Heaven Tonight

Cheap Trick

Epic / Legacy Records, 1978

http://www.cheaptrick.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/09/1999

An argument could be made that Heaven Tonight, the third album from Rockford, Illinois's own Cheap Trick, was the work that first put them on the map. Their song "Surrender" became their first hit; that song, as well as "I Want You To Want Me" from their previous album In Color, would be the songs that would bring the house in Budokan down -- and lead Rick Nielsen and crew to a brief taste of superstardom.

One little thing, though, that people tend to forget. A successful album depends on more than just one song -- and in that regard, Heaven Tonight is a letdown. The music is pleasant enough, but is less satisfying than their previous effort. And while such a comment will anger the long-time fans, it's a statement I've just got to make.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Oh, I'm not questioning the talents of vocalist/guitarist Robin Zander, guitarist/madman Nielsen, bassist Tom Petersson or drummer Bun E. Carlos. And the production hand of Tom Werman helps to really bring out the crispness of the band's music. Two potential bombs diffused.

But when it comes down to the actual songwriting, most of it just is flat, albeit non-offensive. Tracks like "On Top Of The World," "High Roller" and "Heaven Tonight" fail to achieve the high standards that a simple, somewhat nonsensical song like "Surrender" (I guess it's another teenage rebellion anthem, albeit one that has the parents shagging to Kiss) play to the hilt. And some critics now see the inclusion of "Oh Claire" (a play on words regarding Eau Claire, Wisconsin, a popular place for the boys to play) as some type of cosmic clue as to what would happen with Cheap Trick At Budokan, all because they "sing it in Japanese". Gimme a break, Greg... the "Japanese vocals" is Zander saying one friggin' word in Japanese!

There are, of course, moments that make Heaven Tonight worth the time it takes to listen to it. Tracks like "Auf Wiedersehen" and "Stiff Competition" are kind of fun to listen to, although I question whether an alternate take of "Stiff Competition" really needed to be included on the CD remaster. (For that matter, the unreleased version of "Surrender," including some more, aah, controversial twists on the second verse, should have been left in the vaults. This sounds half-baked and not thought out, and really is not a high point for Cheap Trick.)

So, lessee... in the course of one review, I've managed to derail the train of thought that Heaven Tonight is a perfect album (it's okay, but far from perfect), anger long-time fans of the band, and possibly tick off a fellow music critic. In short, a good day.

No, seriously, Heaven Tonight is one that's "for the fans" as well as anyone who really wants to get beneath the surface of the Cheap Trick we hear on the radio. But it's no modern-day classic.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic / Legacy Records, and is used for informational purposes only.