This is the third in a monthly series of album reviews I will be doing for DVL Audio here in Canada. I’ll be heading out to a local record store in Vancouver, digging through the bins, and coming up with an intriguing LP to discuss here on Part-Time Audiophile. I’ll never go out with something in mind beforehand, and there is no criteria for whether it’s a new album, an old album, an out-of-print LP, electronic, classical, jazz, punk – whatever – it just has to sound good to me.
I’ll come up with as much of the backstory as I can research, and include a small audio sample for listening. I hope you enjoy reading the reviews as much as I enjoy doing them.
Certain bands evoke certain memories. It’s just one of those inevitable moments that when you hear a song from the past, your neural pathways fire off a synaptic response before you can consciously think about it, and you have a reaction. It works visually, and I’ve found with particularly strong power, it works when you smell or taste something (magic markers take me back to Miss Allen’s class in grade two). So, when I was at Redcat Records the other day flipping through stacks of new arrivals in the used LP section, and happened to look up at the wall above the bins in front of me I came face-to-face with Cheap Trick “In Colour,” and was instantly thrown back to 1979, and the back seat of my parent’s ’76 Celica GT with I Want You To Want Me blasting from the radio.
“In Colour” was the band’s sophomore album, and while it failed to do well in North America (as the saying goes) it was huuuge in Japan, with I Want You, and Clock Strikes Ten becoming top 10 hits – Clock even took Billboard’s No. 1 position in that country. Ultimately the LP became a cult classic, and ended up being ranked No. 443 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list: viciously beating out Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” at No. 464, Amy Winehouse’s “Back To Black” at No. 451, and The Police “Synchronicity” at No. 448. I’ve never owned a Cheap Trick LP, cassette or CD growing up, but I Want You is burned into my consciousness as an anthem of unrequited love from my formative pre-teen years when I knew little about romance other than what I saw on the big screen from films like Star Wars, and sneaking a kiss after school while walking home with a girl name Laurel who let me hold her hand.
The LP was in excellent shape; VG+ sleeve, and Mint – for the album itself. This wasn’t a party disc, and seemed to avoid the excesses of the ’80s that could have easily meant beer stains, and vodka-soaked grooves. After a quick run through my workhorse Okki Nokki record-cleaning machine the album was on the platter with the Sumiko Blackbird cartridge I’m using at the moment peeling Robin Zander’s, and Rick Neilsen’s wailing vocals on Hello There from the grooves. The production quality has real clarity, and separation to instruments, and vocals with Bun Carlos’ drumming coming through with snap on his stick work, and real shimmering splish on high hats, and cymbal. Bass is punchy, with great reverb on strings from Tom Petersson’s finger work over the frets while Neilson, and Zander continue to cut loose all over the place with tight, breathy, up-close mic’ing catching every vocal nuance, and inflection on cuts like Downed.
Recorded Audio Sample Below:
But of course for me it’s I Want You To Want Me that is the headline track off the LP, and as soon as the opening bars start pouring out of the Harbeth C7s I’m back in time, and it’s the late ’70s in the backseat of my parent’s car with the world sliding past my window at 60 mph. But the more I listen to the album, the more tracks like You’re All Talk, and So Good To See You start digging into my head. With it’s incessantly catchy guitar riff Talk had me head-bobbing around my living room, and busting out sketchy white-guy dance moves despite the better judgement I still possess.
“In Colour” is a surprisingly appealing album full of guitar hooks, riffs, bass slap, and percussive slam that I normally would associate with the plethora of punk-rock shows I skateboarded to as a teenager, and was too young to appreciate as an eight year old when I first heard it. I always knew the band was good, but I just hadn’t clocked enough time of serious listening to fully grasp how talented the 1977 lineup was. While this won’t be an LP for many audiophiles who want to listen for the slight bass suck-out at 30Hz, it will appeal to pop-rock, post-punk lovers, and gear heads alike if they’re into the music, and like to do a bit of light head banging when no one’s watching.
Associated equipment for listening session:
- Pro-Ject RPM9 Carbon w/Evo Tonearm
- Sumiko Blackbird Low-Output Cartridge
- AudioQuest Wind interconnects
- AudioQuest Oak speaker cables
- Pass Labs XP-12 Preamplifier
- Pass Labs XP-17 Phono
- Pass Labs X150.8 stereo power amplifier
- Harbeth C7ES-3 loudspeakers on Skylan stands
- PS Audio P10 Power Regenerator