REO Speedwagon – Hi Infidelity [1980]

REOSPEEDWAGON_HI

This album is the best release of REO Speedwagon and one of the best releases came out from the 80s. REO started out as a bar band in the late 60s early 70s. By 1977, they had definitely come a long way, perfecting their musical skills and appealing to a wider audience. After two successful albums “You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish” and “Nine Lives”, they hit hard in 1980 with “Hi Infidelity”, their ninth studio album. It went on to become the biggest selling rock LP of 1981, eventually selling over ten million copies. Six songs from this album hit billboard charts and sitting on top of the album chart for a multitude of weeks.

This is unabashedly mainstream rock, but there’s a real urgency to the songs and the performances that gives it a real emotional core, even if the production keeps it tied to the early, previsual 80s. And so what if it does, because this is great arena rock, with great tunes and killer hookliness. The line-up consisted by Kevin Cronin (lead vocals, guitar), Gary Richrath (lead guitar), Alan Gratzer on drums, keyboardist Neal Doughty and Bruce Hall on bass. Kevin Cronin is superb on lead vocals backed by the superb musicianship of the other members made this album a classic and give REO a unique, driving sound.

If you’re reading this, you probably know the well known hits “Keep On Loving You” and “Take It On The Run”. And if you’ve seen REO in concept, you know their lesser known hit “Don’t Let Him Go”, of which they usually open their show with. So you probably want to know the rest of the songs starting with the hard driving “Don’t Let Him Go” (#36), a song that brings out everything REO was good for. A great rhythmic opener  where Gary Richrath’s lead guitar similarly shines, and even Neal Doughty’s keyboards rise to the forefront of the arrangement, presenting a total package made up of equal parts pop, heartland rock, melodic inspiration, and a lyrical sense of fun. With the rockin’ “Follow My Heart”, the album picks up somewhat, with catchy chorus and awesome guitars from Gary Richrath. “In Your Letter”, the fourth track just plunges into real pop brilliance.

Though it peaked only at No. 20 on the pop charts, this lesser known gem outperformed “Don’t Let Him Go” and set the stage for the really huge hits to follow. It’s a sort of 60s pop song and the band does it well. There’s a fantastic piano solo in the middle and it’s immediately followed bya purely great sixties organ riff. The song caught Japanese music fans mind, titled as “Namidano Letter” (a letter that makes you cry) and still being the top requested REO Speedwagon songs to date. “Tough Guys” is one of the most relentless tracks on the album. It rocks from start to finish and interestingly enough, begins with a vocal segment from the television program, “The Little Rascals” and a great guitar intro on next. A catchy song with nice synthesizers again. “Out Of Season” is a really good song which is upbeat with catchy chorus and great rhythm, followed by the fun song “Shakin’ It Loose”. A pretty typical song about getting all your demons out on the dance floor, you know. A good song but not nearly so great as the previous tracks. “Someone Tonight”, the ninth song, is entirely forgettable.

Bruce Hall takes lead here and does a fine job with Kevin Cronin on background, a danceable tune about the here and now. This song gives one the feel good attitude to have fun now…no commitments. The ballad “I Wish You Were There”, it’s the least known song on the album, which is a same. The lyrics for it are pretty ordinary, but Kevin Cronin’s vocal is so passionate and uplifting it makes the song so majestic and moving. This would be an excellent tune that could wind up on a soundtrack to a love story. I’ve always really loved it. For the end I left the two greatest hits of the record the power ballad “Keep On Loving You” and the surging “Take It On The Run”. The first one hold a special place in my heart as being among the earliest tracks that I can remember from my tweens when I started to really get into listening seriously to music as a hobby which has now become a lifetime gig for me. As one of the most shimmering and ultimately deserving No. 1 song of the 80s, this track perfectly combines the three strongest elements of the band’s sound at this critical juncture. Supported ably by power ballad piano, convincing rock guitar and a tremendous pop sensibility, this tune stands up tremendously well 30 years after its release.

The choral sweep of the guitars and keyboards create a euphoric high, whilst Kevin Cronin’s vocal imbues each note with the resonance of crystal droplets. The other smash hit of the album “Take It On The Run”, is a pretty strange song the way the vocal melody almost sounds like it’s overlapping. Richrath scores again here as primary songwriter, penning perhaps REO’s finest pure classic rock track of its career. Richrath also delivers his longest guitar solo of this era, taking a few moments to demostrate his unique style without detracting from the central pop music appeal of the composition. Simply great and it’s interesting that the band had not previously specialized in heartbreak songs, but when the time came for such a focus, the group was exceptionally prepared to deliver.

This is an album of its time and was a big hit because its timing was right coming out at the time of punk and new wave when people were turning away from long drawn out disco and were choosing much much shorter tracks stripped down to the bare bones and that’s what you get here. Short, sweet unadulterated rock and roll plus a couple of slow rock ballads. So if you like the classic melodic rock of the late 70s and early 80s, this one is a winner for you. To this day, this album lives up to its legendary status. Strongly recommended for classic and melodic rock fans.

Band Members
Kevin Cronin – Lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Gary Richrath – Lead guitar
Neal Doughty – Hammond organ, keyboard, piano
Alan Gratzer – Drums
Bruce Hall – Bass guitar, lead vocal

Tracks
01. Don’t Let Him Go
02. Keep On Loving You
03. Follow My Heart
04. In Your Letter
05. Take It On The Run
06. Tough Guys
07. Out Of Season
08. Shakin’ It Loose
09. Someone Tonight
10. I Wish You Were There

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REO Speedwagon - Hi Infidelity [1980], 9.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating