Cherry Red Records (label)
22 February 2019 (released)
Nine discs and one hundred tracks might seem too much to bear for only the most ardent fans of MOR from the 1980s, but this collection from REO Speedwagon is a treasure trove for fans of the band and the genre. What you know this collection will include is a giant helping of cheese, demonstrated by the title of the band's album You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can't Tuna Fish. Actually originally released in 1978 (slightly outside these 'classic years'), it has all the hallmarks of the sound that would become their trademark. That's big guitar solos alongside the big haircuts.
Two years later the band were into their stride and produced their two finest songs - with Take It On The Run and Keep On Loving You at the heart of Hi Infidelity, which is kept lean and mean here to just the ten tracks. All the bonus material is on disc four, including an intriguing demo of Take It On The Run. The original album is the strongest here, with the band obviously at the top of the game. Producing classic FM radio friendly pop-rock.
More hits followed, with Can't Fight This Feeling from 1984's Wheels are Turnin', before a slowing down in output and a decline in sales as tastes moved on while the band didn't. 1987's Life As We Know It sounds particularly stuck in time, while the awfully titled The Earth, A Small Man, His Dog And A Chicken saw line up changes and uninspiring and rather plodding rock.
A disc of live recordings completes the mammoth set and this is really a treat for fans, with a typically well put together collection to treasure. Less treasured is REO's wider musical legacy - but for a time they did what they did very well.