There are many, many REO Speedwagon fans that, for the most part, originate from their 1978 best-seller, You Can Tune A Piano But You Can’t Tuna Fish. That was followed by the runaway success of 1980’s Hi-Infidelity (Nine Lives released in 1979, after You Can Tune A Piano…, and before Hi-Infidelity) Both studio albums spring-boarded from the success of their 1977 live album, Live: You Get What You Play For, itself a platinum-selling double LP. Up until this live album, the band struggled to find a fan-base. Epic Records really hung in with this band despite its waning fan-base up through R.E.O. (1976)
But I have little interest in most things REO unless you mention R.E.O./T.W.O., in which case, you have my complete attention. REO has an interesting history that involves fights, disagreements, and a revolving door list of band members. With several front-men, with the most prominent being Kevin Cronin, it’s a wonder that REO Speedwagon survived to produced as many albums as they had.
R.E.O./T.W.O. is flat out a genuine classic, virtually unknown, and if known, then widely under-appreciated to favor the pop/rock Hi-Infidelity.
R.E.O./T.W.O. was released in 1972 after an interesting first album that featured Terry Luttrell (who went on to join Starcastle for several excellent Starcastle releases) as the band’s singer. It was also the first album that featured Kevin Cronin after the ouster of Luttrell (one of those fights). R.E.O./T.W.O. has a healthy mix of Richrath compositions as well as newcomer’s Cronin tunes. In addition, the album furnished a fascinating Chuck Berry cover, “Little Queenie”.
From start to finish, R.E.O./T.W.O. is a varied album that shows immense promise for the emerging Illinois band. Opening with “Let Me Ride”, driving headlong into the rockin’ “How The Story Goes”, and slipping into a fun, rocked up and modernized version of “Little Queenie”, the album still has five more songs to go even as we’re already pleased with the preceding three.
As far as the songs were concerned here, Cronin’s works were the weaker material on the album. Richrath, at the time, was the band’s leader. Richrath’s songs really showcased his song-writing talents. With “Like You Do”, “How The Story Goes”, “Flash Tan Queen”, and the politicized “Golden Country” (the album’s unquestioned masterpiece), Gary Richrath was the go-to guy, especially with his guitar work and lead lines.. But Cronin’s “Music Man” was not a bad song choice even as the other Cronin songs worked well enough to successfully finish up R.E.O./T.W.O.
R.E.O./T.W.O. is a solid effort, one that should have garnered praise from Rock fans far and wide. But it didn’t. I can’t help but think that even as the band’s popularity waned, Epic held on because this particular album was so good. After all, they’d have to have another one of these in them. From a personal opinion standpoint, the band never provided a worthy sequel to R.E.O./T.W.O., which was a shame as it’s almost a perfect album.
And yes, I love R.E.O./T.W.O. far more than anything else they have ever produced.