Cheap Trick reissues: June 8, 2010

This week, the Wounded Bird label is reissuing three Cheap Trick albums on CD. Those albums are Standing on the Edge (1985), The Doctor (1986), and Busted (1990). I am glad to see these CDs made available for those who wish to purchase them. However, speaking as a long-time fan of Cheap Trick, I do not recommend any of them. The first two of these albums are from the period in the 1980’s when bassist Tom Petersson was temporarily absent from the group, and was replaced by Jon Brant for a four-album stretch. The third, Busted, could easily be mistaken for an album from that period.

Before we go any further, I should point out that the first two Petersson-less albums from the ‘80’s were recently issued as a 2-on-1 CD by the Friday Music label. When One On One (1982) and Next Position Please (1983) were first released, they were quite discouraging. It was clear that the absence of their original bass player had a noticeable effect on Cheap Trick’s chemistry, and Jon Brant made no impression as Petersson’s replacement. Both of these albums were a comedown from the band’s earlier works, but in retrospect they are actually quite good in comparison to much of Trick’s later work (for example, the three albums being reissued this week). Both albums benefit from strong producers: One On One was helmed by Roy Thomas Baker, and Next Position Please was produced by Todd Rundgren. However, this point also reveals one problem that the band had at this point in time: they were becoming too dependent on their producers. In fact, this part of the band’s history is often referred to as their “Next Producer Please” phase.

The third Cheap Trick album recorded without Petersson is among this week’s reissues. Standing on the Edge reunited the band with producer Jack Douglas, who helmed their superb 1977 debut album. But lightning didn’t strike twice, because Standing on the Edge painfully confirmed the downfall of these arena rock icons. Song doctor Mark Radice co-wrote all of the songs and played keyboards. The result is an album that was slickly calculated to appeal to mid-‘80’s audiences, but didn’t succeed. It does, however, show some signs of life in the lovely ballad “Tonight It’s You” and two revved-up rockers (“Cover Girl” and the title track) that sound more like the Cheap Trick we used to know.

The band proceeded to fall over the edge with The Doctor, another of this week’s reissues. Tony Platt (who mixed Standing on the Edge) was this album’s overbearing producer; Platt gives most of the songs too much speed and too high of a pitch. Paul Klingberg, who was the engineer and co-mixer, played keyboards – which explains why it is the dominant instrument on most of this misguided mess of an album. Cheap Trick don’t even sound like the stars of their own album here; The Doctor sounds like it was recorded by Starship after a sugar-and-caffeine binge. If you buy this CD, I recommend that you program your player to play the title track, “Kiss Me Red”, and “Take Me To The Top”.

The other Cheap Trick CD being reissued this week is Busted, which was recorded after Petersson returned to the fold, and after the band reached their all-time commercial peak with the 1988 album Lap of Luxury. These events should have brought the band back to good form, right? Wrong. Busted was an often embarrassing attempt to keep the band on the charts, complete with cringe-inducing ballads (“Can’t Stop Falling Into Love”, Diane Warren’s “Wherever Would I Be”) and a song co-written by Foreigner’s Mick Jones (“If You Need Me”) that belongs on someone else’s album. Busted is saved (barely) by “I Can’t Understand It”, “Walk Away” (with Chrissie Hynde), “Had To Make You Mine”, and Roy Wood’s “Rock ‘N’ Roll Tonight”.

But there is one good reason to buy the Busted reissue: it also contains all four tracks from the 1980 EP Found All The Parts, as well as that EP’s bonus single “Everything Works If You Let It”. Those same tracks were previously included on a 2006 CD reissue of the All Shook Up album, but that edition has already been discontinued.

Here is a question for both of the labels that have reissued Cheap Trick albums this year: Is there any way to re-release the band’s self-titled album from 1997, which was originally released on the short-lived indie label Red Ant? Now there is an album that deserves to be available.

One more Cheap Trick-related note: their 1999 live album Music For Hangovers, which was released on CD and on DVD, is now out of print in both formats. I have added a review of the album to the bottom of my Cheap Trick page.