Review of Cheap Trick: Heaven Tonight

Please read our selection of Cheap Trick Heaven Tonight before reading our reviews below.
Summary: 
This was an interesting pick by Scott Coates this month as many bands of this era tend to be overlooked as influencers. With the exception of Greg, the rest of us enjoyed this album. Cheap Trick was in the zone in the late 70s and the starting track Surrender is till beloved to this day.
We all seemed to be aligned that this new pop-rock wasn’t really pushing the boundaries of music but there is something to be said of a band that can come in and nail the music of the day. That is what Cheap Trick did in their time. They weren’t the biggest and best of the time from a sales or influencer level(Van Halen and AC/DC were mentioned a few times) but they are very deserving of their praises and this album is a nice addition to the late 70s rock sound.
Though this album isn’t for everybody(Greg, lol) it is just fun and easy to get in to. We definitely recommend a listen to this album as well as their Cheap Trick at Budokan.

What was cool about Cheap Trick: Heaven Tonight:

  • Some awesome fun rock songs. Surrender and Auf Wiedersehen are favorites.
  • The album stands the test of time and is a good start before listening to Cheap Trick at Budokan
  • Great musicians and Zander has a great voice.

What we didn’t find so cool :

  • The album’s songs seemed a little scattered and disconnected.
  • Some felt that other bands at the time did pop rock better.
  • Some of the songs guitar riffs were a bit too similar.

We have also implemented a rating scale that you will see below in the reviews. All ratings are out of 5.
Reviews Average:
Overall opinion: 3.5
Would we recommend?: 3.5
Influenced our tastes: 2.5
Worth the hype? 4
Read our full individual reviews below. 
Don’t agree with us? Have a comment or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.
 

Our Full Reviews

 
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Scott Coates’s Review
Knowing a band’s best album (Cheap Trick at Budokan), then going to another one (Heaven Tonight) to get a true sense for their worth is a bit of a backwards exercise. But The Sonic Collective doesn’t evaluate live albums, so when I wanted to gain an appreciation for Cheap Trick in their prime, Heaven Tonight, their third studio album, was where I put my finger for a pulse.
The album is an intricate work, with an almost too wide variety of styles at times, but perhaps it showcases the depth the band was at during the period. Opening track Surrender kicks things off with a definitive ‘bang’ that lets you know you’re in for a ride. The journey continues in some interesting and sometimes unexpected directions, with California Man seeming like something kids in the fifties could almost swing to in a soda shop, then go right back to solidly rocking with Auf Wiedersehen. The scope of rock/pop is pretty much covered here.
On the Radio is a fun jab at disc jockeys back in 1978 (when the album was released) and no doubt the politics of getting a single on the air, while title track Heaven Tonight’s background strings reminds me at times of Kashmir by Led Zeppelin. This track is the low point of the musical journey, but you’ve got to shoot for at least one ballad on an album.
Stiff Competition is a final reminder that Cheap Trick is best at rocking and they do it with the best of them. There’s little doubt this work, their third studio album, was the one that firmly cemented them as a rock band to be reckoned with, along with the likes of other heavyweights at the time such as Zeppelin and AC/DC, who were making a serious impact.
All in all Heaven Tonight is a solid musical glimpse into the time period, when rock was intersecting with the hot new thing, disco, and bands were battling to find a way into listeners’ hearts and carve their way to the top of the charts. For anyone wanting to get a sense of Cheap Trick at their prime, this is the place to start, then move on to their opus, Cheap Trick at Budokan.
Overall opinion: 4.5
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 4
Worth the hype? 4
 
Darren Scott
Darren Scott’s Review
I do remember hearing lots of Cheap Trick in my youth but I really remember their Lap of Luxury album as that was released on the year of my high school graduation. I can still remember the slow dance at prom to The Flame. Sure that wasn’t their best album but it fit it nicely in the 80s and was great simple and fun rock.
Though I had heard some of the songs on Heaven Tonight, I had never really listened to one of the older albums in entirety. I only own Cheap Trick at Budokan so I was excited to get into this album and see where these guys came from.
As with any album review it is always good to put yourself in that era.
Rock music was evolving and moving away from complex groups and songs like Led Zeppelin was releasing. Rock was now starting to be more approachable and, I hate to say it, commercialized. If Led Zeppelin was a rock’n’roll 4 course dinner, then many of the new bands were just looking to be hot dog street vendors. By no means am I trying to offend any of these bands, Cheap Trick included, but I just feel that these bands were just out to have fun, keep songs simple and upbeat and get top 40 radio play. Cheap Trick and others at this time are not going to be remembered as bands that pushed the envelope but rather they just jumped on board the band wagon and had a blast.
I really liked this album and had fun with it. Surrender and Auf Wiedersehen rocked. I still can’t believe these guys released 5 albums in less than 2 years. That’s unfathomable in today’s music industry so if there are a few just ok songs on here you can understand why.
I also appreciated the band musically. Rick Nielsen is a great guitarist and has a great personality but all the members were very strong musically and Zander’s vocals are great. As we now live in an era where so much music and vocals is produced it is nice to know that even the pop-rock bands of this era still had to be able to play, sing and write their own lyrics and music.
I really liked this pick and I felt it is important to recognize bands like this. Sure, they didn’t write songs like Kashmir(though Heaven Tonight kinda sounded like the riff), but I know there are 1000s of karaoke bars all over the world right now with people belting out classic Cheap Trick songs and having a blast. Maybe they weren’t the best in this era or even my personal favourite, but I don’t press the skip button when they come on. Heaven Tonight is a nice listen beginning to end and is a nice piece to have in your music collection of late 70s early 80s rock beside AC/DC and Van Halen.
My personal opinion: 3.5
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 3
Worth the hype? 4
 
Greg-JorgensenGreg Jorgensen’s Review
I’d only ever heard of Cheap Trick through films – Fast Times, and various other movie montages and such – so I didn’t know much about them; the only song I vaguely recognized on Heaven Tonight was Surrender. To be honest, I always thought they were Australian. Anyway, the first time I listened to this album I was thoroughly unimpressed. Upon a few further listens, my opinion is improved slightly, but not by much – this one just didn’t do it for me.
When I was a kid my mom had a huge burlap bag full of random, loose cassette that I used to listen to from time to time. Listen to a song, fast-forward. Listen to another song. Eject, find a new cassette. Nothing in the bag stuck with me – it was full of nameless, forgettable tapes from nameless, forgettable bands. Heaven Tonight reminded me of one of the cassettes from that bag – a collection of mostly featureless songs, few memorable hooks, and nary a hummable chorus.
Surrender is a catchy tune, Zander’s vocals pairing nicely with some tight guitar, plus a bit of keyboards around the edges to wrap the chorus in. I liked California Man as well, which sounds like a pretty good cover of a really good Zeppelin song. However, the rest just went in one ear and out the other; after three listens, I couldn’t hum any of the songs if you paid me.
I get that at the time, the album was probably pushing a few boundaries here and there. Cheap Trick did leave a legacy that helped shape the music landscape, and it’s entirely possible that my (sometimes arbitrary) tastes just didn’t go for the music that came out around the same time. But no…there was some truly badass albums arriving in 1978 – Some Girls by the Rolling Stones; The Cars by The Cars; and Van Halen by Van Halen, to name a few. (Admittedly, 1978’s top singles were by the Bee Gees, John Travolta & Olivia John, The Village People, and Boney M (via Wikipedia), so it wasn’t a totally awesome year).
But, I mean c’mon…the opening track of Heaven Tonight (Surrender) vs. the opening track of Van Halen (Runnin’ With the Devil). No contest. Compared to some of the other music that came out the same year, Heaven Tonight is weak, weak sauce.
My personal opinion: 2
Would I recommend?: 2
Influenced my tastes: 0
Worth the hype? 3
 
alain-dupuisAlain DuPuis’s Review

I first heard of Cheap Trick was when I was about 12. I didn’t know much about them except for the fact that they had allegedly come upon their band name after playing with a Ouija Board. This, to my 12 year-old mind, led me to equate the band with danger and rebellion. At the time, danger and rebellion was often all it took for me to get excited about an artist and dive right into their music. For some reason, I just never did with Cheap Trick.
Listening to Heaven Tonight for this month’s Sonic Collective definitely marks the most time I’ve ever spent exploring the music of Cheap Trick, and I’m glad Scott chose this one, because I definitely think I’ve been missing out.
It should be said that I didn’t enjoy the entire album. Some songs, such as California Man and the title track Heaven Tonight didn’t really do much for me, but I found myself rocking out to Auf Wiedersehen, and Surrender every time I threw the album on. Takin’ Me Back and On the Radio were both pretty catchy. To my ears, a few of the tracks sounded a bit too much alike. The guitar riffs are the reason for this, I suspect. They just didn’t really seem to break any new ground there. I was impressed by Robin Zander’s vocals. He seems to have a fair amount of versatility in his singing abilities. Strangely, despite this being a studio album, it sounded a bit low-fi for my tastes. (Budokan somehow sounded crisper to me.)
The album was solid overall, and I would imagine it would have made for a pretty fun concert-going experience. I’m kinda bummed I never got into Cheap Trick earlier on. They are a decent classic rock band, and they’re capable of writing some catchy stuff if you ever feel like some old anthem rock that doesn’t suck (Lookin’ at you, Kiss).
I’d encourage you to check out Cheap Trick at Budokan. I think I like it even more than Heaven Tonight.
My personal opinion: 4
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 3.5
Worth the hype? 4
 
Scott GregoryScott Gregory’s Review

The 70s was an exciting time for music, full of experimentation in established genres and new genres spinning up weekly. To get a sense of what was going on when Cheap Trick’s Heaven Tonight came out I had a look at other significant releases that year:

  • Who Are You – The Who (final album)
  • Rumours – Fleetwood Mac (best album?)
  • Some Girls – The Rolling Stones
  • Outlandos d’Amour – The Police (first album)
  • The Cars – The Cars (first album)
  • Van Halen – Van Halen (first album)

When I think of rock in the 70s, I think of long-haired white dudes, jumpsuits bedazzled, standing three-across on a stadium stage belting out amazing harmonies and guitar riffs. Live. They’re the product of a generation that hasn’t lost hope, but needed an outlet for the political and economic tensions of their time.
By the time Cheap Trick cuts Heaven Tonight, they’ve got their sound down, their identity clear. They belong somewhere alongside The Who and The Rolling Stones sound-wise, but they’re speaking to a different generation. I could see them partying with Eddie and David over Keith and Mick, although at this point the Stones would have better “party favours”.
But, scene set, on to the music:
So, if all you’ve ever heard is Surrender (and could get five stars on hard), you need to pick up this album and give it a full listen. It’s Masters class on 70s stadium rock, aggressive guitar riffs and crisp drum-fuelled baselines. Layered overtop this are equally-crisp vocals delivering lyrics that speak to the heart of a generation.
Drugs, parent issues, girl problems, everything you ever felt angsty about growing up. They call out the radio stations (and us) for escapism (On the Radio), tell defeatists to eff-off (Auf Wiedersehen) and hey, your parents might not be all the bad! (Surrender) Oh yeah, drugs and partying are awesome. (They might have been, I was cresting into solid foods in the 70s.)
So, give the album a listen to. It deserves your attention at least once. How much you enjoy it might come down to whether you were falling in with the Who, Stones and other old-guard groups that dominated the start of the 70s or the new sounds being ushered in by groups like The Cars, Van Halen and The Police. If you’re like me, I was much more familiar with the later groups, but still hold a deep appreciation for the earlier. If you’re looking closely, you can still see the same influences all work across all these later bands.
My personal opinion: 3
Would I recommend: 4
Influenced my tastes: 2
Worth the hype: 4

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1 Comment

  1. Something I find strange is how the influence of The Move(“California Man”), Family and Slade(“When the Lights are Out”from THE LATEST) aren’t mentioned regarding Cheap Trick. Those English bands are so much cooler and more musical than later 70s Zepplin or Stones, for that matter.


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