Into the vaults we go with a third volume of big hits and fazed cookies from America’s hardest working band
If you didn’t manage to snag a copy of Cheap Trick’s The Epic Archives Vol. 3 (1984-1992) on vinyl this past Record Store Day (only 2000 copies were released worldwide, on “flame red” vinyl), never fear; it’s also now available on CD.
This is the third such Cheap Trick rarities package released by Real Gone Music, and, the label says, it’ll be the last. The tracks are drawn from the band’s post-‘70s years, and most haven’t appeared on a full-length album before, something that should especially tickle collectors.
Four of the tracks are presented in their single versions, for example, punched up to sound better on the radio. Yes, that includes the dreadful power ballad “The Flame,” which even the band didn’t like (“I don’t cringe anymore,” guitarist Rick Nielsen told me in 1998, “but when I first heard it, I threw it down on the ground and smashed it”). But the underlying desperation of the single takes of “It’s Only Love” and “Tonight It’s You” provide more than adequate compensation, not to mention food for thought as to why “The Flame” became the hit, and the other two didn’t (the other Top 10 hit on the album, Cheap Trick’s last, is a snappy cover of “Don’t Be Cruel”).
Vol. 3 also stands as a testament to Cheap Trick’s work ethic. “Surrender,” drawn from the band’s third album, Heaven Tonight, might be the Trick song that appears most frequently on soundtracks (seven, at last count), but they’ve contributed a number of original tunes to several other film compilations as well, some of which you’ll find here. “Mighty Wings” is a keyboard heavy stomper that flew high in the movie Top Gun. “Money (That’s What I Want)” is given a buff and shine for Caddyshack 2. “I Will Survive” is not the Gloria Gaynor disco anthem of liberation, but has a similar tone of defiance put to good use in Gladiator (no, not the Russell Crowe epic, but a 1992 film about underground boxing that starred Cuba Gooding). “Up the Creek” is the full-length version with the acapella intro, from the film of the same name. Check out the video for a good laugh; Nielsen called it “the worst we’ve ever done.”
It was a transitional era for the band. The ‘70s was the classic era, when Cheap Trick was at their pop rock best. Then they struggled to find their footing. “The Flame” might’ve been a hit, but it really wasn’t true to the band, who more often had a darker, more subversive edge to their songs. Take “Little Sister” (presented here in an alternate mix), a song of unbridled lust with a bit of kink: lines like “Pluck this flower in full bloom/This relative’s no niece” could only have come from Rick Nielsen. “How About You” (alternate version) rubs you raw with its impatience. “All We Need Is A Dream” (alternate version) pushes lead singer Robin Zander into an almost painful upper register in this song of bittersweet longing. In short, there was more going on during this time than you might think.
VIDEO: Cheap Trick – Magical Mystery Tour – 92
And where would we be without the obligatory Beatles cover? Cheap Trick loves the Beatles; their live version of “Day Tripper” is killer, and they’ve done tours performing the Sgt. Pepper album in its entirety. Vol. 3 serves up a splendiferous version of “Magical Mystery Tour,” previously only available on the band’s 1991 Greatest Hits set, in all its glory. Give thanks that it’s received another lease on life.
The band didn’t stop making music after 1992 of course (there have been eight albums released since then), so there could conceivably be another trawl through the archives someday. But Vol. 3 puts the cherry on the top of this look back at the Epic Records years. “It really is a nice package!” the band’s original drummer, Bun E. Carlos, says in the liner notes. He evidently forgot he’d once said “Up the Creek” hadn’t appeared on any Cheap Trick compilations “‘Cause it sucks.” That aside, he’s right; it is a nice package, from one of America’s hardest working bands.
VIDEO: Cheap Trick – Up The Creek