BY JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
(WRITER’S NOTE: This is the final article in The Cassette Chronicles series for 2021. There will be a best of highlight article in the next week or two. The series will return for another year in early 2022. Thank you for reading!)
CHEAP TRICK – STANDING ON THE EDGE (1985)
Regardless of the acclaim, or lack thereof, Cheap Trick’s eighth studio album Standing On The Edge receives from either the fans or from critics past and present, it was this album that started everything for me with the band.
While the album was released in 1985, I think it was a few years after the fact when I actually came into possession of the cassette copy that I still have to this day. I remember that because when I went to my junior prom in 1988, I was trying to play it in the limo a few of us got together for the event but only a couple of songs ever got played because those other people turned out to have zero musical taste.
That aside though, I can truly say that everything about Standing On The Edge did and still does resonate with me to this day.
The ten track album doesn’t have a flaw in my opinion. On the first side of the album, things kick off in a beautifully hard rocking Rick Neilsen-written song with “Little Sister”. It’s got a playful innuendo soaked set of lyrics that are so memorable that you don’t have to work hard to remember them and sing along to every time you hear the song.
That leads into the album’s lead single, “Tonight It’s You”. The single didn’t quite make the Top 40 singles chart but it did come close and it is a solid power ballad type of track, with a slightly more rocking feel in the song’s chorus. If you were someone who communicates your feelings towards your significant other (or your potential significant other), this is definitely the kind of track you’d use for that purpose.
“Love Comes” is another slower type track. It’s full of melodic hooks and lyrically sentimental but the midtempo pace doesn’t let it get bogged down into overt sweetness that would give one a toothache. (The song got re-recorded for the “lost” Robin Zander solo album Countryside Blvd. in 2010.)
The song “She’s Got Motion” is a great showcase for the harder edged and faster paced side of singer Robin Zander’s vocals. I love the way he interprets the lyrics for his performance on this track. The edgier side of his vocals gets a great work out on the more rocking tracks throughout the album. The side one closing “How About You” is another great example of Zander just attacking the song lyrics with a frenzied approach.
The second side of Standing On The Edge kicks off with the album’s title track and it blazes fast and furious with both music and Zander’s vocals.
While Tom Petersson was out of the band during this time, Jon Brant was the band’s bassist. And between he and Bun E. Carlos, the rhythm section was pounding out some great sounds to form the foundation of the sounds. There was also a heavy dose of electronic drums added in the mixing of the album but overall, everything just sounds great.
The song “This Time Around” is a track that once again showcases the band’s softer side but wisely balances out the slower portions of the song with a bit more upbeat pacing in spots.
The album closes out with three incredible hard rocking tracks. “Rock All Night” has a crushing drum sound powering through the entire track and Cheap Trick sounds so “heavy” here. This is a real monster track that doesn’t get nearly the credit it should.
“Cover Girl” is an explosive rocker that speeds along in a fast and furious manner, yet doesn’t sacrifice any of the melody that is woven into the song. I like the way the vocals are layered throughout the track as well. It’s guaranteed to get your blood pumping and is a particular highlight for me even now.
The closing song “Wild Wild Women” isn’t quite as fast paced as “Cover Girl” but it still rocks pretty hard. As I listened to the album back in the day, I would sing along to this song and mimic the various intonations Robin Zander has in his vocals for the song. Granted, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but the effort was there at least.
For an album that is just under 40 minutes long, Standing On The Edge is a perfect summation of the band to me. It’s full of hard rocking sounds guaranteed to flood with you adrenaline, but has the kind of melodic sound that continues to endear the band to listeners all these years later. I saw a review quoted on the album’s Wikipedia page that referred to Cheap Trick as the “pranksters of pop”, and I think that’s a pretty good compliment.
But while the band never seems to be having anything less than a blast with their music, don’t let the whole pranksters aspect make you forget that Cheap Trick knows how to craft perfect rock and roll / pop songs that stand the test of time.
I own every studio album (and more than a few live, compilation and archival releases) that Cheap Trick has ever released. And while the band has a lot of classically appreciated albums that get far more respect, I still come back to Standing On The Edge as “MY” Cheap Trick album. If I’m trying to get someone into the band, I still pull it out as an example of everything that is great about the band!
NOTES OF INTEREST: Jack Douglas was the producer for Standing On The Edge. He produced the band’s self-titled debut album in 1977 as well as the band’s Found All The Parts EP. However, according to Wikipedia, Tony Platt handled the mixing of the album, which is why the electronic drums and keyboards play a bigger role in the album than had apparently originally been intended.
The 2010 reissue of the album (which I’m now going to have to track down a copy for myself) has five bonus tracks on it.
Mark Radice, who played keyboards for the Standing On The Edge album, also co-wrote eight of the ten songs on the album with the members of Cheap Trick.