Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bun E.'s Basement Bootlegs, Vol. 2: Soundchecks ‘82-‘97

Bun E.’s Basement Bootlegs were CD’s sold through Cheap Trick’s official website and fan club. They contained previously unreleased Cheap Trick recordings from the band’s archives, compiled by drummer Bun E. Carlos. There were four separate volumes issued between the years 2000 and 2002. Each one was limited to 1,000 copies. Each CD was packaged in a plain white cardboard sleeve with a stamped illustration of the drummer’s face and his hand-autographed initials. The discs were numbered using black marker. Each disc had a different theme to classify the types of tracks included on it.

The theme of the second volume, issued in the year 2000, was “Soundchecks”. That’s right: the CD contains recordings of sound checks, which are pre-concert preparations done for the purpose of making sure that sound systems and frequencies are working properly before the shows. It takes audacity for any artist to issue a CD containing 70 minutes worth of sound checks, even as (especially as?) a limited edition fan club/website collectible. As you might expect, this disc is strictly for fans. Does it have enjoyable tracks? Sure it does.

First, here’s the downside. Most of the cover songs (the Beatles’ “Across the Universe”, Neil Young’s “The Losing End”, the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses”) sound just as loose and informal as you would expect sound checks to be, and their inclusion here seems self-indulgent. The exceptions are “It’s All Over Now” (the one Stones cover out of three that satisfies) and Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy”, which is even less professional than the other covers, but turns into a likably rowdy and irreverent blues jam.

Now here’s the upside. The proper Cheap Trick songs that the band played at these sound checks are fun to listen to. Sure, they sound casual as well, but that gives them a ragged charm. This includes the three Roy Wood covers (“California Man”, “Rock n Roll Tonight”, “Brontosaurus”) that appeared on Cheap Trick studio recordings. The unfortunate exception is a clownish toss-off of the normally touching ballad “Shelter”. Unless you count “California Man”, all of the Cheap Trick numbers come from the band’s 1982-1997 period. The best one is a six-minute blues jam based on “Cry Baby” from Woke Up With A Monster.

The CD is littered with short and inconsequential instrumental tracks. The track labeled as “Drums” is a 15-second snippet of “The Flame”. (Yes, I realize the band has no love for their sole American #1 single). Three others are labeled with the initials of band members Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander, and Tom Petersson; each one of those runs one minute or less, and goes nowhere fast. But go figure: the closing track labeled “BC Blues” (with the drummer/archivist’s initials) is an engaging five-minute instrumental. Of course Bun E. wanted his name on that one!

One frequent source of disappointment: lead singer Robin Zander often held back on his vocal delivery during these sound checks. It’s easy to understand why; it was important for him to save his pipes for the actual concerts, right? Still, that understanding will not make Volume 2 of Bun E.’s Basement Bootlegs any more important to anyone but Cheap Trick’s most ardent fans.

If you do obtain this CD, I recommend programming the player to play tracks 2, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 17, 19, 23, and 25. The selection of those 12 tracks will form a leaner and meaner Cheap Trick bootleg.


Bun E.'s Basement Bootlegs “Soundchecks ‘82-‘97” (no label, CT 002) 2000

Track Listing:

1. RN Blues
2. Oo La La La
3. The Losing End
4. Get Off Of My Cloud
5. Across The Universe
6. Lookin' Out For #1
7. Y.O.Y.O.Y.
8. Auld Lang Syne
9. If You Want My Love pt. 1
10. If You Want My Love pt. 2
11. RZ Blues
12. Mannish Boy
13. California Man
14. Rock n Roll Tonight
15. Drums
16. Shelter
17. Cry Baby Blues
18. Wild Horses
19. You Let A Lotta People Down
20. TP Blues
21. Brontosaurus Jam
22. Brontosaurus Rehearsal
23. Brontosaurus
24. It's All Over Now
25. BC Blues


Volume 1

Volume 3

Volume 4

Rarebird’s Cheap Trick Reviews

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