In 2017, Hear No Evil Recordings released an excellent REO Speedwagon box set entitled ‘The Early Years’. The mid-priced release rounded up the band’s fist seven studio albums and 1977’s double live set ‘Live: You Get What You Play For’ in one handy package, making some of the albums available on CD in the UK for the first time in a long while…and in the case of the unedited version of the live disc, for the first time ever. Given the love that went into that set, it seemed inevitable a similar set covering the band’s next decade – the period that brought them the most commercial success and some massive hits – should follow. Such a box would be an essential release, especially since a few of the albums from that period have become equally hard to find despite selling in huge numbers.
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.
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.