|I love this album so much that I actually own an OBNOXIOUS YELLOW t-shirt of the album art, which I'm pictured wearing here. Rhea would be the one dressed more sensibly.|
Easiest review of the series: this is a flat-out modern classic, easily the artistic equivalent of the band's first four studio albums. No hyphens, no qualifications. It's not "good for a latter day effort" or "late career-good" or whatever other condescending designation rock critics like to dump on good albums by old bands. It's also not merely a good album by an old band. Rockford is a career highlight for Cheap Trick, regardless of backstory.
In fact, Rockford wouldn't be a bad place to start for a neophyte. The album practically acts as a career-to-date resume: first album style edgy rock? Check: "Decaf." Arena rock turned on its ear? Check: "Come On, Come On, Come On". Power pop with overbite intact? Check: the "Welcome to the World" / "Perfect Stranger" one-two opening salvo. Gorgeous, non-formulaic semi-balladry? Check: "Dream the Night Away" may be their best-ever in that style. Filler? Negative, not one single second. Personality? And then some.
It was a great time to be a fan. Generally speaking, artists do not make records as fresh and inspired as this some twenty-nine years into their recording careers. The Who or the Rolling Stones could only dream of sounding half as relevant; Zeppelin and the Beatles, of course, never made it this far. Pink Floyd can get on their giant inflatable pig and just ride home, and the roll call rattles on. I'm sure that AC/DC and Motörhead admirers will argue in favor their heroes; while I'm a fan of both, neither of those great bands have been as willing to stray from their formula as Cheap Trick. If you can name me another album this vital by a band approaching their fourth decade of recording, I'd truly love to hear it.
I could go on for hours singing Rockford's praises. The album was brilliant, and Rhea and I saw a number of great live gigs - now as a couple! - in its wake. Instead of listening to me repeat myself, though, I'd rather turn you loose in the hopes that you'll go acquire a copy and give it a spin for yourself. Hearing is believing, folks.