Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cheap Trick: Can't Stop The Music

And I for one, hope they never do. I've just finished watching Sgt. Pepper Live, and I got blown away again. Cheap Trick have this great habit of reinvigorating themselves every few years, having done it over and over throughout their career. They've been knocked down and counted out more times than a crappy club fighter, but they never, never, never give up.

The Latest, their new studio release is another excellent release following in the footsteps of Rockford, giving them consecutive stunners.

Rick Nielsen has to be considered perhaps America's most gifted hard rock composer after all these years, and all those songs. Who's got a better track record? Who's even close? In fact, I'll go out on a limb (fairly confidently) and call Cheap Trick America's greatest hard rock band.

If one was to go about compiling a disc or Ipod collection of classic Trick cuts, it will end up being a rather lengthy document. You've got to pretty much include the whole of their first four records, the complete Budakon package, a surprisingly long list of 80s output that sounds much better on reflection (it became rather easy to ignore the band during that period), their next rebirth around the time of Woke Up With A Monster, the excellent live set Music For Hangovers, and then on to their superb showing at the end of this decade.

The entire band are state of the art at their jobs. Robin Zander remains perhaps the finest pure singer in all of rock, a tremendously underrated vocalist. His performance on Sgt Pepper Live is as great a live performance as I have ever heard. He nails the inflections and power of both Lennon and McCartney time and time again. He's lost very little in range and power over the years, which can be said of very few elder rock statesmen. He's managed to save himself from the rigors of the road and still sounds better than most singers half his age.

Tom Peterssen masterfully handles Sir Paul's complex and sophisticated basslines throughout the show, and his tones are never less than perfection. While he's always been an excellent bassist in and of his own right, his playing of this masterwork is stunning. There's about a hundred places on the Sgt. Pepper's record where McCartney plays unlikey, inventive licks, and Peterssen seems to have caught them all, and been able to replicate them, no mean feat. Try it sometime, it's a bitch.

Drummer Bun E. Carlos. What needs to be said? Bun E. Carlos. One of rock's best drummers and a rock icon. He's been the glue that's held the band together for 35 years. And he's a legendarily nice guy, and a reknowned musicoligist. He knows every band in every city, and has the records to prove it. When the rock and roll hall of fame gets around to inducting players, Bun should be among the first inducted. Again, the ability and ease with which he nails The Beatles's classics will convinve anyone who could possibly need convincing.

And we all know that Cheap Trick is Rick Nielsen's band. We know that, right. As much as The Who is Townshend's, and Guided By Voices is Pollard's, Cheap Trick is Rick Nielsen's baby. The man is a criminally under valued songwriter, who stands alongside Tom Petty as America's great rock writers. Then there's the matter of his axe handling. While not a shredder in the Van Halen, Vai sort of way, the man is a brilliant soloist, and a tasteful guitarist extraordinaire. The difficulty of covering all the ground he does cannot be overlooked. He may have done himself a great disservice with the whole Huntz Hall goofy guy routine. He's as iconic as Page or Beck in his own off centered way. Ain't that a shame that he's better known for his guitar collection than his awesome writing and playing.

Whether the band's image and look help or hurt, it's damned hard to say, but for whatever the reason Cheap Trick has been given short shrift in the eyes of the world at large. Yeah, they've done well, but they really dererve far greater respect than they have garnered.

They've got my vote as America's best hard rock band of all time.

Go buy both The Latest, and Sgt.Pepper Live. You won't be disappointed, and get the DVD of the Pepper show, you'll want to watch that one. It's truly amazing.

Cheap Trick: on tour soon (what's new?)

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