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The Latest
Cheap Trick
The Latest
Cheap Trick Unlimited
Power Pop / Classic Rock
Tom Stewart
4.0 stars

Being a fan of CHEAP TRICK since mid 1978, I kind of hard on them when they put out something new. I caught the whole “Heaven Tonight” /”Budokan”/ “Dream Police” heyday 1st hand, seeing them on essentially each tour since '78 and I've stuck it out through head-scratching albums like The Doctor, commercial grabs like “Lap Of Luxury “and “Busted”, and cheered when they put out albums like “Cheap Trick 1997” and Rockford, which were not "stunning return to form" albums if you put them up against “In Color “or “Dream Police”, but those recent TRICK albums were a step back in the right direction, no question about it. “Cheap Trick '97” was the 1st phase of that with a heavier more organic record than the so-so Woke Up With A Monster, and Special One followed that up getting a luke-warm reception from fans although I liked most of it because it had some interesting things that were not typical for the band. “Rockford” stepped it up a notch with probably their best record since the mid 80s, with a lot of up-tempo songs and emphasis on hooks. The band has gone through so many producers and stylistic quirks over their long career that any album that even slightly harkens back to the old glory days is a welcome thing in my eyes. Thankfully, most if not all CT albums have been consistent in style...they've never pulled an extreme left turn in style, but HAVE made a few blunders when it comes to using outside writers diluting the band or piling on the glossy production sheen/gimmicks too heavy. But they've always had integrity in my eyes; never chasing a trend blatantly although one could make the case that “Lap Of Luxury” might fall into that category. The last few albums have seen the band slowly moving back towards their early roots and I for one am thrilled about it. It's great to hear a modern day pop/rock record that isn't based on the 3 DOORS DOWN/MATCHBOX 20/GOO GOO DOLLS template which is so overused these days that there's been a "sameness" to almost anything poppy on the radio in the last decade or so. Not that rock radio will play any of this album to any great degree, unfortunately. That's the ass-backwards world we live in.

I'm not sure if I'm glad or disturbed that one of the co-producers, Julian Raymond, has a co-writing credit on almost every song on here. You can't knock the results, and I don't know how much he actually wrote, but the credits say he did the arrangements, so that's not a small thing. Thankfully, he doesn't seem to be a "paint by numbers" songwriter with all of the clichés and ultra-predictable hooks judging on the songs here. It still sounds like CT, but a more produced, well thought out album than the last one, Rockford, which seemed to rock hard and fast for the sake of it, with a fair amount of throwaway tracks on it like “Give it Away” and “Come On Come On Come On”. This album has a few of those too, but the material here is very strong and well put together. There are some strings/synths on it, which brings back a bit of the classic TRICK sound, and lots of great background vocal harmonies. The fact that Roger Joseph Manning Jr. and Jason Falkner, 2 ex members of JELLYFISH, both lend a hand on here was a pleasant surprise to me and any other power pop nerds like me. Manning plays the keyboards on it, and I'm not sure what Falkner does as it's un-credited. I'd love to see Falkner co-produce a TRICK record someday, actually. As it is, this has a very Jeff Lynne (ELO) produced sound to it, which if you're familiar with his work, you'll get what I'm saying. I'd even go as far as to say that Bun E. Carlos is morphing into a modern day Jim Keltner, known for his steady timekeeping as a session man on a lot of Jeff Lynne productions (WILBURYS, TOM PETTY, etc). Carlos no longer plays with the Keith Moon frenzy of the late 70s, but the material really doesn't allow for it in all fairness. Rick Nielsen does some very tasty guitar work on this album, with echoes of GEORGE HARRISON/BADFINGER running through some of his lead work. Robin Zander is amazing as usual, and he's singing more like his old self, andTom Petersson anchors the whole thing together like no one else can. I like the mix on this album as well, done by veteran Chris Lord-Alge, who has mixed the guitars nicely into the mix, not losing any of the balls, but it doesn't overwhelm the sound unlike some of the last few albums. Loud and in your face doesn't always make it heavy, it just eliminates dynamics sometimes. Listen to the early TRICK stuff....distorted guitars, yes, but they are mixed properly into the songs so you get the heaviness without it taking over the song. Now for some quick thoughts on some of the songs:

“Sleep Forever” is a short, haunting song about the death of a loved one... just Zander and some strings. It's beautiful, but I question the decision to open the album with it, as it sounds more like a closer to me. Awkward is the word I guess.

“When The Lights Are Out” follows that up and it's a stomping, glammy cover of a SLADE song from the 1974 album “Old New Borrowed And Blue”. There's an obvious nod to ELO Kiddies in the beginning of this, and it's a faithful rendition of the original-very cool.

“Miss Tomorrow” has a great chorus although I'm not crazy about the string section seg-way from the verses into it....kinda I Love Lucy sounding or something, very odd, but it doesn't ruin the song thankfully, as it's one of the highlights of the album.

“Sick Man Of Europe” (the band's early name before CT) is a ripping tune with Tom's bass sound playing a prominent role which is always a good thing, and a riff that is just pure “Hot Love”. Short, but it shows these guys can tear it up on cue.

Miracle is a very ELO/BADFINGER sounding track-a mid-tempo ballad that if Jeff Lynne were singing it could be on any ELO album. And I mean that as a compliment of the highest order, and really, there have always been subtle ELO influences running through TRICK'S early stuff, and when you couple that with Jeff Lynne also being in THE MOVE, another influence, and THE BEATLES influencing all of it, it all makes sense. Great guitar work on this track.

“Every day You Make Me Crazy” is a short up-tempo sort of throwaway track in my mind, and “These Days” is a pleasant pop song, not the best thing on the album, but your standard CT fare, with a better than average chorus working in its favor....dreamy, melodic. “Times Of Our Lives” is another pop song that is decent in a SHERYL CROW kinda way, a bit typical, but has a nice slide guitar solo though.

“California Girl” is a remake/update of SCOTTY MOORE’S “Bad Little Girl” which the band covered on an ELVIS tribute CD a few years back. A decent old school rocker I could see DAVE EDMUNDS or ROCKPILE doing.

“Everybody Knows” is my favorite track on this album-it has a real epic quality to it. About a ship lost at sea, it's similar to “Sea Epic” from CRACK THE SKY and “A Salty Dog” from PROCOL HARUMin theme, not really in the song structure itself. A real tour-de-force that we've not heard from CT in a while. There's so much John Lennon on this album, and this track shows it. I could also see this being a long lost BADFINGER outtake.

“Alive” is an up tempo rocker with some cool “Dream Police” styled keyboards on it, and Tom's bass playing another upfront role in spots. A decent song, but not as strong as some of the others here.

“Closer (The Ballad Of Burt & Linda)” is a BEATLE-esque ballad that reminds me a bit of “Champagne Supernova” from OASIS, great melodies, a bit psychedelic, just awesome.

“Smile” closes the album with another power ballad, which would normally annoy the hell out of me, but the quality of the slower material on this album is so good because it's more of a Lennon/BADFINGER/ELO thing than cheesy song doctor garbage, so it's OK with me. Another one that could be on “Out Of The Blue” from ELO... the chord changes, strings, etc.

That a band can still put out albums as good as this 32 years after its debut release is quite an accomplishment, one that many bands should be envious of. Most of us know that the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame is a bunch of elitist bullshit, and bands like KISS, RUSH, YES, and countless others will probably never be inducted because of the prejudice and musical snobbery harbored by the people who run it, but CHEAP TRICK is a band that deserves to be in there with the rest of the legends. They are so much more than “I Want You To Want Me”, “Surrender”, and (ugh)”The Flame”, and “The Latest” is just another example of that fact. If you want to re-live some of the band's history, I recommend picking up the video retrospective Every Trick in the Book, which is being released on DVD in July.

Band Lineup:
  • Robin Zander – Vocals/Rhythm Guitars
  • Rick Nielsen – Lead Guitar/vocals
  • Tom Pettersson - Bass/vocals
  • Bun E. Carlos - Drums


Track Listing:
  1. Sleep Forever
  2. When The Lights Are Out
  3. Miss Tomorrow
  4. Sick Man Of Europe
  5. These Days
  6. Miracle
  7. Everyday You Make Me Crazy
  8. California Girl
  9. Everybody Knows
  10. Alive
  11. Times Of Our Lives
  12. Closer, The Ballad Of Burt & Linda
  13. Smile


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