Review Summary: One of the most solid debut albums in Rock history.
It can almost be hard to imagine that, back in the 1970's, people had their own view of what "Classic Rock" was. At the time, they would probably reference 1940's and 50's Jazz and Rock 'n Roll, which were more than a decade behind the year that REO Speedwagon debuted their first LP in 1971. For those who aren't familiar with REO Speedwagon, they were a Rock 'n Roll band in every sense of the word; joining modern music concepts and instruments with the lyrics and themes of classic 40's and 50's music.
The fact of the matter is that REO Speedwagon's debut was a solid debut that boasted an amazing tracklist, brilliant vocals, excellent production quality, and boundless energy. A perfect example of this 50's aesthetic is in the track Prison Women
, which utilizes classic piano chords with a nice early Pop Rock composition. Real credit should be given to Terry Luttrell's vocals, as he brings out a nice Pop sensibility in his short delivery while also boosting the music at the same time. Ironic given the fact this is the only album with Luttrell on vocals, as he would leave the band after this album.
Tracks like Dead At Last
provide a nice Prog Rock backdrop with bursting guitar riffs while also featuring a combination of synthesizers and tight percussion sequences. Neal Doughty's keyboard expertise cannot and should not be understated; he completely goes nuts on the keyboards on the final track, changing sounds and sequences repeatedly and quickly. We should also note the eccentric drumming from one Alan Gratzer, who seems to have no concept of pauses, as he continuously drums at an incredibly fast pace with no intent of stopping over the entire 10-minute track.
By far my personal favorite track is Lay Me Down
, which features a very simple guitar and piano beat similar to the style of Bill Haley and His Comets. Unlike most 70's bands at the time, whose lyrics revolved heavily around liberal drug use, alcohol, and sex; REO Speedwagon maintained a more "romantic" quality to their lyrics. At times it could be cheesy, but it was a welcome change from the usual Rock at the time and the lyrics were well written in their own right. Another great track would be Sophisticated Lady
, a more Prog Rock track featuring a heavy guitar piece with liberal use of synthesizers and other modern instruments at the time.
Nowadays, REO Speedwagon aren't remembered as much as they should. For their time, they were a great band that produced some of the best Arena Rock and Classic Rock of the 1970's. Their debut was only the tip of the iceberg that was REO Speedwagon, and they would go on to develop a heavy cult following in the 1970's that would translate to heavy commercial success in the 1980's. REO Speedwagon always provided a "timeless" quality to them, channeling era's of music from day's past at a time when bands were more privy to moving to newer and greener pastures.