From the opening blast of super-charged pop that barrels out of the speakers, those longtime fans of Cheap Trick who’ve waited patiently for the band to release a new album worthy of their continued adulation will fall to their weary, shaking knees in glee.

Now, comparing “Rockford” to that legendary “Trick trifecta” of early albums (Cheap Trick, In Color, and Heaven Tonight), released almost 30 years ago, would have been unavoidable in the past, but, after the misstep that was “Special One”, this new effort sounds twice as ambitious and energized. Hmm, nice trick.

Upon first glance at the titles, one may get the idea that Trick may be reworking older material, what with songs such as “Come On Come On Come On” and “O Claire” found among the dozen tracks. Not to worry, though, as both songs are, indeed, their own creature and, after one listen, you’ll forget all about such initial worries.

“One More Day” begins as a bluesy bar-room rocker with Zander providing his own backing vocals in a faux-kiddie voice, which elictied an initial “what the?” from this reviewer, then transforms into an all-out rocker that would’ve been a standout track on just about any post-1985 album.

See, what makes “Rockford” such a bright step forward for the band is the addition of new colors to their musical palette. Sure, it is very much a guitar/bass/drums affair and the band sound very much like themselves throughout, but the way each song is flavored is different than past Trick. “If It Takes A Lifetime”, for example, is a Beatlesque rocker driven by a stellar vocal performance from Zander – okay, come to think of it, when is a Zander vocal performance NOT stellar? The addition of tasteful keyboards (read “no cheesy synths”), subtle strings, and layered backing vocals makes the song sound fresh and as radio-ready as anything the band released during their late 80’s chart run.

Which brings us to the question on the lips of every hardcore Trick fan: Will this album rightfully return Trick to the top o’ charts?

Fair question, but is it a realistic one? The industry and musical landscape have changed so drastically in recent years that bands like Cheap Trick have been relegated to the indie level because major labels have proven themselves unable (read “unwilling) to market a barrel of monkeys to a five-year-old.

So we may have to forego the thrill of ever seeing Cheap Trick storm up the charts again, but this is easily their best album since “One On One”.


P.S., Wanna know what my fave song is from this album?

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