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Showing posts from August, 2019

REO Speedwagon: Life As We Know It (1987)

Where We Left Off:
Wheels Are Turnin' was REO Speedwagon's third consecutive multi-million selling album, producing the #1 hit "Can't Fight This Feeling."


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Produced by the same team as Wheels Are Turnin' (Cronin, Richrath, Gratzer, and David DeVore), Life As We Know It was recorded while when Kevin Cronin was going through a divorce. He says making the album was a welcome distraction from his family falling apart. At the same time, his relationship with Gary Richrath was fraught with tension.

That set of circumstances played a huge part in the album's lyrical content, and knowing the record was the last one for the band's classic line-up makes for an intriguing listen. For example, it's commonly held that "Too Many Girlfriends," a tune about someone running too hot for too long, is Cronin taking a shot at Richrath. This is most evident in the self-referencing line, "he better find the one / he's gonna take on the run / before it…

Let Him Entertain You: An American's Guide to Robbie Williams

“Your country’s refusal to embrace Robbie Williams will forever baffle me.” - Shivrang, New Girl

Dear Citizens of the United States,

You have been missing out.

Great Britain has always had celebrities, songs, and TV shows that don't make it across the ocean and into our pop culture consciousness. For every Bob the Builder and Doctor Who there's a Blue Peter and My Hero. For every Radiohead there's a Super Furry Animals, for every One Direction a Girls Aloud.

Not everything needs to cross over. But, as Shivrang said, the fact that Robbie Williams hasn't is one of the biggest head-scratchers of modern music history. He's got the whole package: catchy radio-ready tunes, great live performances, charm and personality, arresting videos. In the UK all but one of his 11 studio albums have gone to #1 (my favorite 2009's Reality Killed the Video Star only got to #2). He's also had seven #1 singles. In terms of chart performance, Robbie being anonymous here in the US…

REO Speedwagon: Wheels Are Turnin' (1984)

Where we left off:
REO Speedwagon rushed into the studio to follow up the mega-selling Hi Infidelity, producing Good Trouble. The album sold well and featured two top 40 hits, but was nonetheless seen as a disappointment.

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Part of REO's disappointment with Good Trouble was that they'd felt hurried to complete it. They were also, according to the band's VH1 Behind the Music, seriously overindulging in drugs and alcohol. With their next album, they tried to rectify both of these problems. Kevin Cronin led the band (all save guitarist Gary Richrath) on a campaign of improved diet and exercise, and encouraged everyone to moderate their drinking and drug use. And the group took its time in crafting and choosing the songs that would end up comprising Wheels Are Turnin'. Cronin, Richrath, and drummer Alan Gratzer produced, bringing in David Devore (Grateful Dead, Fleetwood Mac, Santana, Foreigner) for production and engineering assistance.

When writing about Good Trouble I r…

REO Speedwagon: Good Trouble (1982)

Where we left off:
REO Speedwagon became household names with the massive sales of Hi Infidelity and the number 1 hit "Keep On Loving You."

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The common narrative pushed by a certain segment of REO Speedwagon fans and various critics is that the breakthrough of Hi Infidelity led the band to abandon their rock bonafides and become a synth band that mostly wrote ballads.

As direct evidence that this is a false narrative, I offer you Good Trouble. From the organ solo on opener "Keep the Fire Burnin'" to the atmospheric rock of Gary Richrath's "Stillness of the Night," Good Trouble is very much continuous with the REO of 1976 on.

Released in June 1982, meaning the guys barely had a moment to breathe following the mega-tour for Hi Infidelity, Good Trouble is in many ways the yang to its predecessor's yin. While Hi Infidelity was a loose concept album about heartbreak, this one is heavy on love songs and devotionals. Cronin's ballad "Sweet …