Essential Cheap Trick, the new 36-song, 2-CD career retrospective from America’s greatest power pop band, finally gets it right. Authorized Greatest Hits and Greatest Hits both focused too much on the later records and pop hits, neglecting the first album entirely and underrepresenting the classic In Color and Heaven Tonight albums that established the band as legends. In other words, both the previous single-disc collections neglected the power and overrepresented the pop.
Not this time. The basic story hasn’t changed: the band came together in 1974 in Rockford, Ill. and their self-titled debut came out in ’77. Cheap Trick – guitarist Rick Nielsen, singer Robin Zander, bassist Tom Petersson, and drummer Bun. E Carlos – combined the movie star looks of Zander and Petersson with the demented accountant appearance of Carlos and Nielsen, along with striking graphics, to create a powerful image that complemented the excellent, unpredictable songwriting of Nielsen, the Paul McCartney-ish vocals of Zander, a dynamic live show with Nielsen flipping hundreds of guitar picks into the crowd and changing guitars every other song, and fine backing vocals from Petersson and Nielsen.
In addition to the classics found on the Authorized greatest hits collection (“I Want You to Want Me” live, “Southern Girls,” “Surrender,” “Dream Police,” “The Flame” and “Can’t Stop Falling Into Love” – Essential adds the incendiary, frantic “Hot Love,” and the hot-riffing, hilarious (“Have you seen her face/She has a face that could stop a clock”) “He’s a Whore” from the debut album. The indespensible In Color is represented by romping retro-rocker “Clock Strikes Ten,” the great “Southern Girls,” the exceptional “Downed,” and ripping “Hello There.”
Heaven Tonight contributes the archetypal Cheap Trick song “Surrender” (strange behavior from the ‘rents), Zander doing his best Jeff Lynne imitation on the Move’s “California Man” (making the Brit Invasion connection explicit), hard-rocking polyglottal “Auf Wiedersehen.”
Adding to disc 1’s embarrassment of riches are the hits “I Want You to Want Me” live from Budokan, “Dream Police” (a paranoid’s wet dream), and glowing power ballad “Voices.”
Disc 2 is more diffuse than dics 1, but what isn’t? The Cars-like “She’s Tight” (no coincidence – both produced by Roy Thomas Baker), “If You Want My Love,” “I Can’t Take It,” “The Flame,” “Had to Make You Mine,” “Can’t Help Falling Into Love,” and “Say Goodbye” are all top-shelf members of the Cheap Trick canon.
Maybe with this collection as evidence, Cheap Trick will finally get the full respect that is their due.