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Articles Home » 1988 Articles » Cheap Trick - 1988 Lap Of Luxury
Cheap Trick - 1988 Lap Of Luxury

ARTIST: Cheap Trick
ALBUM: Lap Of Luxury
SERIAL: EK 40922
YEAR: 1988
CD REISSUE: 1992, Epic, 982839 2


LINEUP: Robin Zander - lead vocals, guitar * Rick Nielsen - lead guitars * Tom Petersson - bass * Bun E Carlos - drums, percussion

TRACK LISTING: 01 Let Go * 02 No Mercy * 03 The Flame * 04 Space * 05 Never Had A Lot To Lose * 06 Don't Be Cruel * 07 Wrong Side Of Love * 08 All We Need Is A Dream * 09 Ghost Town * 10 All Wound Up


Cheap Trick were not in a happy place in the leadup to 1988, apart from one bright spot which was the inclusion of 'Mighty Wings' on the Top Gun soundtrack in 1986. The same year's album 'The Doctor' had bombed and was lambasted by all and sundry. It was all a little unfair to these ears, 'The Doctor' was a strong AOR contender that got a very raw deal, charting outside the top 100. It was around this time that Tom Petersson started to drift back into the Cheap Trick orbit, firstly as a loose association but after a while common sense prevailed and he rejoined the band, replacing Jon Brant. It must be said that Brant did sterling work on his four album tenure, while maintaining the Trick tradition of 2 bank clerks and 2 rock stars in the band. Next thing, Trick are having a meeting with Epic, ready to leave the label, instead they leave the meeting rejuvenated and determined to record a big album. They had unwittingly found an ally in the Epic executive suite, and as happened with so many other 70's legends, in came the slick producer Richie Zito (played guitar on Prism's 'Beat Street'), and the expected raft of outside songwriters to shore up the commercial viability of the band in a late 80's context. This approach had recently paid dividends for Heart, Aerosmith, Kiss etc, so why should Cheap Trick not go for the AOR brass ring? The results were, for the most part, surprisingly strong.

The Songs
'Let Go' immediately signals the Trick intentions, hookladen AOR with just a hint of their intrinsic power pop in the song's melodic shadows. A semi chanted chorus blends exactly the right melody with that insistent Bun E beat, my coffee brewing Rockford style. 'No Mercy' is even more direct AOR, a dramatic stop start affair complete with big synths and thunderous drums, the chorus absolutely kills. This compares favourably with the brand of AOR being touted by Kiss, Heart etc at the time. Now what hasn't been written about 'The Flame' in the annals of Trick history? Possibly the most hated track to those who claim them as some kind of alt-rock heroes, for me the opposite is true. Nielsen's misgivings aside, this is pure semi ballad AOR of the finest possible quality. I say semi ballad as it's rocking away at midtempo later in the song, drama building all the while, and a chorus that will not leave your head period. No wonder George tugs this one out on guitar at parties!! Next to Kiss 'Forever', one of the finest AOR tracks of the late 80's, and also my introduction to the band. 'Space' lets the side down just a touch, the outside songwriting backfiring as Holly Knight unleashes some mediocrity. Some worthwhile instrumental passages here and there, but the overall melody and tempo strike me as pedestrian. 'Never Had A Lot To Lose' sets things right in storming fashion, like a panther stalking into the forest! The ghost of Cheap Trick past having a seance with their AOR present, urgent tempo and outrageous melody. Difficult to compare this to other bands, it could only be Trick to be honest. There's a mid-song drum and guitar salvo with Zander wailing overhead, which if it doesn't chill you, please call an ambulance. Genius AOR meets power pop, an intersection where I would gladly set up a stall and sell Mastertons coffee and boerewors rolls. Enough said.

Elvis is back in the building as 'Don't Be Cruel' gets an energetic working over, I have to admit it's great fun but not my favourite moment on the album. A very clever video helped it to become the second monumental hit from 'Lap Of Luxury' though, sending Cheap Trick's long dormant profile into the stratosphere. 'Wrong Side Of Love' is for me the letdown of the record, a tempo that never seems to go anywhere, the melody determined to match that ethos. Dull and mediocre, it's inclusion on the album made all the more ludicrous by the stellar 'Flame' b side 'Through The Night' being left off? I've shaken my head at this for years, at least that AOR treasure can be had on the 'Sex America' Cheap Trick box set. Off the soap box now, and back into the album as 'All We Need Is A Dream' easily makes up for any disappointment. Synth and guitar interplay give way to one of Zander's more spine chilling vocals as the keys keep stabbing away, I cannot stress enough how important it is that everyone hears this. For mine, the only singer to join Perry and Stanley at the absolute summit of AOR vocals. An ethereal candy floss chorus closes the case, a genuine AOR classic and one that I've returned to time and again over the years. 'Ghost Town' continues the ethereal trend in ballad form, quite gentle really, though not lacking in AOR impact. This was a top 40 hit as well, with a great video to help the cause. Album closer 'All Wound Up' harks back to the late 70's power pop days to an extent, Bun E's rhythm bouncing like a Morne Morkel snorter. Melody factor is high throughout, just the right amount of AOR in the power pop mix here, great end to a mostly strong record.

In Summary
Epic understandably worked the 'original lineup reunion' angle to the highest extent, 'Lap Of Luxury' going double platinum and yielding four hits. Cheap Trick would tour the big arenas again together with Heart, a double bill I would have loved to have seen multiple times! The bands were a good fit, as Robin Zander and Ann Wilson had a soundtrack duet conquering the charts around this time, which they would perform together as a show stopping moment. 'Surrender To Me' was the track if I remember correctly. In a review I wrote quite a few years ago, I was fairly critical of Cheap Trick's early albums. The passing years have seen that stance soften, I do recognize their legendary status as power pop's iconic albums, and quite enjoy them on occasion these days. However, I do still prefer the band's 80's AOR work, and I feel this era gets unfairly bashed. Don't be fooled by those who hate AOR, Cheap Trick unleashed some true class in the 80's. The next album 'Busted' was pretty much a twin AOR monster to this one, firmly in my sights for review around the next corner.

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#1 | reyno-roxx on May 30 2013 12:05:32
Back in '88 I was entrusted with writing a feature on the band by 'Kerrang!' to tie in with the album's release. A phone interview had been arranged with Tom Petersson by Epic, but I was told not to ask him why he was back in the band. As this was the main question everyone wanted to know, I asked him anyway and he happily answered the question with no problem or any controversy in the response he gave.
#2 | AOR Lee on May 30 2013 14:31:10
Very cool info Dave!

Also, I should have said classic lineup reunion and not original lineup. Wasn't Xeno (Bad Boy) on vocals before Zander ?
#3 | reyno-roxx on May 30 2013 14:49:54
Indeed he was, now you mention it!
#4 | Eric on May 30 2013 17:22:43
I know someone (pretty well actually) locally who worked with Xeno (a Minnesota guy) in a band after he left CT and before Bad Boy. Nothing but good things to say about him and his vocal abilities. Wonder what happened to him?
#5 | reyno-roxx on May 31 2013 20:43:35
He's still out there.....

#6 | AOR Lee on June 03 2013 05:51:40
Checked out the link Dave, good to see he's still active. Enjoyed his vocals in Bad Boy since 1984. I can kinda hear the Cheap Trick / Zander similarities at times, but really Xeno has his own style and sound
#7 | gdazegod on June 15 2013 03:54:53
YouTube Video:
#8 | code4 on October 23 2015 15:32:03
Always used to enjoy meeting cheap trick fans in my younger years and saying 'Yeh, the flame is a great track' just in order to enduce the response of 'Nauww... i mean the old stuff man' which to be honest never did anything for me (at least not the famous singles) but i guess i should check them out sometime as i'm sure they were a good band
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