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Showing posts from June, 2019

REO Speedwagon: R.E.O. (1976)

Where we left off:
REO Speedwagon fired their lead singer...again! Mike Murphy, who'd piloted three records with the band, was gone, and so began the search for yet another new frontman.

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Here's where things get strange. To replace Murphy, the REO guys (Neal Doughty, Alan Gratzer, Gary Richrath, and Gregg Philbin) auditioned Peoria, Illinois native Gary X. Volz, who was late of a group called the e Band. REO liked what they heard and offered Volz the gig. But the singer worried that the heavy touring rock 'n' roll lifestyle would clash with his values, and declined. (Volz would go on to great success with Christian rock band Petra in the 1980s).

The guys had noted that Volz sounded somewhat like their second singer, Kevin Cronin. And in the years since his departure, Cronin had kept in touch with one of the band's managers, sending along demo of new songs, perhaps in hopes the band would record them or perhaps in hopes of landing management himself. For his part, …

REO Speedwagon: This Time We Mean It (1975)

Where we left off:
REO Speedwagon's second album with lead singer Michael Murphy (and fourth overall), Lost in a Dream, found them in a collaborative spirit. Though it didn't contain any hits, it was their highest charting record to date.

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This Time We Mean It was a brave title for a record. REO drummer Alan Gratzer says it was a born of frustration, a plea for people to pay attention and start buying their records. But it's very easy to misinterpret as they band saying they were just kind of goofing around up to this point, which we know wasn't the case.

At any rate, the band's fifth album was released just 9 months after their previous record, a clear attempt to build some commercial momentum. . Not surprising since the two groups played shows together and shared a manager in Irving Azoff, REO here seem to be reaching to become the midwest's answer to the Eagles. They brought on Eagles producers Allan Blazek and Bill Szymczyk to record the album. They even co…

REO Speedwagon: Lost in a Dream (1974)

Where We Left Off:
REO rejiggeredRidin' the Storm Outon the fly after losing singer Kevin Cronin during the making of the album. Michael Murphy replaced him.

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Lost in a Dream has the distinction of being the first REO Speedwagon album to feature the same singer as the previous album. Once again helmed by producer Bill Halverson, the album came out just 10 months after its predecessor.

Murphy was fully integrated into REO now, writing or co-writing half the songs on the record. Gary Richrath wrote four more, and keyboardist Neal Doughty offered his first solo composition, the rollicking "Sky Blues." Murphy's songs integrate well with Richrath's, in some case working in the same boogie woogie blues milieu ("Do Your Best" and "You Can Fly") but in other places pushing the band toward a more groovy pop direction ("Give Me a Ride (Roller Coaster)" sounds like it could have scored a montage in a Scooby Doo episode, and that's not inten…

REO Speedwagon: Ridin' the Storm Out (1973)

Where we left off: REO Speedwagon made their second album, R.E.O./T.W.O. with new lead singer Kevin Cronin. The album failed to crack the Billboard Top 200.
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Despite their lack of commercial success, REO were building a reputation as an ace live band, and were able to draw big crowds in their native midwest. They also became known as a reliable opening act for bands that were selling a lot more records than them.
Perhaps that's why Epic continued to stick with REO, and allowed them to make a third record, and they even got a "hot" producer. By 1973, Bill Halverson had made his name engineering albums for the Beach Boys, Cream, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and Bill Withers. They also got some big name support, getting Joe Walsh to play slide guitar on three songs.
But all was not well. Cronin quit the band just as the album was nearly completed. In fact, it was so close to done that the cover photo shoot had already been completed. Cronin now blames a false diagnosis from a…