Two were top five singles “Keep on Lovin’ You” at number 1 and “Take it on the Run” peaking at #5. Two singles charted within the top 30: “Don’t Let Him Go” at 24 and “In Your Letter” at 20. The two remaining singles, “Tough Guys” and “Out of Season," failed to chart in the Hot 100; however, they did manage to make it onto the Rock chart.
To many, “Hi Infidelity” was their first album. Unfortunately, a number of great songs recorded by the band during the previous decade were being ignored due to their three album run of Top 40 success. Hence, I have decided to feature some of their better early music to fulfill the musical malnutrition of the mainstream with “REO Speedwagon before ‘Hi Infidelity.’”
I had an opportunity to see and meet the band in 1985 and 1987. While it was after their classic period, many of the songs during their shows featured the songs that follow.
Ridin’ the Storm Out
It was during the fall of 1973 that I became familiar with REO Speedwagon. I can almost hear it now. It was a warm fall afternoon on the campus of Kentucky Christian. Someone had their dorm room windows open and the stereo’s speakers were blaring out the opening synthesizer of “Ridin’ the Storm Out.” At the song’s end, Jack O’Shea of KEE radio in Huntington, WV, back sold the song, “That was REO Speedwagon with ‘RIdin’ the Storm Out.’”
Great memories and a great tune; “Ridin’ the Storm Out” was the band’s third album and lead vocalist Kevin Cronin had left the band during its production. Michael Murphy was brought in to fill the role as the band’s front man.
The cover photo shoot in which Cronin was a part was altered and airbrushed over with a photo of Murphy in his place. In 1977, “Ridin’ the Storm Out” was re-released as a live cut with Cronin singing lead. The new version barely made the charts with a dismal showing at 94. The synth portemento that opens the song is a definite REO signature. Neil Doughty played an early Mini-Moog on this cut. Its three oscillators provided the unique textured sound that was used on this cut.
While “Golden Country” was from the second album “R.E.O. T .W.O,” I never heard this song until 1974 when WAMX began playing album rock music late at nights. Bob Lee, who worked nights in those days, would bring his albums into the studio then located at the tower site on Terrapin Ridge Road south of Ashland, KY.
This social consciousness song shows off the talents of Gary Richrath who not only is a fantastic guitarist, but who is also an excellent songwriter as well. Kevin Cronin sings lead.
In 1976, Kevin Cronin rejoined the band for their sixth LP “R.E.O.” or the one I refer to as the “Cow Album.” While this version of the Cronin composition isn’t from the “R.E.O.” album, it was recorded live on the tour to support the album and subsequently appeared on their 1977 live album “Live: You Get What You Play For.”
Roll With The Changes
From an album that I generally consider one of the best titles ever, “You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish,” “Roll With Changes” was another single release for the band that failed to break the 50 mark into the top 40. Kevin Cronin wrote this tune and this live version comes from a 1978 edition of “Midnight Special.” It goes to show that you don’t have to be in church to have great interplay between a piano and organ.
Time for me to Fly
Another single from “You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish,” “Time for me to Fly” is a hint of the ballad hits that REO would score with in the 1980s. Another Kevin Cronin composition, this song failed to break the Top 40; however, the album was their first to chart within that range. It also was their first multi-platinum LP and sold in excess of two million copies.
Backstage pass signed by REO Speedwagon
Epic Records believed so much in this song that charted at 56 in 1978 to rerelease it as the single from their greatest hits album “A Decade of Rock and Roll: 1970 to 1980.” The second time around in 1980, the song only peaked at 77.