Cheap Trick In Color 1998: The Albini Sessions

Cheap Trick - In Color And In Black And White

Cheap Trick’s 1998 re-recording of their classic, In Color

Cheap Trick – In Color 1998

Cheap Trick’s original recording of In Color is from 1977 and is universally considered one of the greatest hard rock/power pop recordings of all time. However, the band has never been satisfied with the album’s finished sound because it didn’t capture the edginess of their style, as anyone who has ever seen them live can attest. So after leaving Warner Bros., the band hooked up with recording purist Steve Albini and re-recorded the whole thing, plus five bonus tracks. Let me just say: it will rock your face off.

After a full 21 years of performing these songs literally thousands of times, the band knocks them out in the studio, guitars blazing, vocals ripping, drums booming. The production is absolutely raw and glorious — and it works here so very well. I came by the recording recently and it gets more satisfying with every listen.

And I can only imagine what satisfaction it must have been for the band to lay down these songs so familiar to them, then finally hear their music documented as they themselves hear it, show after show. And especially in all its edgy glory. That’s when Cheap Trick are at their best. Their debut album (one of my favorite records of all time) captures this, and their subsequent records are is progressively more tidy (except, maybe Budokan), but this one breaks all that down with abandon.

Says guitarist Rick Neilsen of this re-recording:

As for the re-recorded Albini In Color album, “we haven’t made any plans for it, but we didn’t record it for a joke,” he quips. “We didn’t go at it trying to come up with crazy new arrangements, but sonically we never liked In Color. The songs were good, but sonically it’s wimpy and we’re not wimpy. We left before it got mixed and were told ‘We’ll fix it in the mix’ by our record company (back then) and our ex-manager. Well, they went the other way,” Nielsen says finishing his thought. – via

Hey man, you ever heard of CDs?

Cheap Trick singer Robin Zander once signed my tape inlay card at a gig.

The original In Color is responsible for much of the band’s success, and will forever be a classic. My point here is just that if you like that, you might like this one, too.

I’m not sure how much longer the tracks will be available on the Interwebs, but a quick search brings up several places currently hosting the recording in its entirety (which I would gladly pay for, as I did my original copy of In Color and all their other records). They have long been one of my all-time favorite bands for their sound, individuality, sense of humor, and enduring work ethic. Having seen them live on multiple occasions, I’ll say this is about as good as it gets to being there. If you like the rock, this revisiting of a classic is worth your time.

Impress your friends: share this on Twitter!

What do you think of Cheap Trick? If you’ve seen them live, what was it like? Do you have an amazing or bizarre Cheap Trick story? Let us hear from you in the comments.

19 thoughts on “Cheap Trick In Color 1998: The Albini Sessions

  1. tom werman

    The allegation that the “record label” said “We’ll fix it in the mix” is a total fabrication.
    The band approved the final mix, as all of the bands I produced did, at my request. The approval was required by me fbefore I delivered the final version to the record label. If the band didn’t like it, they should have rejected it. Period. It was Rolling Stone’s Album of the Year. Wimpy or not, it’s generally regarded as
    a classic. Enough of the revisionist history — please.
    Tom Werman

    1. sailingdjScott

      Hey there, weren’t the Albini recordings of Cheap Trick – In Color done in ’98 ish? That was my understanding, not that they were the unused recordings from ’77.
      Can anyone clarify … checking WWW now.
      Note: in my opinion …. like Aerosmith (Draw The Line), Cheap Trick (Heaven Tonight & EP), they should’ve stopped after the first run of successful albums. Nothing after ever came close.

        1. rsmithing Post author

          Oh, no doubt. And I see your point. Just an example off the top of my head: “Tonight It’s You” is one of my favorites, but Standing On The Edge overall isn’t as compelling as their earlier work, at least to my ears.

          1. scott mills

            Hi there, or ‘Hello There’, as it should be with all things Cheap Trick !
            Dream Police was my stopping point (although I tried for 5-6 albums more before I truly gave up), but I have now gone back and made a compilation called “Cheap Trick – Best of 26 Bad Years” which obviously takes my fave tracks after DP and before ‘The Latest’ – I believe about 26 years of so so albums. But like someone said “a strong work ethic” – which has kept them alive and still relevant, is why we are still discussing them today…. Anyway, I picked just 14 songs for my compilation. Love them any old way, they were an important part of my mid teens.

            1. rsmithing Post author

              Thanks for commenting! That’s a cool idea – which songs did you choose? “Give It Away,” “Never Had A Lot To Lose” and “Tonight It’s You” come to mind for me.

  2. sailingdj

    Stumbled upon – had the Albini sessions for some time now and listening again today … I must agree – it’ll melt yer face off ! Brilliant work, and always loved the band – though stopped paying attention after Budokan. Dream Police seemed like they were on the wrong track. Probably all albums after that could use the Albini treament !
    Thanks for keeping CT alive !

    1. rsmithing

      Absolutely. The synth sounds and so-so material in the 80s was a turnoff for me, too. But their newer stuff is more rocking – true to their actual sound in my opinion. They’re still one of my all-time favorites. Thanks for commenting!

  3. stano

    I am a long time Cheap Trick fan. You’ve really peaked my interest. I excited to hear the re-make! Can you give me a hint as to how to track down a copy? Thanks!

  4. Steve Roth

    Great article/review, and it got me to discover your website. I’m such a big fan of Cheap Trick I’ve got a Google Alert set for them, and your blog came up. This re-recording was the holy grail for CT fans for the longest time…I enjoy it, and get why they did it. But for me, the sound of the original In Color still means a lot to me. To me, there was and is always a…is “warmth” the right word? There’s a warmth to it, there’s something about the way that album sounds…to me, Heaven Tonight was the result of the band and Werman trying to get the sound of the first two albums together. And the first album is pure genius.

    I like the agressiveness of the playing on the Albini version – that’s from years of playing live, obviously. But the more I think about it, and ramble on, the more I realize I would have LOVED to hear Jack Douglas producing the second record – or the re-recorded version. The sounds he got on that first album. Live on to tape and the energy there…wow!

    1. rsmithing

      Hey Steve — you really hit an important point: these are BOTH great recordings on their own. And I’d say it’s OK to prefer one to the other, too; they’re both legit in their unique ways. The original, as you state, does have a certain “warmth.” And there’s no denying its mass appeal, both at the time and through the years. At the same time, this newer recording definitely has an edge matching the live performance; and we all know the live experience of any act is a different in energy and intensity from any studio recording.

      And wow, I’d never considered what In Color might sound like if Douglas produced… that’s fun to imagine, and I’d love hear it, but I have to wonder — would the band have gained the exposure that they did if this were the case? Part of the fun for me of Cheap Trick is the energy they bring to their concerts (fun for others too, e.g. Budokan). I don’t know that seeing them live would have been as exciting if we already got that on the record. Regardless, I think this all reaffirms Cheap Trick’s enduring appeal: they can make great records AND kick ass live.

      Very glad you found this post & commented!

  5. earthscanner

    Just dropped in and read your review and went to amazon to sample. Wow! Def brought back some great memories. Not sure how old you are but in 1977 I was a rock and roll freak and still love 70’s rock. Of course, I never treated my vinyls with care and have replaced some of my favs with CDs. This one should be one I add! Just recently ‘re-bought’ Supertramp’s Live in Paris and I can’t get enough of it! May be one you want to take a listen to? But thanks for the Cheap Trick reminder!! Great music!

    1. rsmithing

      I’m so glad you got something from this! I was a kid about the time this music came up, but I’ve been a fan since the 80s (teen years) and can’t say enough about Cheap Trick, especially live, and ESPECIALLY this recording. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


Leave a Reply