After leaving Rainbow in the mid-80s, keyboard player David Rosenthal began writing songs with a budding AOR singer named Mitch Malloy. The sessions produced some fantastic material, but circumstances changed and recording sessions for a proposed album were abandoned. Malloy subsequently recorded a solo album (a self-titled release, it was soon considered a melodic rock essential) and Rosenthal set about forming a permanent band. The new band, Red Dawn, saw David drafting in a familiar face in drummer Chuck Burgi – a trusted friend from his Rainbow days – and ex-USA vocalist Larry Baud. For those who heard it, their one and only album, 1993’s ‘Never Say Surrender’ would ultimately change the landscape of 90s melodic rock forever.
Following the HNE Recordings box set containing the albums from REO Speedwagon’s ‘Early Years’ in the summer of 2018 [full review here], the band’s legacy will be celebrated further in the new year with a second box set, appropriately titled ‘Classic Years: 1978-1990.
That twelve year stretch bore most of the band’s massive hits – including ‘Keep On Lovin’ You’, ‘Don’t Let Him Go’ and ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’ – and their run of albums from 1978’s ‘You Can Tune A Piano…’ through to 1986’s ‘Wheels Are Turning’ found REO perfecting the AOR sound for which they’re best known.
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.