Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from May, 2019

REO Speedwagon: R.E.O./T.W.O. (1972)

Where we left off:
REO Speedwagon's first album was not a hit, and they were down one lead singer after Terry Luttrell's departure from the band.

*

In search of a new lead singer, REO guitarist Gary Richrath answered an ad for a "Musician Referral Service." Accounts differ on whether he saw the ad in a newspaper or a guitar shop, but either way it was really just a ruse concocted by a 20-year-old singer / songwriter named Kevin Cronin. Cronin was a native of the Chicago suburb Oak Lawn who was looking for a band to join and devised the referral service as a way to appear more accomplished than he actually was. When he got the call from the REO guys, he said he'd give them his best singer. "Who's that," they asked? "Well, it's me," Cronin replied.

That REO was taken in by this bit of subterfuge shows just how DIY they were in those early days, despite being signed to a major label and having a manager (fellow University of Illinois alum…

REO Speedwagon: R.E.O. Speedwagon (1971)

REO Speedwagon got its start in the late 1960s on the campus of the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana. The band grew out of a friendship between a students Neal Doughty (piano/keyboard) and Alan Gratzer (drums). Joining up with a couple of other musicians, they took the name R.E.O. Speedwagon. It wasn't long before they started getting gigs at parties and bars, doing covers of the hits of the day.

The band cycled through several players in its first three years, with Gratzer and Doughty as the only constants. One-by-one they added the members that would form the first "official" lineup: singer Terry Luttrell in early 1968, bassist Gregg Philbin later that summer, and guitarist Gary Richrath at the end of 1970. Richrath was a native of Peoria, 90 miles northwest of Champaign, and had essentially stalked the band until they let him join.

It was a good move, as he not only an accomplished guitarist, but also a songwriter. With Richrath the band ascended to the next…

The Summer of Speedwagon

In the history of 3 Minutes, 49 Seconds, I have four times taken on the task of writing about every single album by a particular artist.

I started where my music fandom started, with The Beatles. Next came XTC, then The Monkees, and finally "Weird Al" Yankovic.

This summer I'm embarking on another every-album project, albeit one of a different nature. Over the next 17 weeks I'm going to write about each of REO Speedwagon's 15 studio recordings, their 1977 live album, and the 1988 compilation, The Hits. Two of these will serve as "Rock Solid" and "Rock Bottom" entries.

There's a major difference between REO and those other four bands; the Beatles, XTC, The Monkees, "Weird Al" have each at some point in my life been my favorite musical artist. I was very familiar with their songs and histories when I started to write about them,

This is certainly not so for REO Speedwagon. Before starting this project, I only owned one non-compilat…

12 by...Prince (2004-2015)

The recent third anniversary of Prince's death set me off on a relistening jag. For whatever reason, I started with 2004's Musicology and moved forward from there to his final album, HitnRun Phase 2. This aural marathon has led me to a few conclusions about the final phase of Prince's career.

Overall, I find it much easier to appreciate all of his end-of-career albums and songs now that we know there's not any more where they came from. I like 2006's 3121 better than Musicology, which is a reversal from how I initially felt. 20Ten, which was included as newspaper and magazine giveaway in Europe, is an underrated disc that deserved a wider release. And while his final four albums are inconsistent, they're also full of gems.

So let's give latter-day Prince the "12 by..." treatment.

1. "Dear Mr. Man" (from Musicology, 2004)
It's not one of the more discussed aspects of his music, but there's a strong thread of social consciousness …

282: Refrigerated Love: Prodigal Sunshine

Following their 2011 album Inmortality, and its subsequent "You Didn't Know You Missed Us" tour, the British "heavy new wave arena metal" band did something unprecedented in their 32-year career: They walked away with their dignity intact. The 2000s had not been kind to the group that critic Jody Rosen once called "the cockroaches of pop." With their second Polydor contract expired and lyricist Elvis Hornman expelled from the band, the mojo that had sustained them since 1979 was gone.

They never officially broke up, but the four remaining band members went their own ways. Drummer "Pasty" Pete Pockhorn invested in a company - Hot Spot - that makes sunscreen specifically designed for men with male pattern baldness. Guitarist Nigel Hornblower surprised everyone by researching and writing a book about the history of guitar strings. Keyboardist Hornel Lieberman became an in-demand session player, working with the likes of Panic! At The Disco, Ari…

Rock Solid: Death Cab for Cutie

Welcome to Rock Solid, where we pseudo-scientifically determine the most beloved album in an artist's catalog. I've consulted two main sources. The All Music Guide provides the critical point-of-view and Amazon offers the fan perspective. The album with the highest combined rating from both sources is the one I'll consider the best. An artist's entire body of work is eligible, with one exception: No compilations (i.e. greatest hits). In each case, I'll also share my personal favorite album by the artist in question.

* * *
I mentioned in Death Cab for Cutie's that two of their albums ranked clearly above their other seven. Those two were Plans (2005) and We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes (2000). They were statistically tied at eight-and-a-half-stars each, but by the slimmest of margins Plans won the tiebreaker (61% five star reviews on Amazon versus 60% for We Have the Facts...).

You may by screaming in your mind, 'WHAT ABOUT TRANSATLANTICISM??!!??'…

Rock Bottom: Death Cab for Cutie

Every musician hits a bum note once in awhile. Sometimes they hit a whole album full of them. Those unlovable efforts are the ones this feature, Rock Bottom, is concerned with.  Here's how it works: I've consulted two main sources, the All Music Guide (for the critical point-of-view) and Amazon (for the fan perspective). The album with the lowest combined rating from both sources is the one I'll declare the worst. I may not agree with the choice, in which case I'll offer an alternative. Finally, there are some limits. The following types of albums don't count: 1) compilations (greatest hits, b-sides, remixes),  2) live albums, 3) albums recorded when the band was missing a vital member, and 4) forays into different genres (i.e. classical).

* * *
Death Cab for Cutie currently have nine studio albums. When I tabulated the scores, two tied for an eight-and-a-half rating (see their Rock Solid entry for details on which two), the next six tied at eight stars, and the fina…