Cheap Trick's recorded work has been so inconsistent for so long, bouncing back and forth between belabored attempts to reach radio and self-conscious returns to their classic early work, it's kind of a shock to discover that 2006's Rockford is a good, solid Cheap Trick record. Scratch that -- it's a very, very good Cheap Trick record, glistening with Beatlesque harmonies, sugary hooks and snarling guitars, and built on a set of songs that emphasize their strengths without seeming fussy or formulaic. They also don't seem tired or juvenile, either, nor do the band try to rock too hard or heavy, the way they did on the good but occasionally stilted Steve Albini-produced 1996 self-styled comeback, Cheap Trick. Albini is back for portions of Rockford, as is Jack Douglas, the producer behind their early masterworks, and 2000 rock's flavor of the month Linda Perry drops by for a single too -- but far from being a case of too many cooks spoiling the soup, it's more that each producer/engineer/collaborator helps bring out a different aspect of Cheap Trick. Sure there are songs that serve up crunching hard rock along with a little bit of streamlined arena rock, but there are pop songs built upon the British Invasion, bittersweet ballads, even a little bit of disco-funk on "One More." When all these different sounds are put together, it does indeed add up to the most diverse album they've made in many a moon, but since there's such a strong emphasis on melody, vocal harmonies, and guitar hooks, all wrapped up in three-minute songs, it also winds up as Cheap Trick's first genuine power pop album since their heyday, and their best album since Dream Police. After all these years and all those uneven albums, it's a bit of a surprise to have the band deliver an album this good completely out of the blue but, as their catalog proves, Cheap Trick have never done things the easy way -- and it's better to finally get a very, very good Cheap Trick record unexpectedly, some 27 years after the last good one, instead of not getting one at all.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine