One of the fun parts about seeing a live rock concert is finding out what the fans do to accompany the music. When Cheap Trick played at Budokan in Japan in 1978, they were faced with an audience from the part of the world that best received them. During "I Want You to Want Me," the crowd echoed lead singer Robin Zander's vocals, screaming "Cryin'! Cryin'! Cryin'!" in a fashion simulating the effect used on the studio release of that track. Despite endless listens to this song, I'd never made the connection myself until I started listening to the two new releases of Cheap Trick's at Budokan recording that are now available.
Late last year, Mobile Fidelity remastered the ten tracks on the original Budokan album. I've been sitting on a copy for a while now, and had planned on a rave review several months back. But then a wrench got thrown into my plans. It seems that Sony is working on a complete remastering of the whole Cheap Trick catalog from its Epic/Legacy division, with Budokan being one of the first out of the gate. This version sounded pretty good too. Furthermore, it was a really deluxe treatment of the complete original concert, filling two CDs, priced only slightly higher than a single CD. Seems like a no-brainer to get the Sony recording, right? After all, it has 19 tracks instead of 10, and typically will cost much less than the Mobile Fidelity version. As is often the case, it's not quite so simple. I also grabbed my copy of Cheap Trick's Greatest Hits as a sample of what their first-generation CDs sounded like. Off we go.
"I Want You To Want Me"
The winner of the 1978 Pete Frampton Award, given to the band that most improves a turkey of a studio track when being recorded live, the version of this song on the Budokan LP was the first top-ten hit for the group.
"Ain't That a Shame"
An update of the Fats Domino classic. Cheap Trick manages a cover that stays faithful to the spirit of the original while offering its own innovation.
Normally when a band introduces a song "from our new album," a mass exodus for the bathroom begins. Fans hope they can get back to their seats before they miss out on a classic hit. If you listen really carefully to this Budokan concert, you can actually hear fans wetting their pants rather than taking a break during this smoking tune.
Next, a look at what exactly you get for your money:
If I'd been given either of these remastered Budokan recordings by themselves, I'd have recommended them without hesitation. But that both of them exist makes for quite a quandary. The Mobile Fidelity version is unquestionably the better-sounding release, and it includes all the tracks I like most from the concert. It elevates this music to being one of the best-sounding concert recordings I own. But unless you're got a pretty spiffy audio system, the improvement in fidelity might not even be that noticeable to you. The Sony release is far more complete and informative, and it's a better value to boot. I suspect it's a better choice for most listeners. It's kind of unfortunate that Mobile Fidelity spent their limited remastering resources working on a release that I'm sure is not selling well now that the new Complete Concert disc is out. Believe me, the company would never have taken on this album had they known of Sony's plans. But in the end, no matter which of these recent at Budokan releases you buy, you're in for a treat.
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