One on One
A few years ago I cleaned out my record collection, and looking back I’m sometimes baffled by my decisions. For example, do I really need eleven Chicago records? Why are the Dell-Vikings still there? What made me get rid of 1999? And, of course, why this Cheap Trick record?
It's widely agreed that the first few Cheap Trick records are minor treasures of hard-rocking pop, with gems like “I Want You to Want Me” and “Surrender”, but by the early ‘80s their popularity declined along with their songwriting. One on One is hardly their nadir, but it pales in comparison to their peak. So what’s it doing on my shelves?
Aside from the obvious possibilities of poor judgment, nostalgia (the sounds of Cheap Trick wafting from my brother’s bedroom circa 1982 are a fixture in my memory) or admiration for the cool picture on the cover, I trace my fondness for the album to three hooks:
”If You Want My Love, You Got It” is, to be sure, a slick power ballad, but it nonetheless avoids the traps of overarrangement, instead gliding on a bank of Leslie-toned guitars until lead vocalist Robin Zander sobs out “I won’t throw your love away” so that it sinks into my frontal lobe for a week or two;
”Oo La La La”, as its title indicates, is little more than a vehicle to drive the title hook into ground; fortunately, it’s a good one.
Although it’s literally been years since I listened to this record, about once every six months, the phrase “it’s not the way you look, the way you act or the color of your hair” comes unbidden into my head. It turns out it’s from “Love’s Got a Hold on Me.” Isn’t it nice when you’re able to pin down those elusive musical fragments?
The album’s other minor charms include Zander staking his claim to the title, “Man of a Thousand Voices”: on “She’s Tight” he sounds just like Mick Jagger, on “Saturday at Midnight” he switches between Gary Numan and Geddy Lee, and he rages like John Fogerty on “I Want You.” However, many of the songs are lazy blues-rockers, without the melodic quota one expects from this band, and the harsh production squeezes the range out of Rick Neilson's guitar tones and makes Bun E. Carlos’s usually subtle drumming sound robotic. I can’t say that this album is more worth my shelf space than, say, Fulfingness' First Finale, but there it is.
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