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In most bands, there's someone who saves everything -- the set lists, the fliers, the photos, the board tapes (or CDs), the T-shirts, and the minutiae that add up during a group's career. In the Beatles it was Ringo Starr, in the Velvet Underground it was Sterling Morrison, and while playing drums with Cheap Trick throughout most of their history, Bun E. Carlos was also the band's pack rat, keeping track of the group's artifacts and holding onto copies of their demos and outtakes. Carlos helped annotate and provided the tapes for many of the tracks on The Epic Archive, Vol. 1, a collection of odds and ends from Cheap Trick's peak creative period of 1975 to 1979. The set opens with three songs from a demo the band cut at Memphis' Ardent Recording in 1975 (power pop devotees can pause to wonder if they bumped into Alex Chilton, who was recording Big Star's 3rd that same year), while also delivering a handful of session outtakes and demos, live tracks from a 1977 gig at the Whisky, a clumsy single edit of "Ain't That a Shame" from At Budokan, rude alternate versions of "I Dig Go-Go Girls" and "Surrender," and three tracks from their 1979 return to Budokan. Carlos' stories of how these tracks came to be are fun and enlightening, and the music is uniformly fun if not always earth shattering. The outtakes are generally outtakes for good reasons (they used better versions for the official releases), though most are good enough that a significant majority of bands of the '70s would have presented them as A-1 product. The Ardent demos confirm Cheap Trick knew just what they were doing well before cutting their first album. And the roar of the live stuff is thrilling, even with the puzzling scream loop some foolhardy mixing engineer laid over the 1979 Budokan tapes. In terms of performances and songcraft, this collection is a powerful reminder of just how good Cheap Trick were in the '70s, and how strong their music remains. Given the hodgepodge of material here, The Epic Archive, Vol. 1 is best recommended to loyal fans rather than casual admirers, but anyone who hears this will be hearing a great, original rock band during a time when they were firing on all cylinders.
|Label:||Real Gone Music|