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.
Back in the mid 90s when melodic rock was going through a bit of a purple patch with regards to independent releases, Scandinavian Whitesnake obsessives Snakes In Paradise released two excellent records in the classic rock mould; albums which owed so much to David Coverdale and company, yet came with their own European charm largely thanks to vocalist Stefan Berggren, one of the best voices in the business at that time. After the demise of Snakes In Paradise, Berggren made a very logical move and joined Company of Snakes, a band featuring ex-Whitesnake members Bernie Marsden, Micky Moody and Neil Murray which, as you’d expect, drew more heavily from the ‘Snake’s enduring legacy.
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.
Shortly after the demise of the short-lived Emerson Lake & Powell, keyboard maestro Keith Emerson and drummer Carl Palmer teamed up with ex-Hush multi-instrumentalist Robert Berry to form the melodic rock outfit 3. Their sole album, 1988’s ‘To The Power of Three’ presented a great selection of melodic tunes with occasional progressive flourishes, but despite yielding a US hit single, the album itself wasn’t a commercial success on either side of the Atlantic.
By the early nineties, Keith and Carl had reunited with their old bandmate Greg Lake, whilst Berry embarked on what was to be a very prolific decade of recording. He recorded albums with AOR band Alliance, contributed to several progressive rock tribute albums and even re-booted his solo career. His 1992 release ‘Pilgrimage To A Point’ is a melodic rock/accessible prog classic and in ‘Last Ride Into The Sun’ (an unreleased leftover from the 3 days) even gave prog rock fans something infinitely more proggy than the commercially driven 3 album had allowed.
Between 2006 and 2012, legendary rock vocalist Joe Lynn Turner lent his talents to three great albums by Sunstorm; releases which celebrated his many years on the melodic rock scene as well as added to his impressive catalogue. 2012’s ‘Emotional Fire’ was especially interesting as it revisited Joe’s 80s legacy, presenting covers of songs on which he’d originally contributed backing vocals. In the hands of Sunstorm, Michael Bolton’s ‘Gina’ and ‘You Wouldn’t Know Love’ (a big hit for Cher, and old a final voyage into rock for “old two haircuts” himself) sounded as good as ever. Although 2016’s ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ was an enjoyable record and a worthy addition to the Sunstorm catalogue, it gained more of a mixed response for a couple of reasons: firstly, it had a rockier feel and furthermore, it was effectively Sunstorm in name only – Turner was now fronting a completely different band.