Cheap Trick – In Color

If you’ve seen Cheap Trick live, you know that this pillar of power pop has a big drum sound thanks to Bun E. Carlos, but that key sonic characteristic has rarely translated to LP. Until now. Released at the end of 1977, the same year that Cheap Trick hit the charts with its self-titled album, In Color was criticized by some for having slick production that was more pop than power. Others felt the record emphasized the Rockford quartet’s Beatlesque charm. Time has proven the latter camp correct; the 32-minute-long platter is now recognized as an all-time classic.

Mastering engineer extraordinaire Kevin Gray managed to transform this record into a diamond, bringing out layers of previously unheard detail that on original pressings remained buried in the mix. Multiple spins revealed major treasure, yet the booty will be delivered the second you drop the stylus down on the short intro track “Hello There,” the group’s trademark concert-opening song throughout much of 1977 and 1978. Lead singer Robin Zander’s vocals explode center stage between the speakers as he wails “Are you ready to rock?” On this Audio Fidelity pressing, he sounds like he means it.

It’s now also much easier to hear all of the backing vocals, adding to Cheap Trick’s massive sound. In Color finally has seemingly limitless depth; guitarist Rick Neilsen’s backing vocals on “Oh Caroline” almost sound as if they are coming from behind the listening chair, and he is much more discernable throughout. And, for the first time, you can actually hear bassist Tom Petersson’s vocals. Both Petersson and Neilsen’s guitars claim more dimension, which aids the closing “So Good To See You,” a track that takes the Fab Four feel to the extreme, complete with a huge helping of Sgt. Pepper trippiness.

All of the other standard audiophile criteria are passed with flying colors (pun intended): quiet surfaces, a flat and centered pressing, and a package that features a stunning cover replete with a healthy clearcoat finish. Awesome.  —Gene Simmons Jr.

Audio Fidelity, 180g LP