the fray for a duet on ‘Walk Away’, on paper it looks a strong combination but unfortunately the song falls flat. A slow waltz rhythm and truly boring melody shut the garage door on this one, despite both Zander and Hynde belting out some fine vocals.
‘You Drive I’ll Steer’ is passable quirky AOR, Russell Mael apparently adding backing vocals. Originally called ‘Lap Of Luxury’, and finding it’s way onto the following album. Not a highlight but not bad either.
‘When You Need Someone’ returns us to power ballad terrain, and in fine style. Terrific melody, some great piano work and Zander once again delivers the vocal goods, doing justice to the monumental AOR chorus. This would have been a better bet for single release than the Diane Warren track, blistering stuff.
‘Had To Make You Mine’ doesn’t even bother to disguise it’s obvious Beatles intentions, a recurring association with Cheap Trick over the years. Well crafted harmonies support the jangly melody, a surprisingly good listen. ‘Rock And Roll Tonight’ closes the album on a feisty tear up, the old Roy Wood chestnut given a good dusting off here, you can literally feel how much they’re enjoying this in the studio.
Sadly, despite it’s obvious AOR qualities, ‘Busted’ did not live up to the commercial success achieved by ‘Lap Of Luxury’. Reasons for this have been bandied about over the years, some saying that the ‘classic lineup reunion’ fever was old news by 1990, others blaming Epic’s half baked promotion this time around.
‘Busted’ is reputed to have eventually reached gold status, and did feature one major hit, so difficult to write it off as a complete failure. As to which is the better album, ‘Busted’ probably just shades ‘Lap Of Luxury’ for me, but it’s a close call.
Cheap Trick once again toured with Heart, this time promoting their belting ‘Brigade’ album, the tour proving a great success. 1991 would see a hits compilation from Epic that hardly grazed the top 200, and a monster label change to Warner Brothers was just a little way down the road.