Cheap Trick, Def Leppard, Poison

With big hooks, roaring guitars and coy humor, Cheap Trick were America's answer to AC/DC, a catchy, hard-rocking act boasting arena-size heft. They crashed Big Star into Thin Lizzy, producing three end-of-the-'70s albums — Cheap Trick, In Color and Heaven Tonight — that dwarfed their contemporaries' output, though it took At Budokan and its live version of "I Want You to Want Me" to make the Illinois quartet stars. A steep creative valley followed, as the sound got glossier and the hooks duller, culminating in 1988's chart-topping Journey-esque power ballad "The Flame." Despite a decent Steve Albini-produced self-titled release in '97, there was little to suggest the return to form of 2006's terrific Rockford, and their even hookier latest, The Latest. While Cheap Trick may never pen another "Surrender," both albums feature an unfussy energy and tunefulness that's been missing since those halcyon Budokan days. Tourmates Def Leppard haven't done much to recommend their blend of glam and British heavy metal since multiplatinum '80s successes Pyromania and Hysteria, besides an exceptional version of the Kinks' "Waterloo Sunset" on 2006's all-covers Yeah!. Finally, the less said about hair-metal has-beens Poison and front man Brett Michaels's televised pussy hunts, the better.


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