During the first half of the 80s, REO Speedwagon were one of the bands who really helped define the sounds of the decade’s melodic rock. Along with Journey and Survivor, the band became US radio staples and their ‘Hi Infidelity’ and ‘Good Trouble’ albums sold in huge numbers. The REO story started much earlier, however, and before arriving at their signature sound on 1978’s ‘You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish’, the band honed their craft across a series of albums that dabble in different styles of rock, featuring a succession of different vocalists. This comprehensive box set tells the formative REO story, presenting each of the early albums with a smattering of bonus tracks.
Mott The Hoople were one of the great bands of the 1970s. Whilst principally known for their mega hits ‘All The Young Dudes’, ‘Roll Away The Stone’ and ‘All The Way From Memphis’, the Mott story started a few years earlier. Between 1969 and 1971, the band recorded four albums for Island Records of a far more experimental nature.
Those albums and various associated extras have been compiled on a lavish six disc box set entitled ‘Mental Train: The Island Years 1969-1971. A very comprehensive set, there’s never been a better way to experience a run of often overlooked albums.
A full press release can be read below.
A review of Ian Hunter’s ‘Fingers Crossed’ can be found here.
For melodic rock fans, REO Speedwagon are a much-loved band. Their massive 80s hits ‘Keep On Loving You’, ‘Take It On The Run’ and ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’ are genre classics…and for good reason. As bigger fans know, there’s always been more to the band than the 80s sheen of their career peak.
In the 70s, the band released a string of albums containing rockier material which, despite shifting band line ups, is every bit as entertaining as their better known material. Those earlier albums were host to more than their share of REO classics and tracks like ‘Ridin’ The Storm Out’ and ‘Time For Me To Fly’ have remained part of the live set for decades.
In March 2017, we created a playlist of some of our favourite 70s tunes. In an effort to shake up our spare time listening, the playlist included none of the usual stapes. There were no tracks by Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy or Led Zeppelin and yet we still managed to create a golden listening experience spanning several hours.
The experience got us thinking. What if we were to create extensive playlists of music we liked – or maybe brought back fond memories – for each year of the decade? Would one year stand out above all others? With this remit and using only two or three tracks per chosen album (maybe stretching to one extra in the instance of a double platter), we set to work.
The first Styx album (self-titled, 1972) is an overlooked slab of pomp rock. It’s not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but any band wishing to open their debut long player with a thirteen minute epic fusing hard rock with flourishes of Aaron Copland and what sounds like a conversation with a New York cabbie must have something, right? With that track, ‘Movement For The Common Man’, Styx announced their arrival in a typically grand style. The rest of the album, while nowhere near as complete sounding as 1977’s ‘Grand Illusion’ or as obviously song oriented as any of the albums from then onward, still makes for interesting listening decades after its original release. 1973’s ‘Styx II’, by contrast, is a more sedate affair – sedate in the world of early Styx means still very much still pompous and overblown – but, naturally, a bigger input from vocalist/pianist Dennis DeYoung, brought with it a much stronger element of musical theatre.
With these two records as a solid grounding, the band went all out for their next long player ‘The Serpent Is Rising’. Released in October 1973 – the third Styx LP to hit the shelves in just eighteen months – it has to be said, it has less of a focus than its predecessors. It doesn’t sound as if Styx had been tempted to use up leftover material though, rather more that this time out, the gloves were truly off. Coming from the days when bands were allowed to spend record company money (no matter how meagre a budget) while still very much on a learning curve, it sounds as if Styx intended to throw everything at this recording bar the kitchen sink to find out, once and for all, what styles worked for them…and which ones really didn’t.