Cheap Trick – The Epic Archive Vol 1 (1975-1979)

Through demos, outtakes and live tracks, an alternate history of this revered band

Cheap Trick took their unique blend of power pop, metal, punk and glam, and went on to become one of the most influential bands in all of rock. While numerous “best ofs” will give you the hits, The Epic Archive: Vol 1 (1975-1979), a new collection from Real Gone Music, shows the path the Rockford, Illinois quartet took to get there.

Part one of a three-part series concentrates on the early years of the band, with track-by-track notes written by original drummer Bun E. Carlos, who also opened his massive tape archives for this collection.

The first three tracks were recorded at the famed Ardent Studios in Memphis and predate the band signing with a major label. All three songs show off an edgier side than what appeared on their proper albums – “Come On” sounds a lot more like the Who in demo form, while “Taxman, Mister Thief” has some blistering guitar work from Rick Nielsen, and Robin Zander has a grittier vocal on the demo of “Southern Girls.”

The early version of “You’re All Talk” is much faster and features a pounding bass drum, while a budding take of “I Want You to Want Me” is much closer to the live version on Budokan which became the hit. The straight-ahead rocker “Lookout” appears twice – first, in a studio version recorded for their debut album but cut, and second, for the Budokan album, also omitted.

Also included are some live tracks recorded at the Whiskey A Go Go in 1977 – “You’re All Talk” and “Goodnight,” show that the band could cook in a live setting outside of Japan. An early rendition of “Surrender” has some risque’ lyrics, while the version of “Dream Police” came before they added strings.

The disc ends off with a trio of tracks from 1979 that originally appeared on the Budokan II album, which is now out of print.

While most of these selections have appeared as bonus tracks to various Deluxe Editions, by putting all these rarities on one collection, it gives a fresh look on the early days of Cheap Trick. —Tony Peters