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Cheap Trick | Rockford | review | rock | Lollipop

Cheap Trick

Rockford (Big 3)
by Martin Popoff

Been loving the idea of including Cheap Trick in a tight group with Deep Purple and ZZ Top with respect to dinosaur bands with huge classics in their past now making the best music of their careers. The original lineup of Nielsen, Zander, Carlos, and Petersson mix my metaphor for me and hit that concept out of the park with Rockford. Special One was good, but not special, '97's self-titled album was a charmer and a jewel, but this might even be better than that and as good as ANY from the band, save for the glorious '77 debut. Two world-beating choruses lead the charge, housed within "Perfect Stranger" and "Dream the Night Away." Both should be smashes, and at least someone got it right in making the former the album's first single. Opener "Welcome to the World" is heavy, energetic, and inspiring, on an album that isn't very heavy. More like guitar pop perfection, played with a light, tight joie de vivre that recalls Kenny Jones-era The Who, or a post punk-band humming happily toward the top, like, er, the second and third Boomtown Rats. Zander sings like a bloody golden bird on this thing, tender at times, roaring with authority at others, always deep into the character of the song, breaking your heart or barking an order that one dares not question (ha ha, damn that "Perfect Stranger"). Even Rick chimes in, chirping the Prince parts on hilarious funky experiment "One More," which also has a roaring heavy chorus, and again, Zander pushing and shoving his way through the wound tension of the song. Other parts feel like exalted Queen from the fecund '70s ("O Claire" particularly), or like a perfect chewy rock sculpture from airy and soul-replenishing late career diamond in the rough, Next Position Please, Cheap Trick's album recorded with Todd Rundgren.

I originally gave the '97 album a 10/10; I'd notch that back to a 9 now. And this gets a 9 too, because if I took a good hard look at it, there'd be two, two and a half songs I don't dig ("Decaf" ain't so potent), despite my playing it FAR more than any record in the last month. More of this, and I'll soon be totally over the hatred I felt for these guys during the vapid, miserable outside songwriter era "The Flame" stood and bent over for. Hell, Rick should be doing the outside songwriting, as he once did for Rick Derringer, turning in two luminous scorching rockers for Rick Derringer's otherwise tame Guitars and Women record from 1979. OK, I'll stop now...


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