Reviews Zone

R.E.O. Speedwagon: The Early Years 1971 -1977 (HNE Recordings) 28th September 2018

 

 


4 Stars (4 / 5)

 

 

 

Music triggers memories. Some good, some bad sometimes.

We can often trace our lives by the soundtrack to it; and pin down where we were and what were doing, and our age at the time of hearing certain songs and records.

Our tastes change of course, as we grow older, and some of the music we hear in our formative years stays with us like a treasured and sentimental item from back in the day, until  our last breath.

In respect of US “soft rock” legends R.E.O. Speedwagon, when I hear some of their stuff, I am back tuning into Radio Luxembourg and later John Peel and Bob Harris shows on BBC Radio 1.

Watching the Old Grey Whistle test on BBC 2 on TV too, again with “Whispering” Bob Harris at the helm. I think I even picked up an R.E.O. Speedwagon button badge in a second hand record store years ago, but not sure what happened to that.

In bringing this bumper eight disc box set to Music Republic Magazine’s readers’ attention, I will be preaching to the converted for many, as this band still have a large loyal following.

With a release date of today, 28th September 2018, many will already have pre-ordered yonks ago. But for those who may have been living in a cave since the 70s or just not come across this band before, some history…

They shot to fame with big hits and stacks of radio airplay globally in the 1980s, but actually formed back in 1967 in Illinois, and were releasing albums from the start of the 70s.

You may remember their biggies: “Keep On Loving You”, “Take It On The Run’” and “Can’t Fight This Feeling”, at their 80s peak. Not to forget their live favourities, “Time To Fly” and “Ridin’ The Storm Out”.

But they started out playing covers in bars and frat’ houses, with Neal Doughty on keyboards, Alan Gratzer on drums and vocals, Joe Matt on guitar and vocals and Mike Blair on bass and vocals. The band’s name? Came from the R.E.O. Speed Wagon, a model of American flat-bed truck.

They cut their debut LP on Epic Records in 1971, with a line-up of Terry Luttrell on lead vocals, Gary Richrath on guitar and Gregg Philbin on bass, joining Neal Doughty and Alan Gratzer.

Richrath influential in the song writing and musical direction of the band, and by the release of their sophomore album: “R.E.O./T.W.O.”, the band were joined by Kevin Cronin on lead vocals.

But his tenure with R.E.O. was cut short when he was replaced on lead vocals by Mike Murphy for 1973’s “Ridin’ The Storm Out”, 1974’s “Lost In A Dream” and 1975’s “This Time We Mean It”, the latter co-produced by future Eagles producer, Bill Szymczyk.

By 1976’s “R•E•O”, Kevin Cronin had returned to the fold, making a significant contribution to the song writing alongside Gary Richrath. Produced by John Stronach, “R•E•O” would also be the last studio LP to feature Gregg Philbin on bass, who’d be replaced by Bruce Hall following 1977’s double concert album “Live (You Get What You Play For)”.

That live album went Platinum the following year, and did well on the US chart.  It was recorded at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, the Convention Center, Indianapolis, Indiana, Kiel Auditorium, Saint Louis, Missouri and the Electric Ballroom in Atlanta, Georgia.

So back to September 2018, and this latest release; a comprehensive eight-disc set featuring a wealth of bonus tracks.

CD1: “R.E.O. Speedwagon” from 1971 features “mono single” versions of ‘”157 Riverside Avenue”, “Lay Me Down” and “Sophisticated Lady”.

CD2: “R.E.O. T.W.O.” from ‘72 features a “mono single” cover of Chuck Berry’s “Little Queenie”.

CD3: “Ridin’ The Storm Out” from 1973, features bonus “mono single” versions of “Ridin’ The Storm Out”, “Open Up” plus “Ridin’ The Storm Out” and “Son Of A Poor Man”, featuring Kevin Cronin on vocals.

CD4: “Lost In A Dream” from 1974 features a “mono single” version “Throw The Chains Away”.

CD5: “This Time We Meant It” released in 1975, features “mono single” versions of “Reelin’’ and “Out Of Control”.

CD6: “R•E•O” from ’76 – “mono single” version of “Keep Pushin’’ plus a live take of the same song.

CD7 & CD8: “Live (You Get What You Play For)” from 1977, restores the record to its original full length double album by including both “Gary’s Guitar Solo” and “Little Queenie”, which were omitted from the original single CD release due to time constraints.

This superb and extensive set offers up extensive liner notes from writer Malcolm Dome.

 

By Sally Fox

 

 


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