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6 Degrees Entertainment

Title - 'Classic Years: 1978-1990' [9CD]
Artist - REO Speedwagon

For those not in the know, REO Speedwagon is an American rock band from Champaign, Illinois. Formed in 1967, the band cultivated a following during the 1970s and achieved significant commercial success throughout the 1980s.

Indeed, Hi Infidelity (1980) contained four US Top 40 hits and is the group's best-selling album, with over ten million copies sold.

Over the course of its career, the band has sold more than 40 million records and has charted thirteen Top 40 hits, including the number ones 'Keep On Loving You' and 'Can't Fight This Feeling'.

REO Speedwagon's mainstream popularity may well have waned in the late 1980s, much like en mass of other bands of their ilk, but the band remains a popular live act even today.

With the release of this incredible new 9CD box-set entitled REO Speedwagon Classic Years: 1978-1990 (out March 1st via Cherry Red Records UK), as well as extensive liner notes from Malcolm Dome, this expansive set features a wealth of bonus tracks.

CD 1: You Can Tune A Piano But You Can't Tuna Fish (1978)
1. 'Roll with the Changes'
2. 'Blazin' Your Own Trail Again'
3. 'Time for Me to Fly'
4. 'Lucky for You'
5. 'The Unidentified Flying Tuna Trot'
6. 'Say You Love Me or Say Goodnight'
7. 'Runnin' Blind'
8. 'Do You Know Where Your Woman Is Tonight?'
9. 'Sing to Me'
10. 'Roll with the Changes' (Short Version)
11. 'Roll with the Changes' (Long Version)
12. 'Time for Me to Fly' (Edit)
Live Again - Promo 1978
13. 'Son of a Poor Mann'
14. '(I Believe) Our Time Is Gonna Come'
15. 'Flying Turkey Trot'
16. 'Keep Pushin'
17. 'Ridin' the Storm Out'
18. 'Piano Interlude'
19. '157 Riverside Avenue'

Ok, so this was just a slick pop album and probably the hard-rock and art-rock snobs hated it. Musically, there's nothing original here, and lyrically there's probably nothing original either (how many more song about getting over disappearing love does the world need?). But damnit, slick pop or not, this is good stuff!

Gary Richrath's guitar work is intense, showing that you can have fiery playing in pop music. And when Neal Doughty's keyboards poke their way up past the guitars, they add a rollicking bouncy feel that nonetheless remains consistent with the intense sound of the guitars.

Oh, and this is also a GREAT album because there's no "filler" in it. Every song is good. How 'bout them apples!

CD 2: Nine Lives (1979)
1. 'Heavy on Your Love'
2. 'Drop It (An Old Disguise)'
3. 'Only the Strong Survive'
4. 'Easy Money'
5. 'Rock & Roll Music'
6. 'Take Me'
7. 'I Need You Tonight'
8. 'Meet Me on the Mountain'
9. 'Back on the Road Again'
Bonus Tracks
10. 'Easy Money' (Edit)
11. '157 Riverside Avenue (Live)'
12. 'Ridin' the Storm Out (Live)'

Back in the day, Nine Lives was better than I went in expecting. By this point the band was so commercial-heavy with the power ballad direction that found them worldwide success that I went into the album believing the bands sophomore release would be nothing but.

A track such as 'Back On the Road Again' is an awesome rocker. A scorching, heavy (if not particularly fast moving) guitar riff that dominates the pace all the way through, and vocals that carry the guitar work just fine.

'Meet Me On the Mountain' has another pretty fantastic set of vocals. It's a singalong-type melody that instantly wins the listener over. 'Easy Money' is fairly generic with the loud guitars conveniently being in front of the chorus, but at least the verse melody has room to shine (because that's easily the best part of the song).

The other stand out here is 'Heavy On Your Love,' which showcases Cronin's singing style really well. I mean, when you consider the heavy and upbeat nature of the guitar playing, it's not only a perfect opener, but a personal favorite. REALLY good guitar solo as well.

CD 3: Hi Infidelity (1980)
1. 'Don't Let Him Go'
2. 'Keep on Loving You'
3. 'Follow My Heart'
4. 'In Your Letter'
5. 'Take It on the Run'
6. 'Tough Guys'
7. 'Out of Season'
8. 'Shakin' It Loose'

Hi Infidelity would prove to be REO's most successful album spawning several huge hit singles and sitting on top of the album chart for a multitude of weeks.

Although the public seemed to love it, for older REO fans this one was a huge letdown. REO had been toiling away for years in the Midwest before this thing broke the dam wide open.

'Don't Let Him Go', 'Keep On Loving You', 'Take It On The Run', and 'Tough Guys' were all top 40 hit singles, and pretty much everything else on the record was played on AOR radio.

CD 4: Hi Infidelity - Bonus Tracks
1. 'Someone Tonight'
2. 'I Wish You Were There'
3. 'Someone Tonight'
4. 'Tough Guys'
5. 'In Your Letter'
6. 'Follow My Heart'
7. 'Take It on the Run'
8. 'Don't Let Him Go'
9. Keep on Loving You'
10. Shakin' It Loose'
11. I Wish You Were There'
12. Don't Let Him Go' (Edit)
13. Take It on the Run' (Edit)
14. Don't Let Him Go'
15. Keep on Loving You'
16. Take It on the Run'
17. In Your Letter'
18. Keep on Loving You ('89 Reggae Version)'

CD 5: Good Trouble (1982)
1. 'Keep the Fire Burnin'
2. 'Sweet Time'
3. 'Girl with the Heart of Gold'
4. 'Every Now and Then'
5. 'I'll Follow You'
6. 'The Key'
7. 'Back in My Heart Again'
8. 'Let's Be-Bop'
9. 'Stillness of the Night'
10. 'Good Trouble'

Simply put, if you liked Hi Infidelity this is the perfect musical bookend. In fact, it sounds like Gary Richrath and Neil Dougherty decided to amp up these songs with a more REO-like sound.

But Good Trouble has the same gleam of Infidelity. Kevin sounds more like the 'Ridin' Out The Storm' Kevin. And Bruce Hall makes some nice contributions to the album as well.

'Keep The Fire Burning' is the obvious single, but 'Sweet Time' has an echo of 'Time For Me To Fly' and is rather terrific sounding (should have been a #1 single, in my humble opinion).

'I'll Follow You' completely rocks and finds Neil banging the keyboards with abandon whereas on another underrated favorite of mine, 'The Key,' Kevin gets to stretch his vocals brilliantly.

CD 6: Wheels Are Turnin' (1984)
1. I Do Wanna Know'
2. One Lonely Night'
3. Thru the Window'
4. Rock 'N Roll Star'
5. Live Every Moment'
6. Can't Fight This Feeling'
7. Gotta Feel More'
8. Break His Spell'
9. Wheels Are Turnin'
Bonus Tracks
10. I Do Wanna Know' (Short Version)
11. Live Every Moment' (Edit)
12. Wherever You're Goin' (It's Alright)' (Remix)
13. Gotta Feel More' (Radio Mix Long Version)
14. Gotta Feel More' (Radio Mix Short Version)
15. Wherever You're Goin' (It's Alright)' (from "The Goonies")

This album is directly in line with anything that REO Speedwagon had done before it's release in 1984. There is nothing special, nor specific about this album that they hadn't tackled before. Indeed, the album is as good as anything before it (like Hi Infidelity in 1980).

Much like the aforementioned Hi Infidelity and Good Trouble before it, Wheels Are Turning is yet another slick blend of power pop ('I Do'wanna Know' being the best of its kind) and power ballad ('Can't Fight This Feeling' being the best of its kind).

With the exception of the most underrated REO Speedwagon track, 'Live Every Moment' (which is easily one of their catchiest tunes to date) and the almost-hit of 'One Lonely Night', which was well written and has an extremely catchy bridge, the album is near-flawless.

CD 7:
Life As We Know It (1987)
1. 'New Way to Love'
2. 'That Ain't Love'
3. 'In My Dreams'
4. 'One Too Many Girlfriends'
5. 'Variety Tonight'
6. 'Screams and Whispers'
7. 'Can't Get You Out of My Heart'
8. 'Over the Edge'
9. 'Accidents Can Happen'
10. 'Tired of Gettin Nowhere'
11. 'Variety Tonight' (Edit)
12. 'I Don't Want to Lose You' (The Hits)
13. 'Here with Me' (The Hits)
14. 'Here with Me' (Radio Edit)

Well, as all you fans may well be aware, it took another 3 years before the world had a new REO album and, sadly, this one would prove to be the end of the line for the most famous lineup of the band.

Not to delve too deeply into it, but guitarist and band founder Gary Richrath was in the grips of serious substance abuse by this time while the rest of the band was turning into health nuts.

Furthermore, the album would end up being the last with Richrath who was such an essential part of the REO sound. Drummer Alan Gratzer was also getting tired of the road and would retire soon after the albums release.

That all said, Life As We Know It did continue the band's commercial success with the big hits such as the rocking 'That Ain't Love' and the stirring ballad 'In My Dreams,' both reaching the top 40.

CD 8: The Earth, A Small Man, His Dog and a Chicken (1990)
1. 'Love Is a Rock'
2. 'The Heart Survives'
3. 'Live It Up'
4. 'All Heaven Broke Loose'
5. 'Love in the Future'
6. 'Half Way'
7. 'Love to Hate'
8. 'You Won't See Me'
9. 'Can't Lie to My Heart'
10. 'L.I.A.R'
11. 'Go for Broke'
12. 'All Heaven Broke Loose' (Album Version-More Guitar)
13. 'All Heaven Broke Loose' (Single Version-More Vocal)
14. 'Just for You' (Radio Edit)
15. 'Just for You' (The Ballads, Full Length Version)
16. 'Til the Rivers'

So, if you're following along at home, by the time this album was released founding members Gary Richrath and Alan Gratzer had departed from the group being replaced by Dave Amato and Bryan Hitt (to form the current REO Speedwagon touring lineup.

The album starts off with a handful of mellow tracks such as 'Love Is A Rock', 'The Heart Survives', 'All Heaven Broke Loose', and tracks such as 'L.I.A.R.' and 'Half Way' are definite stand out highlight too.

CD 9: Live 1980-1990
1. 'Don't Let Him Go' (Kemper Arena 1985) 2. 'Tough Guys' (Kemper Arena 1985) 3. 'Take It on the Run' (Kemper Arena 1985) 4. 'I Do Wanna Know' (Kemper Arena 1985) 5. 'Can't Fight This Feeling' (Kemper Arena 1985) 6. 'Keep the Fire Burning' (Rockford Metro Centre 1983) 7. 'Roll with the Changes' (Rockford Metro Centre 1983) 8. 'That Ain't Love' (Kiel Auditorium, St Louis 1987) 9. 'Back on the Road Again' (Blaisdell Arena, Honolulu 1989) 10. 'Live It Up' (Club Eastbrook, Grand Rapids) 11. 'Roll with the Changes' (Denver, Co 1981) 12. 'Ridin' the Storm Out' (Denver, Co 1981) 13. 'Keep on Lovin' You' (Indianapolis, in 1984) 14. 'Johnny B. Goode' (Indianapolis, in 1985) 15. 'Can't Fight This Feeling' (Grand Rapids, Mi 1990) 16. 'Say You Love Me or Say Goodnight' (Alpine Valley, Wi 1980) 17. 'Time for Me to Fly' (St. Louis, Mo 1987).

As well as this expansive 9CD box-set featuring the wealth of aforementioned bonus tracks, there are also extensive liner notes from Malcolm Dome.