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Cheap Trick’s ‘Live At The Whiskey 1977’: Album Review

4 min read

It’s safe to say that more than a few die-hard music fans have found themselves wishing they could have been more careful what they wished for: experience has shown this recovering superfan that, with rare exceptions, we probably never really did. need To spend countless hours tracking those unfinished studio outtakes or mixing concert recordings. Yes, sometimes there’s something amazing that you can’t believe isn’t out now, like Sam Cooke’s “Live at the Harlem Square Club,” Neil Young’s “Homegrown” and “Live at the Fillmore East,” or some Prince and Rolling Stones concerts that have surfaced in recent years. But usually, even die-hards basically cross these supposed holy grails off their carefully maintained list and then play it once or twice.

All of which is actually a long-winded way of saying “cheap trick live in whiskey 1977”. is One of those surprise releases, and to soften the blow that this 4-CD collection quietly released – featuring four complete sets from the group’s legendary stand at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in Hollywood in June 1977 – quickly sold out its limited pressing of 2,000 copies. , there are no plans for a reissue or streaming release.

So why on earth are we reviewing an album that you can’t get anywhere without some ridiculous price on eBay? Because you are “out to get you! Live 1977,” a 2-CD distillation of the shows released two years ago (with five additional tracks released on the 1996 “Sex, America, Cheap Trick” boxed set), which you can listen to right now.

But for those who want more, the 4-CD set is a power-pop equivalent of Miles Davis’ “The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965.” Although Cheap Trick has released only two truly classic studio albums in their entire five-decade career — their self-titled 1977 debut and the following year’s “Heaven Tonight” — in a live setting, their eerily schizophrenic sound and appearance make all the sense. : Watching such a weird-looking band — two rock dreamboats and two total nerds — shift between clever and crazy, pop and metal, The Beatles and Alice Cooper was an art in itself. It was also a tough challenge the band set for themselves, and perhaps a big part of what made them so good at winning over the toughest rock crowds of the 1970s — when they opened for everyone from Kiss and AC/DC to Queen and Santana — And why their breakthrough came with the quickly recorded “Live at Budokan” album just 18 months after these shows. (More than 45 years later, it’s still happening, as evidenced by this Pitchfork review.)

Cheap Trick, 1977. Left to right: bassist Tom Peterson, drummer Bun y Carlos, guitarist Rick Nielsen and singer Robin Zander. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Of course, the main reason why they wowed such crowds is that they were (and still are) an explosively exciting rock band who honed their skills like the Beatles-in-Hamburg, playing four or five or six hours a night to drunken and/or apathetic audiences. – and these four shows capture the end of that chapter. Their second album, “In Color” (which included a limp studio version of their first and biggest hit, “I Want You to Want Me”) was recorded during a break from the sessions, a few weeks after these shows the group would do supporting Kiss. Embark on a summer-long tour, playing nightly arenas and getting better (check here and here for proof). After 1977, Cheap Trick would never be a bar band again.

But what a bar band they were. This highly varied set includes not only most of the band’s first and second albums but a pair of songs from their third album; Four hot originals that haven’t been officially released in years; and four covers that show the band’s eclectic tastes and influences: Fats Domino’s familiar version of “Ain’t No Shame”; “Down on the Bay,” a Jeff Lynne-penned song by their hero The Move; “Speak Now or Ever Hold Your Peace” from the debut album by British singer Terry Reid (yes, the guy Jimmy Page originally wanted to be Led Zeppelin’s lead singer); and the nine-minute revup “Please Mrs. Henry,” which was written by Bob Dylan and recorded by him and the band as part of the legendary “Basement Tapes,” though the Cheap Trick version is based on a 1972 arrangement by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.

The fact that this presumably art-heavy LA audience knew almost none of the songs outside of the group’s debut album — which was released Less than four months Before these shows take place – shows how adept they will become at winning over the crowd. And over these four CDs, you hear it all happen in real time, warts and all, though there aren’t many (singer Robin Zander’s voice was pretty shattered during the second hour of the second night’s set, but apparently they played another one the next night anyway).

Another great rock band of this era — Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers — recently released their own four-CD set from a special residency, filled with covers and rare originals. But “Live at the Fillmore 1997” reflects Petty & Co.’s desire to get behind For being a bar band: chatting with the audience, making up the set and playing songs they might not have rehearsed because, hey, being in a band is supposed to be fun – something that can get lost when you’re playing the same set every night. To spectators in arenas you can’t see past the bright lights shining in your eyes.

Cheap Trick would headline arenas themselves in less than two years — and in many ways, these shows lit the fuse.

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