Thursday, October 6, 2011

REO Speedwagon--Ridin' The Storm Out (1973)

     REO Speedwagon has always been a difficult subject for me to address. The group that many remember was an arena rock force in the early/mid' 1980's, and were known for the album, "Hi Infidelity" (and those....ballads).

     The REO we grew up with however was a much different animal. Starting out in the late 60's as a college covers band out of Southern Illinois University, their debut album came out in 1971. Driven by the guitar and songwriting of new member Gary Richrath, they did well in the new underground FM market in St. Louis. Although switching lead vocals three times on the first three albums, they continued to grow and was doing very well playing the bar circuit in the mid-west. For my money those first three albums hold up better than just about anything in their catalog. 

     A few more years of albums and touring led up to a make or break album that the folks at Epic records shockingly allowed them to produce themselves. This lead to the breakthrough album, "You Get What You Play For" in 1977. It went gold, and set the table for the album, "You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can't Tune a Fish" which became a mainstream success.

      I have nothing against the 80's stuff, and my wife tells me I have a bias about groups that started out in the mid-west, became well known regionally, then became famous (Kansas, Journey, Styx...etc). Maybe it's a belief that once the money started rolling in, the music became more product and less inspired?? Am not sure, but what is for sure is that record companies do not allow for this kind of development any more, and that is a shame. In today's musical climate, none of those groups I mentioned would have gotten past the first couple of albums before being dropped.


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