[Review] Cheap Trick: In Color (1977)

Escape your everyday cares in Cheap Trick’s technicolor, power pop wonderland. It’s either that or suicide.

Kronomyth 2.0: Electric light aerosmith.

This is the original review I wrote for Progrography back in 2005…

“Any fears of a sophomore slumber party were put to bed with the brilliant In Color. Producer Tom Werman captures a softer and zanier Cheap Trick on songs like I Want You To Want Me and Come On, Come On that has as much in common with The Bay City Rollers as The Beatles.

“As with their first record, underneath the perfect three-minute pop songs run Rick Nielsen’s dark currents of sexual angst. Hello There asks the musical question ‘Would you like to do a number with me?’ and, knowing Nielsen’s sense of humor, I’d guess the number he has in mind is somewhere between 68 and 70. Clock Strikes Ten is a blatant booty call. On later albums, Nielsen would cross the lines of good taste, but he’s got his ducks lined up in a perfect row here; the first four tracks on this record are as strong an opening as you’ll find on any pop or rock record.

“In Color also has a surfer-boy swagger to it that seemed to emanate from Robin Zander’s persona: Southern Girls, Oh Caroline and ‘Come On, Come On’ have an indelible twang to them. [Yes, I actually wrote ‘indelible twang,’ as if there are twangs that come off with a good rubbing.] It’s worth mentioning to newbies that ‘I Want You To Want Me’ is the exception on In Color. When I first bought this album as a kid, I was disappointed to find that the whole thing didn’t sound like ‘Mr. Blue Sky.’ Looking back, I can’t believe I didn’t fall head over heels for Downed, ‘Oh Caroline’ and ‘Southern Girls,’ but I was kind of a wiener as a kid. I’ve since gotten a handle on that. So, to sum things up, great power pop record, half of it classic Cheap Trick, and not nearly as lascivious as my little review would make it out to be.”

I didn’t say it was a good review, but I guess I’m feeling a bit nostalgic this morning. I would add that In Color, even more so than Cheap Trick, is the quintessential power pop record. Any band that could rock as hard as Aerosmith and lace their songs with melodies as sweet as anything from Electric Light Orchestra was destined for some measure of immortality. Of course, Cheap Trick eventually proved mortal (the muses being fickle things), but for their first three or four albums, there wasn’t a better power pop band on the planet.

Original elpee version

A1. Hello There (1:39)
A2. Big Eyes (3:04)
A3. Downed (4:06)
A4. I Want You to Want Me (3:09)
A5. You’re All Talk (Rick Nielsen/Tom Petersson) (3:31)
B1. Oh Caroline (2:56)
B2. Clock Strikes Ten (2:57)
B3. Southern Girls (Rick Nielsen/Tom Petersson) (3:40)
B4. Come On, Come On (2:36)
B5. So Good to See You (3:34)

All songs written by Rick Nielsen unless noted.

CD reissue bonus tracks
11. Oh Boy
12. Southern Girls (demo)
13. Come On, Come On (demo)
14. You’re All Talk (live)
15. Goodnight Now (live)

Original 8-track version
A1. Hello There
A2. Big Eyes
A3. I Want You to Want Me
B1. Come On, Come On
B2. So Good to See You
B3. Clock Strikes Ten (part I)
C1. Clock Strikes Ten (conclusion)
C2. You’re All Talk
C3. Oh Caroline
D1. Downed
D2. Southern Girls

The Players

Bun E. Carlos (drums), Rick Nielsen (lead guitars, vocals), Tom Petersson (bass, vocals), Robin Zander (lead vocals, rhythm guitar). Produced by Tom Werman; engineered by Antonino Reale.

The Pictures

Photography by Benno Friedman. Design by Jim Charne and Paula Scher.

The Product

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track in August 1977* in the US (Epic, PE/PET/PEA 34884), the UK and the Netherlands (Epic, EPC 82214) and Japan (Epic, 25AP-728) with gatefold cover; reached #73 on the US charts (RIAA-certified platinum record). (*First appeared in 8/27/77 issue of Billboard.) Also released on elpee in 1978 in Brazil (Epic, 144237).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1978 in Japan (Epic, 25-3P-44).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Epic, EK 34884).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in 1990 in Japan (Epic, ESCA-5215).
  4. Re-issued on compact disc in November 1992 in the UK (Epic, 982833-2).
  5. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc on September 28, 1998 in the US (Epic/Legacy, EK 65573) and on December 2, 1998 in Japan (Epic, ESCA 7727) with 5 bonus tracks.
  6. Re-packaged with Cheap Trick on 2-for-1 2CD in 2000 in the UK (Epic, 499860-2).
  7. Re-packaged with Cheap Trick, Heaven Tonight, All Shook Up and Next Position Please on 5-for-1 5CD in 2008 in Europe (Epic/Legacy, 88697295562).
  8. Re-released on expanded, remastered Blu-spec compact disc on September 6, 2017 in Japan (Epic, SICP 31062) with 7 bonus tracks.

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