Cheap Trick - 1986 The Doctor

Lee South AfricaLee South Africa South Africa
edited August 2 in year-1986


ARTIST: Cheap Trick
ALBUM: The Doctor
SERIAL: FE40405 (LP), EK-40405 (CD)
YEAR: 1986
CD REISSUE: 2010, Wounded Bird, WUND-4040


LINEUP: Robin Zander - vocals, rhythm guitar * Rick Nielsen - guitars, backing vocals * Jon Brant - bass * Bun E Carlos - drums, percussion

TRACK LISTING: 01 It's Up To You * 02 Rearview Mirror Romance * 03 The Doctor * 04 Are You Lonely Tonight * 05 Name Of The Game * 06 Kiss Me Red * 07 Take Me To The Top * 08 Good Girls Go To Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere) * 09 Man-U-Lip-U-Lator * 10 It's Only Love


1985's 'Standing On The Edge' had provided Cheap Trick with a return to form and the charts after the jangly disappointment that was 'Next Position Please'.

The downward slide had been halted, no thanks to Jack Douglas who apparently had little interest in proceedings. Tony Platt was drafted in to rescue the album, the results impressive enough to earn him a recall when work began on 'The Doctor'.

Suffice to say that the resulting album is dismissed to this day as Cheap Trick's worst effort ever. My point of view may prove controversial but I think summation is rubbish. Yes the hi-tech overload did hurt the production but plenty of fine mid 80's AOR remains.

The Songs

A flurry of urgent synth and percussive effects ushers in 'It's Up To You', a pounding hi-tech AOR workout with a very simple melody on display. Decent but not overwhelming start.

'Rearview Mirror Romance' should have opened the album, again stuffed with digital effects (goes for the whole record) it sports a much stronger AOR melody and some spine tingling vocal/guitar interplay. Great song.

'The Doctor' could be described as hi-tech funk injected with AOR, a little left of centre at times but such is Zander's vocal form it still works. Long time Trick fans will remember Motley Crue famously lifted the 'Dr Feelgood' reference for their 1989 album.

'Are You Lonely Tonight' is built on a loopy synth hook that eventuates throughout the song. The band manage to thread a trademark melody around it for more winning AOR, special mention to the magical midsong bridge.

'Name Of The Game' sets off at a midtempo thud, with some of Zander's more haunting vocals flying overhead. A towering, escalating melody - very clever chord manipulation providing counterpoint. The reference to Surrender cueing a Mastertons coffee refill for this reviewer.

'Kiss Me Red' was the subject of some controversy, not a band composition and Nielsen especially hated it. In truth it's a stunning slice of AOR with chiming synth and an ethereal chorus, somewhere between 'Change Of Address' era Krokus and ELO circa 'Balance Of Power'. ELO (part 2) also recorded the song in 1990.

'Take Me To The Top' provides the requisite ballad, some acoustic strumming and another fine vocal elevating it above average.

Pulsing AOR is on offer again in the form of 'Good Girls Go To Heaven', great chorus even if it is a little lyrically challenged!

'Man-u-lip-u-lator' allegedly carries on the tradition of one bizarre cut per album (refer 'I Want Be Man' and '3D') and it certainly starts that way with a jolting rhythm and uncertain melody, but oh what a chorus! All cascading layers of melody, a seemingly endless supply of espresso.

'It's Only Love' was the single and video, and possibly the best track on offer. Perfect AOR unencumbered by digital overkill, the vocal yet again ethereal and Nielsen's tasty licks filling in the corners to perfection. What a classic to close the album.

In Summary

'The Doctor' failed exquisitely, charting well outside the top 100 with Cheap Trick opening for 38 Special on the 'Strength Of Numbers' tour.

It was bashed by all and sundry for the hi-tech overload, but I have to wonder how everyone could be expecting 'Heaven Tonight' in 1986?

This is how rock music sounded in the mid 80's, and yes the effects are overdone but not by as much as the reviewers were saying.

There's a fine set of AOR tunes to discover here, and I can't say it enough: Robin Zander's vocals are incredible on 'The Doctor'.

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