It might be considered one of rock’s interesting what ifs: Would Cheap Trick’s career turned out differently had its 1979 Dream Police album was released on schedule rather than following the surprise left-field hit Live at Budokan. Riding on the momentum from the first three albums, Dream Police was supposed to signal the Rockford, Illinois band’s arrival. Instead the record was held it back and became more of an afterthought as “I Want You to Want Me” rode up the charts.
Regardless of the bad timing, Dream Police is a masterful album (it did enter the Top Ten) that is an extension of the ambitious sounds sculpted on the previous Heaven Tonight. Mad strings play an important role in the development of the classic title track and the disco-fied epic “Gonna Raise Hell,” (an allusion to the Jonestown Massacre). Another uncharacteristic side of the band is the lush ballad “Voices” whose scintillating melodies seem to linger. Such anomalies don’t compromise what the band usually does best as evident on the breathless rocker “Way of the World” and “The House Is Rocking (With Domestic Problems).” Closing out Dream Police is the Gothic-sounding “Need Your Love,” which is not much different from the live Budokan version minus the screaming Japanese crowd.
The ambitions of the Dream Police album carried over to even greater heights onto Cheap Trick’s next record All Shook Up (1980). Employing Beatles producer George Martin was a coup and perfectly matches with the band’s melodic sensibilities. Some of the tricks (no pun intended) used on some of the tracks include a multi-track drum choir (“Just Got Back”), strings (“Stop This Game”) and special effects (the roboticized voice on “High Priest of Rhythmic Noise”); there’s even a nod to world music on the “We Are the Champions” -wannabe “Who D’King.” Despite the studio experimentation, All Shook Up is a rocking album with some explosive tracks including “Baby Loves To Rock,” the country-inflected “I Love You Honey But I Hate Your Friends” (which is easily a song for either Rod Stewart or Shania Twain), and “Love Comes a Tumblin’ Down.”
Although it doesn’t measure up to the brilliance of Cheap Trick’s first three studio records, All Shook Up is one of the misunderstood albums in the group’s discography; What makes this reissue all the more special is that it features the entire four-song Found All the Parts EP (1980) on a CD. (Previously you had to go to the band’s web site to download the tracks). It includes a spirited Beatles cover, “Daytripper”; the slow burner “Can’t Hold On”; the dramatic-sounding “Such a Good Girl”; and the romantic “Take Me I’m Yours,” which according to guitarist Rick Nielsen in the liner notes, Bryan Ferry did a demo of the track. The addition of the EP has now made what was a decent Cheap Trick album into a better one. Of special note, this would be the last album featuring the original classic line-up until the 1988 comeback Lap of Luxury.