Cheap Trick "Are You Ready? LIVE 12/31/1979" (2019 Record Store Day Black Friday LP)

For Record Store Day Black Friday in 2019, Epic/Legacy issued a live double-LP by Cheap Trick, recorded on New Year’s Eve at the end of 1979. The album was titled Are You Ready? LIVE 12/31/1979. It was limited to 3,500 vinyl copies, which came with mp3 download codes.

This ‘70’s-closing concert took place at The Forum in Los Angeles, and was broadcast live by that city’s KLOS-FM radio station. Although the much-bootlegged concert was recorded on multi-track equipment, the first reel was lost, so the first four tracks on this LP set were sourced from the radio broadcast. The remaining tracks were given stereo mixes in 2003, and two of them (“Way Of The World” and “The House Is Rockin’”) were previously released as bonus tracks on the 2006 CD reissue of Dream Police. The other 17 tracks were not officially released previously.

This concert took place shortly after the release of the 1979 Dream Police album, and 8 of that album’s 9 songs were performed on this night. The usual quartet of Rick Nielsen (lead guitar), Robin Zander (lead vocals, guitar), Tom Petersson (bass), and Bun E. Carlos (drums) were joined by session keyboardist Jai Winding, who had played on Dream Police. Winding’s keyboards add considerable flavor to many of the songs. This album is not quite up to the level of the band’s classic live At Budokan album, and even the better-mixed tracks (from “California Man” onward) do not have the most pristine sound quality. Still, it's a pleasure to hear this energetic document of the Dream Police-era band in action at the very end of the ‘70’s – and, many would argue, at the end of their career-defining chapter.

The most obvious value of this set comes from the live versions of those Dream Police tracks, as well as a few earlier ones (“On Top Of The World”, “Stiff Competition”, “Heaven Tonight”) which were not featured on the Budokan album. As was the case with that landmark set, these live versions demonstrate the Cheap Trick power pop sound without Tom Werman’s production, resulting in more power and less pop. In particular, the ballad “Voices” noticeably contains less sugar in this setting. Zander is in good multiple-voiced form as usual; Petersson’s lead vocal on “I Know What I Want”, while amusing, shows why that was not his usual duty. “The House Is Rockin’” is especially rollicking here, with a twin attack by Carlos’ drumming and Winding’s keyboards. That combo is also the main reason that “Surrender” sounds as good as any version I’ve heard. On that note, other songs that were also featured on Budokan (including an unlisted “Goodnight Now” tucked between the last two songs) suffer marginally by comparison on this set, partly due to the inferior sound quality. This version of “I Want You To Want Me” certainly isn’t bad, but it’s not quite the equal of that other live album’s famous hit version. Still, Are You Ready? LIVE 12/31/1979 is a good accessory to Budokan, showing Cheap Trick in still-fine form a little later in the game.

In retrospect: the rock rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” would have fit in well on the band’s recent Christmas Christmas album. Nielsen’s between-song banter is now more amusing than he could have realized at the time. At one point, he told the audience to “beware of the 1980’s” – which turned out to be a mostly bad decade in the band’s career. (Except, of course, for that whole Lap Of Luxury thing). Nielsen also remarked that the band was still “gonna raise hell…in the year 2000”, which thankfully turned out to be an underestimation of Cheap Trick’s longevity.

Speaking of which, Cheap Trick also released a single on that same Record Store Day Black Friday with two cover songs recorded in 2018. This single was pressed in transparent red vinyl, and was limited to 1,500 copies. The A-side features a studio cover of John Lennon’s 1971 song “Gimme Some Truth”, which is slated to be included on the band’s next studio album. It’s a faithful rendition of the angry song about feeling fed up with hearing political and other nonsense. Despite its Nixon reference, the song is as relevant as ever in our bitterly divided, hyper-partisan times. Zander’s voice is a good fit for the song, as is the instrumentation; the band’s current drummer is Daxx Nielsen, son of Rick. The B-side is a live cover of Roy Wood’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday”, recorded live in Birmingham, England in December 2018, featuring the Move veteran himself on lead vocals and guitar. The original 1973 version that Wood recorded with Wizzard had a Phil Spector-like wall of sound and a Brian Wilson-like lead vocal. Cheap Trick’s studio cover from their 2017 album Christmas Christmas retained much of the Spector element; for this live version, they expectedly used their usual hard rock instrumentation, but they were still able to convey the festive holiday feeling. And Mr. Wood’s lead vocal? It still gives off a joyful Beach Boys-like vibe. It sounds like the Tricksters had fun performing with their hero, and the merriment is contagious.

Cheap Trick - Are You Ready? Live 12/31/1979

Cheap Trick “Are You Ready? LIVE 12/31/1979” (Epic/Legacy 19075978311) 2019

Track Listing:

Side A

1. Hello There
2. Clock Strikes Ten
3. I’ll Be With You Tonight
4. Ain’t That A Shame
5. California Man
6. Downed

Side B

7. On Top Of The World
8. Gonna Raise Hell
9. Heaven Tonight

Side C

10. Stiff Competition
11. Voices
12. Way Of The World
13. Need Your Love

Side D

14. I Know What I Want
15. I Want You To Want Me
16. Surrender
17. Auld Lang Syne
18. The House Is Rockin’ (With Domestic Problems)
19. Dream Police

Cheap Trick - Gimme Some Truth / I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day (Live)

Cheap Trick “Gimme Some Truth” b/w “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday (Live)” (BMG single 538545791) 2019

Track Listing:

a. Gimme Some Truth
b. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday (Live) featuring Roy Wood