THE CARS – Heartbeat City [Expanded & Remastered +7] (2018)
Here’s another request; recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will inductees THE CARS hit album “Heartbeat City [Expanded & Remastered +7]“, produced by Mutt Lange. Honoring the legendary band’s incredible musical legacy and enormous commercial success, Rhino records kick off the celebration with this remastered / expanded edition. The release features the original album expanded with rare and unreleased bonus tracks.
For “Heartbeat City”, The Cars decided to change things up, this time moving from their home studio in Boston to London to record with uber producer Mutt Lange.
Lange was coming off a string of sleek modern hits, most recently Def Leppard’s Pyromania, and The Cars put themselves in Lange’s capable and demanding hands.
They spent six months in the studio painstakingly putting the album together, sometimes spending days getting the right bass sound or vocal take. The band members were rarely in the room at the same time and instead of using live drums on the record, Lange and David Robinson put together drum tracks using samples of Robinson’s playing.
This sounds a bit like the recipe for Mutt Lange unique productions, and much like Pyromania, “Heartbeat City” is a gleaming rock&pop masterpiece.
The producer’s golden touch, the strength of the songs Ric Ocasek wrote, and the stunning vocal performance both he and Benjamin Orr deliver make the album one of the best of the ’80s and something that still sounds perfect many years later.
It’s a near-total reboot of the Cars’ sound, giving them a thoroughly modern upgrade while still retaining enough of the DNA from their early hits to keep it a Cars album.
Songs like “You Might Think” and “Magic” have the power chords and chugging rhythms, “It’s Not the Night” has the dramatic emotion, and “Looking for Love” has some chirpy new wave in the verses, but most of the album takes the band to new places.
“Hello Again” is arena-sized rock with some very Def Lep backing vocals — something that pops up on almost every song — and “Drive” is a timelessly romantic ballad that perfects the MOR sound that the previous album hinted at.
The title track is moody soft pop with smooth synth pads and a crooning vocal by Ocasek, “Stranger Eyes” is basically a mash-up of Def Lep and The Cars with the addition of a few wonderfully corny synth sound effects, and “It’s Not the Night” is pure AOR balladry that sounds like it could have been on Foreigner 4, another record Lange produced.
This late 2018 reissue of the album adds many interesting extra tracks. Early versions of album tracks like “Heartbeat City” (titled “Jacki”) and “Why Can’t I Have You” (titled “One More Time”) are educational, the smooth demo of “Drive” is fascinating, and the addition of the almost funky B-side “Breakaway” shows other side of the band.
It also adds “Tonight She Comes,” the band-produced single from 1985.
Overall, “Heartbeat City” is a masterful example of how a band can reinvent itself without losing what made it great in the first place.
Credit Lange’s production savvy, Ocasek’s songwriting genius, or the band’s dedication to adding just what each song needed; when you combine them all it makes for brilliant ’80s stuff and one of the landmark albums of the era.
you’ve seen it first at 0dayrox
01 – Hello Again
02 – Looking for Love
03 – Magic
04 – Drive
05 – Stranger Eyes
06 – You Might Think
07 – It’s Not the Night
08 – Why Can’t I Have You
09 – I Refuse
10 – Heartbeat City
11 – Hello Again (Remix Version)
12 – Drive (Demo)
13 – One More Time (Early Version of ‘Why Can’t I Have You’)
14 – Baby I Refuse (Early Version of ‘I Refuse’)
15 – Jacki (Early Version of ‘Heartbeat City’)
16 – Breakaway (B-Side of ‘Why Can’t I Have You’)
17 – Tonight She Comes
Ric Ocasek – vocals, guitar
Ben Orr – vocals, bass
Elliot Easton – guitar, vocals
Greg Hawkes – keyboards, vocals, Fairlight CMI programming
David Robinson – drums, Fairlight programming
Robert John “Mutt” Lange – claps, production
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