CD Review: Cheap Trick adds chapter to storybook with Rockford

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With a well-chronicled history and reputation for success, it might be understandable to think the book about Cheap Trick was long since written. Naysayers may have even believed Cheap Trick had long passed their prime.

Enter Cheap Trick’s latest effort, Rockford—one of the most anticipated releases, arguably in the history of the Forest City music scene.

Set to hit record store shelves June 6, the not-so-subtle homage to their hometown is the first release for the band since 2003’s Special One. While Special One was a bit of a departure for the quintet, Rockford gets back to what made the band famous: fun pop hooks, an enormous guitar sound and accessible lyrics.

Lead singer Robin Zander’s easily-recognized crooning is powerful throughout the band’s 16th studio album, but not so forceful that the harmonization loses its impact.

Highlights are easy to come by. The opening vocals on “Welcome to the World” sound like they’d fit right in with a rock and roll opera. “Come On Come On Come On” flat-out rocks and is destined to be a live favorite for years to come. “If It Takes a Lifetime” features perhaps the most finely spun harmonization on the album, not to mention a chorus that won’t leave your head for a month. The Rock River Valley natives fuse their vocal talents, singing “All I want to do is just be with you.”

The album’s first single is “Perfect Stranger.” Co-written and produced by Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes fame, it is the perfect blend of classic Trick elements that will excite not only local 50-somethings who still spin their Fuse album, but teen-agers who first heard of the band through the theme song for That 70s Show. At press time, the track had already been playing on numerous radio stations for more than a month, and should easily inspire any detractors to take notice.

Over the last 30-plus years, Cheap Trick has been credited with inspiring some of the most popular artists in music. Countless bands, from Guns ’n’ Roses to Nirvana, have not only mimicked their music, but their incredibly energetic stage show as well. It’s not farfetched to say modern music would not be the same without Cheap Trick’s influence.

At the same time, Cheap Trick isn’t going to topple city hall with this album. It’s not going to spark a musical revolution the way Heaven Tonight and At Budokan did, nor will it likely be the radio juggernaut that Lap of Luxury was. But it does demonstrate a consistent, methodical approach that many of our city’s residents will identify with. It also proves that the band is still more than capable of focusing their creative energy.

If Rockford is any indication, Cheap Trick is far from writing the last chapter of their rock and roll storybook.

From the May 10-16, 2006, issue

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