Cheap Trick: Setlist – The Very Best Of

Rockin’ sampler of Cheap Trick live tracks

The Legacy division of Sony continues to explore new ways to keep the CD relevant. Their Playlist series was the first out of the gate with eco-friendly packaging that used 100% recycled cardboard, no plastic, and on-disc PDFs in place of paper booklets. Their new Setlist series follows the same path of a single disc that provides an aficionado’s snapshot of an artist’s catalog. In this case the anthologies turn from the studio to the stage, pulling together tracks from an artist’s live repertoire, generally all previously released, but in a few cases adding previously unreleased items. As with the Playlist collections, the Setlist discs aren’t greatest hits packages; instead, they forgo some obvious catalog highlights to give listeners a chance to hear great, lesser-known songs from the band’s stage act.

Cheap Trick’s volume of Setlist features eleven tracks drawn primarily from the late ‘70s, including a generous helping borrowed from Sex America Cheap Trick and At Budokan. Filling out the set are tracks from Found all the Parts, the extended reissue of Dream Police, and 2000’s Authorized Greatest Hits. Everything here has been issued before, but pulling together tracks from 1977 through 1979, plus a pair from 1988, gives a fuller sense of Cheap Trick as a live act than their breakthrough Budokan album. In particular, the lengthy opening cover (from a 1977 show at Los Angeles’ Whiskey a Go Go) of Dylan’s “Mrs. Henry” provides a terrific view of the band’s Who-like power and abandon, with excellent drumming from Bun E. Carlos and blazing guitar and bass from Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson. Cheap Trick may have earned a reputation as one of power pop’s greatest exponents, but they could be downright heavy when they wanted to.

The same 1977 Whiskey date also provides “Ballad of TV Violence,” which shows the edgy emotion and raw power of Robin Zander’s voice better than the more famous Budokan cuts, “I Want You to Want Me” and “Surrender.” And after a seven-year hiatus from the band, bassist Tom Petersson stepped to the microphone to sing “I Know What I Want” at a 1988 date in Daytona Beach; from the same show, the band performs their overwrought, yet chart-topping and crowd-pleasing hit, “The Flame.” Throughout this collection Cheap Trick proves and over what a great live band they are, and how well their songs translate from studio to stage. Fans may already have all of these tracks, but anyone who knows only a hit or two will find this a worthy introduction to the power and the glory that is Cheap Trick on stage. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

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