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Released - 1978 On Epic Records. Produced by Tom Werman
Robin Zander - Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitars
All song written by Rick Nielsen except the ones noted below
I remember back in 1978 when this album was new in the stores and I took it off the rack and had me a look at it. The dudes on the cover looked cool enough, but the other two on the back looked so damn square. Of course, those two on the flip side were Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos, and they were only trying to look like Punks, but that was the problem, as I wasn't into the punk look at all. That look was something the World World Two generation approved of, and at least a few of us Boomers were still trying to distance ourselves from that generation, even in the late '70s. Now even with all that, I wasn't the type to judge a book (well an album in this case) by it's cover, but still, I figured I knew Cheap Trick well enough and they were more a band for pre-teens. Boy was I wrong!
I never did buy Heaven Tonight that day, or any other Cheap Trick LP - ever, until about a month ago. So what was the main reason for passing on Heaven Tonight? I always knew "Surrender" was one great song, and I also dug "On the Radio" a lot, too. But those two songs were not enough for me, I'm not the type to buy an album simply because I like one or two songs on it. I also didn't have any friends who were into them either, who could expose me to any of their deep cuts. Then I met a dude name Doug Stone (AKA Stoneman) in 1993. He was really only a kid, around 20 years old and he worked for me at a business I ran in Colorado. Stoneman loved the Beatles, and he worshiped Cheap Trick. We became friends and after I sold the business in '96, Stoneman, an up and coming music reviewer for a global music magazine, decided he wanted to move to the Big Apple. Since I was from there and he was paying for the gas, I drove Stoneman across the country when moving day came around. I got to learn some more about Cheap Trick on that trip (via talk, no, we didn't play any of their tunes) and decided sooner or later I would buy one of their albums. It only took nine years for me to get around to it.
What can I say, it was all because of one song that Dish satellite radio put on their playlist about a year ago, "California Man". Yes, that old song that The Move recorded in the mid '60s, which I'll add, I didn't care for. Not until I heard Cheap Trick's take of it, holy shit, what a hard rocking great song! This cover had to be one of the best cover songs I've ever heard, they took that dull song and made it so powerful! I realized a few months ago I had to have "California Man", and as it was I already liked two other songs on Heaven Tonight, so yes, it was finally time to buy a Cheap Trick record, that being Heaven Tonight.
When I did get my hands on this LP, I had no plans to review it, I just wanted it for "California Man", so that I could burn the song on to one of my new compilation CDs. But I was surprised after I played this disk a few times, I really liked what I was hearing! There isn't a bad song on this album, and Cheap Trick, which I really figured was just a joke of a band, was actually very good. Lead vocalist Robin Zander sounds like several different rockers, sometimes on just one song. I can hear Alice Cooper in his singing style, and sometimes David Bowie, too.
Heaven Tonight now comes with two bonus cuts, including an unreleased version of an earlier take of "Surrender". I always dug this song's story, where the parents are cooler than their kid, actually not totally uncommon these days, but unheard of back in 1978. I very much like this first take of "Surrender", the singing on here is not anywhere as clean as what you hear on the final version, but instead of Zander singing the main vocals with help on backups, this version has a raw vocal harmony with either Nielsen or bassist Tom Petersson (not sure who it is). Plus the lyrics are a bit different when they sing about the women of the WAC (aka Women's Army Corps), which mommy was a part of. The line (broken up a bit here) "Before we married, mommy served in the WACs in the Philippines....I had heard the WACs recruited old maids for the war" well the second bit of that lyric originally referred to the WACs recruiting dykes and whores, among other things for the war, and those lyrics would have made the line that follows so much more powerful: "but mommy wasn't one of those, I've known her all these years". Nielsen never should have changed those lyrics!
Now that I own Heaven Tonight, I can only think to myself today, why did I wait 27 years to buy this great album? I will not make such a mistake again, Stoneman was right!
- Keno 2005
To download the LP, click here: Cheap Trick - Heaven Tonight Digital Download
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