Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Sex, America, Cheap Trick

I finally got a hold of the Cheap Trick box set, Sex, America, Cheap Trick. Originally issued in 1996, it is a compilation of some of their greatest hits, album tracks, alternate versions of songs, and previously unreleased material. Consisting of four discs, it cuts a wide swath of Cheap Trick's career, from their first album released in 1977 to about 1995.

Naturally, the songs for which Cheap Trick are best known are included in the box set. "Surrender," "I Want You to Want Me," and "Dream Police" are all to be found in the compilation. So too are most of their hit singles, such as "Voices," "She's Tight," and "The Flame (ironically, their biggest hit, even though the band themselves and many of their fans detest the song)." Even some of their singles which didn't do so well on the charts are included, namely "Stop This Game" and "I Can't Take It (two of the best songs they ever performed--why they didn't hit the American top 40 I'll never know...)." Sex, America, Cheap Trick also includes some interesting alternate versions of songs. Among the most interesting of these are previously unreleased versions of "I Want You to Want Me (recorded for their first album)," the demo version of "World's Greatest Lover," and an alternate version of "Everything Works if You Let It (later included on Authorized Greatest Hits)." Naturally, there are also a few rarities, such as "All I Really Want (the superb b-side to "She's Tight")" and "Through the Night (the B-side to "The Flame"--much better than the A-side...)." Among the unreleased material are the classic songs from the Rock 'n' Rule soundtrack: "I'm the Man," "Born to Raise Hell," and "Ohm, Sweet Ohm (BTW, Rock 'n' Rule is supposedly coming ot DVD soon...)." Also among the unreleased material are a few songs bumped from Cheap Trick's many albums: "Twisted Heart," which Epic inexplicably bumped from Next Position Please in favour of a remake of "Dancing the Night Away (which the band did not even want to perform);" "A Place in France (recorded for The Doctor);" and "Money is the Route of All Fun (also recorded for The Doctor)." As might be expected, some of the unreleased material is a bit rough, but listenable nonetheless, a perfect example being "Funk #9 (the lyricless demo for "The Doctor)."

If I have one complaint about Sex, America, Cheap Trick it is that it omits some songs that have been hard to find since their initial release. Neither of the songs Cheap Trick performed for the Heavy Metal soundtrack, "Reach Out" and "I Must Be Dreaming," appear in the boxed set. Neither, for that matter, do "Such a Good Girl (from the EP Found All the Parts)" or "Spring Break (from the movie of the same name)." This would not be so annoying if it wasn't for the inclusion of two versions of "World's Greatest Lover (a great song, but did they really have to include both the demo version and the album version?)" and "The Flame (yeah, this smarmy ballad was their biggest hit, but even the band doesn't like the song....)."

One of the best things about Sex, America, Cheap Trick is the inclusion of a thick, little booklet, with an introduction by Bruce Dickinson and a history of the band by Ira Robbins. Included in the booklet are rare photos and the album covers for every single Cheap Trick album released up until that time. Combined with the history, the photos give fans a good overview of Cheap Trick's nearly twenty year old career up to 1995. In the back of the booklet is the song list, inlcuding a bit of trivia about some of the songs.

Sex, America, Cheap Trick is not the perfect box set. As I pointed out earlier, there are the notable omissions and songs that probably should not have been included in the compilation. Ultimately, however, the boxed set's virtues outweigh its flaws. Sex, America, Cheap Trick does include most of the group's important songs, not to mention some interesting alternate versions of songs and previously unreleased material. Because of this, it gives a very good overview of the career of one of the best American bands of the Seventies and Eighties. It is certainly an item every serious Cheap Trick fan must have.

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