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Showing posts from July, 2019

REO Speedwagon: High Infidelity (1980)

Where We Left Off:
REO stumbled sales-wise with their hard-rock turn, Nine Lives, threatening the commercial momentum they'd been building. Though losing patience, Epic issued an REO compilation, A Decade of Rock 'n' Roll 1970 - 1980, featuring a couple of tracks from each album. It was a prescient move, as interest in the band would soon skyrocket.

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You knew it was coming. Hi Infidelity, released in November 1980, is the album that made REO Speedwagon household names. After 10 years of languishing in the lower recesses of the rock hierarchy, the band finally broke through. Hi Infidelity would spend fifteen weeks at the top of the Billboard charts, making it the best-selling album of 1981. It spawned four top-25 singles and has sold over 10 million copies to date.

The album's astonishing success is at least partly attributable to a very aggressive radio marketing campaign from Epic (the result, according to Frederic Dannen's 1990 book Hit Men, of the band gifting …

REO Speedwagon: Nine Lives (1979)

Where We Left Off:
With Kevin Cronin back on lead vocals and Bruce Hall replacing Gregg Philbin on bass, REO Speedwagon were finally building sales momentum with two successful albums in a row.

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Nine Lives was released in July of 1979. The title was likely a reference to the fact that it was the band's ninth album (if you include You Get What You Play For), as well as the fact that they'd survived a level of turmoil that would have been the end of a band with less fortitude. There are also nine songs on the album.

Perhaps the most interesting and puzzling thing about this record - both in sound and in presentation - is how much it represented a swerve away from You Can Tune a Piano...You'd think that having finally hit on a successful formula REO would want to repeat it. But on the whole the music on Nine Lives abandons the countryish pop rock of the previous record in favor of a faster, harder sound, way more "Ridin' the Storm Out" than "Time For Me t…

REO Speedwagon: You Can Tune a Piano, But Can You Tuna Fish? (1978)

Where we left off:
REO Speedwagon finally had a sales success with their 1977 live album, You Get What You Play For. But they lost their bass player, Gregg Philbin.

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REO Speedwagon, though now based out of Los Angeles, returned home to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois to find their new bassist. They had a pretty good idea of who they wanted, but they needed to make sure. So they went to a show at the one of their old regular venues, the Red Lion, and sat in with the Jesse Ross Band. That group featured their old friend Bruce Hall, who had co-written "Lost in a Dream" on the album of the same name. It was a covert audition.

Hall recalls that after the gig the REO guys didn't even ask him if he wanted to join, they just sent him a plane ticket to L.A. In the late 1960s Hall had been in a band called Feather Train with Gary Richrath before the latter begged his way into REO Speedwagon. "When Gary left Feather Train, he promised we'd work together again," Hall recal…

One Last Mix for Shalini

Note:
I published this on my author website (www.paulvallen.com) last year, but realized that it fits better here.

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My dear friend Shalini Dhuria Van Hoek died in the early hours of January 2, 2018 after suffering a brain aneurysm two days earlier. She was 43 years old. I met the news – delivered via a Facebook post by her husband Pim – with complete disbelief followed by utter despair. I’d known Shalini for over 18 years. She was the first friend I made upon moving to Minneapolis in the fall of 1999. She was one of the most caring, giving, and funny people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, and it’s a very cruel trick that she’s gone.


Shal and I connected initially, and then continually after that, over a shared love of music, especially live music. Our tastes weren’t exactly alike, but we loved a lot of the same bands – Toad the Wet Sprocket, They Might Be Giants, Matthew Sweet – and were able to turn one another on to a good many others. I made her dozens of mix CDs over the cours…

REO Speedwagon: Live - You Get What You Play For (1977)

Where we left off:
R.E.O. Speedwagon reunited with their second (of three) lead singers, Kevin Cronin, and released R.E.O.. The album didn't produce any hits, nor did it sell well.

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I feel it must be mentioned again how incredibly patient Epic Records was with REO Speedwagon. By 1977 the band had been with the label for 6 years, but had yet to produce anything even approaching a sales success, and yet the label stuck by them. The band, having noticed the disparity between their sales and the ecstatic reception they got at shows (sometimes as headliners, more often at this point still as an opener for artists such as Joe Cocker, J. Geils Band, Rainbow, Heart, and Bachman-Turner Overdrive), proposed a live album. This, they argued, would show fans who hadn't seen them in concert what REO Speedwagon was really capable of.

The massive success of KISS's Alive! and Peter Frampton's Frampton Comes Alive made their case for them. And thus Epic issued the double album Live - Y…