Review: Shake It Up Expanded Edition

As Rhino Records continued to release The Cars’ catalog with bonus material, so continued my little writing series for Standing Room Only. Here is part four of six: my review of The Cars’ Shake It Up Expanded Edition. (I actually wrote the majority of this review on the plane to Cleveland, on my way to see The Cars get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! 🤓🤘)


Rhino Records has done it again. Coinciding with The Cars’ 2018 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and paving the way for the celebration of the 40th anniversary of their debut album, Rhino has released expanded editions of Shake it Up (1981) and Heartbeat City (1984), The Cars’ fourth and fifth albums, respectively. Of course, you may recall that expanded editions of Candy-O and Panorama were released last summer, causing quite a stir in the “Fanorama,” and these March 30, 2018, offerings have generated their own buzz, as well.

Do you remember how in my review of Panorama I used the illustration of a capital letter Y to show the progression of The Cars’ sound? And how I said that Panorama represented a veering off into the left fork of the letter? Well, with Shake it Up (SIU) we definitely hear the band heading back to center and then taking a U turn up in the opposite direction. No more snarky jabs and swaggering strut; SIU sounds more like a dance set at the junior high… which is where it may have been played most often.

This album was produced by Roy Thomas Baker (his fourth and last collaboration with The Cars), and it was recorded in The Cars’ own studio in Boston, Syncro Sound. Critics and fans alike loved it, and the album hit number nine on the Billboard Pop Albums chart, while the title track became the first of the band’s singles to break the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number four. Clearly this perky, light-hearted sound gratified the mainstream listeners of the day.

SIU1

Though it has grown on me over time, it took a bit for me to warm up to SIU. Never doubting Greg Hawkes’ limitless keyboarding wizardry, this album is a little less rock and a little more new wave, and I miss the edge of the once-prominent Elliot Easton guitar riffs and the deep drumming of David Robinson that have been largely replaced by a focus on the synthesizer and drum machines (I get it – it was the 80s, after all!). Still, I love all things Cars, and this album has many terrific gems to keep the toes tapping.

Of course, the purpose of this review isn’t to scrutinize the original offering, but to examine the features of this new expanded edition.

Staying consistent with Rhino’s earlier reissues, the Shake It Up vinyl is packaged in a beautiful gatefold album. The original 1981 elements are all there: the front and back cover art, as well as the record sleeve with the lyrics and ‘spraying shaker’ image. The visuals are then bumped up a notch with the addition of a hunky photo of the band, ultra-cool individual shots of each member, a risqué circular graphic, and revealing liner notes written by David Fricke and David Robinson. Scrumptious!

Rhino did detour a little when it came to the vinyl itself. No badass etching on the fourth side as seen on their 2017 releases (Panorama, Candy-O and Live at The Agora); they went with a limited edition colored vinyl instead. SIU came out in a nice bright red.

As with the previous releases, Rhino (and presumably, singer/songwriter Ric Ocasek) dove deep for the eight bonus tracks. The result is a very fun, eclectic auditory smorgasbord that includes a demo, a remix, several early versions of SIU tunes, and a previously unreleased song featuring bassist Benjamin Orr on vocals. The variety of sensations that the listener may experience here could be worth the price of adding this to your vinyl stack.

Three tasty tracks stand out to me.  First is the rough cut of Benjamin Orr and Ric Ocasek goofing their way through the early demo of “Shake It Up.” I literally laughed out loud the first time I listened to it. I have never heard anything from The Cars that sounds so much like an after-hours party as this recording! Then there is “Take It On The Run,” featuring some fabulous Greg-ness putting a kooky jungle spin on the mystical “A Dream Away.” Finally, we are treated to a lusty vocal performance from Ben on the edgy “Midnight Dancer,” a song that clearly didn’t fit in with the rest of SIU but definitely needed to be released to the world. It is a memorable way to close out the album.

This new expanded edition from Rhino Records is available digitally and on CD, as well as the vinyl product reviewed here. Though the bonus tracks have been released online, I highly recommend putting out the money for this package – you won’t regret it. I’ll cover the new version of Heartbeat City in my next review and we’ll see what other delights Rhino has served up. Stay tuned!

Quoting Benjamin

“I was presented with the idea of doing a solo album. Being the bright, intelligent person I am, I said sure. Why let a chance go by? No reason not to.” — from “Benjamin Orr: The Cars’ Mr. Casual Steps Out” by Rob Tannenbaum, Musician Magazine, March 1987

waiting1

Episode 29: Fanorama CARS Con

The excitement of Cleveland and Rock Hall Weekend still lingers … We’re all asking, “When can we do it again???” Time to take a good hard look at what it would entail to organize an ‘official’ Cars Fanorama get-together! Join Dave and Donna as they brainstorm the various logistics involved: location, funding, merchandise, special guests, and so much more.

episode29.jpg

We’d really love your feedback! What are YOUR ideas for the ultimate Fanorama Cars convention? Who do you think would come to represent the band? Where would you travel to attend? And entertainment events? Nothing is off limits — from cover bands and Q&A sessions with rock photographers, to interviewing band members’ neighbors, to re-enacting fan fights with a Ric lookalike… Lay it all on the table so we can tell the Woz about it when we call him for funding. (Just kidding — podcast joke! (but maybe?))

Be sure to listen to the Midnight Scroll, too; we’ve got a little photo challenge for you from our podcast friend ‘across the pond.’

There are plenty of ways to get in touch with NiGHT THOUGHTS:

  1. Follow the podcast on Twitter! @TheCarsPodcast . If you’re looking for the hosts individually, Dave goes by @night_spots and Donna is @sweetpurplejune.
  2. Join the action on Facebook: http://www.facebook/groups/nightthoughtspodcast/ . Lots of fun stuff going on over there!
  3. Write us an email for the Midnight Scroll, please! Send it to nightthoughtspodcast@gmail.com. Big shout out to Liz for writing in!
  4. Subscribe and write a review of the show on iTunes: bit.do/itunesnightthoughts
  5. Take a listen through Soundcloud: bit.do/soundcloudnightthoughts
  6. And of course… youtube! Subscribe and comment –we love it! bit.do/nightthoughts

Click below and enjoy!

Episode 28: Rock Hall Recap, part 2

Episode28

In this second installment of our two-part “Cleveland Rocks!” series Dave and Donna are joined by close friends of the show Jenny Durgin and Kurt Gaber. Together the four take a closer look at the particulars of the 33rd annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Unfortunately, Dave was unable to be in Cleveland (except in Pocket form), so Donna, Jenny and Kurt give him the rundown on the night, sharing their perspectives from both inside the Cleveland Public Hall and from the Rock Hall’s simulcast event. They touch on elements like:

  1. The Cars were badasses, from beginning to end!
  2. Bon Jovi… Howard Stern… really???
  3. Yes, Ben’s son was there.
  4. Brandon Flowers was PERFECT.
  5. Give it up for the Moodies!
  6. The tragedy that was Dire Straits (to everyone but Kurt).
  7. That long, looooong segment…..
  8. The emotional realities of gas mileage and the Cars-mobile.

The group also takes the time to recount their wonderful Fanorama encounters over the weekend and contemplate the future of The Cars. To wrap it up, Rico Kazzik shares his Rock Hall weekend experience during the Midnight Scroll.

Some apologies for Donna’s blunders: saying that the Panorama photos in the Cars’ slideshow were from Phil Kamin when she meant Paul McAlpine, and not remembering that the Moody Blues’ flute player, Ray Thomas, passed away this year and definitely deserved extra attention.

Want to stay in closer touch with us? Find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter (individually we’re @night_spots, @sweetpurplejune @jendurama, and @gabersigns), and subscribe to our audio outlets! You can listen by clicking the Youtube link below, or visit us on iTunes or Soundcloud. Wherever you connect, comment and let us know your thoughts — we’d love to hear from you!

Enjoy!

Episode 23: The Cars Essential Library

Cars Essential Library.jpg
Graphic by @sweetpurplejune

Our 23rd episode, recorded on the 23rd of February… it’s time to get nerdy!

Dave and Donna take a look at some of the written material floating around related to The Cars. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but the biggies are covered, with mentions of tour books, sheet music, liner notes, and appearances in compilations.

They also discuss the unique and rare offerings of Ric Ocasek, as well as the probability of Joe Milliken’s biography about Benjamin coming out in 2018 (click here to message Joe and get on his mailing list).

During the discussion Dave shares a recent email conversation he had with Luis Aira, director of the elusive film Chapter X (among his many other amazing accomplishments), and reveals some inside information Mr. Aira dropped about other never-released projects he worked on with Ric. (Read Standing Room Only‘s article about Luis Aira and his involvement with The Cars here.) Donna plots a chance ‘run in’ with Ric in order to get her hands on all of the hidden stuff that you just KNOW is in that vault of his.

The Midnight Scroll is saved from further colonoscopy PSAs by the emails of three of our favorite listeners: Harold, Kurt, and L. Glenn Douché (pronounced “doo-shay” — it’s French). Dave still manages to get his spam in there, but Harold saves the segment by sparking a quick discussion about Ric’s solo CDs, and Kurt gets the Cleveland vibes going with some great ideas for honoring the band during the RRHOF induction weekend. And uh, L. Glenn… keep us posted on how that Go Fund Me campaign works out for you.

kurt1

Dave and Donna close out the episode by picking the winner of the ‘Benjamin Orr swag’ giveaway from episode 22… Congratulations to Beta Sanchez for sending in the right answer! The generous Kurt Gaber will be in touch with you to get your prize to you. Enjoy, Beta, and thanks for listening!

Click below to hear Episode 23, and be sure to subscribe, comment and share. Follow Dave (@night_spots) and Donna (@sweetpurplejune) on Twitter, too! Oh, and don’t forget to send your questions for the ‘Midnight Scroll’ to nightthoughtspodcast@gmail.com. Also, join The Cars NiGHT THOUGHTS Podcast group for all of the little extra uploads you’ll hear about in the show.