Top 10 REO Speedwagon Songs
REO Speedwagon‘s music can be split into two distinct eras: the hard rockin’ ‘70s that emphasized the guitar work of Gary Richrath and the period starting with 1980’s ‘Hi Infidelity,’ when the band steered into more of a pop-based direction with the massive success of both that album and the No. 1 single ‘Keep on Loving You.’ We take a look at both sides of the band in our list of the Top 10 REO Speedwagon Songs.
‘Say You Love Me or Say Goodnight’
Animal-rights activists might have a problem with parts of ‘You Can’t Tune a Piano, but You Can Tuna Fish,’ but maybe if they hear ‘Say You Love Me or Say Goodnight,’ they’ll be distracted by the all-out duel going down between Gary Richrath’s guitar and the backroom keyboard work by Neal Doughty, and forget about the fact that there’s a fish on the LP cover with a tuning fork jammed in its mouth.
In 1972, singer Kevin Cronin made his debut with the band on the ‘T.W.O.’ album. His initial run with REO Speedwagon would last just one LP (he was out after its release, but would return four years later). Before he split, he made his mark with three songs on ‘T.W.O.,’ including this emphatic statement that still finds its way into set lists from time to time.
The closing cut on ‘T.W.O.’ is one of the better Gary Richrath / Kevin Cronin pairings from the band’s catalog. ‘Golden Country’ is a biting political statement penned by Richrath, and you can feel the anger seething from his guitar strings amid the progressive organ swells, as Cronin spits out lyrics that are sadly still quite relevant today.
‘157 Riverside Avenue’ (Live)
This fan favorite was originally on the band’s 1970 self-titled debut — the only LP to feature singer Terry Luttrell. ‘157 Riverside Avenue”s title comes from a simple inspiration: It’s the address of the house where the band stayed while recording the album. In concert, the song would develop into an extended monster (with plenty of solos), and this live version (with Kevin Cronin on vocals) is from the ‘A Decade of Rock and Roll’ compilation, clocking in at a mammoth 12-plus minutes.
Kevin Cronin’s return to the band on 1976’s ‘R.E.O.’ album (which followed the somewhat ironically titled ‘This Time We Mean It’ LP) features this strong call to action as its lead-off track. It’s become one of REO’s rockin’ anthems in concert over the years and a signature exit phrase for Cronin, who often ends his messages to fans with a simple “Keep Pushin’, KC.”
‘Ridin’ the Storm Out’ (Live)
It can be argued that one of the most bad-ass live intros known to man is located at the head of this number from 1977’s ‘Live: You Get What You Play For.’ Boasting a ‘Twilight Zone’ mood at the beginning, the song features Neal Doughty unleashing a keyboard bit that sounds like an air-raid siren as Kevin Cronin yells, “Last song, people!” The song was inspired by the time the band was stuck in the middle of a gnarly storm in Colorado. But ‘Stuck in Colorado’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as ‘Ridin’ the Storm Out.’
‘Roll With the Changes’
Kevin Cronin knows how to talk to the ladies: “As soon as you are ready, woman, I am willin’ to make the break that we are on the brink of.” From there, there’s plenty of love spillin’, deserts burnin’ and an offer to “turn some pages” … which have nothing to do with Bob Seger.
‘Time for Me to Fly’
REO Speedwagon have had their share of awesome hooks, as you can see throughout our list of the Top 10 REO Speedwagon Songs. But they’ve had plenty of great lyrics too. Finding his wings and heading for the door, Kevin Cronin plays the part of the jilted lover who’s had enough of it here. He’s out for good this time.
‘Take It on the Run’
“Take it on the run, baby/ If that’s the way you want it, baby/ Then I don’t want you around.” Under the gun, there are few songs that inspire as much as this huge hit from 1980’s ‘Hi Infidelity’ album. And what’s up with this line? “You say you’re coming home, but you won’t say when.”
‘Keep on Loving You’
In a 2011 chat with Ultimate Classic Rock, keyboardist Neal Doughty recalled that REO Speedwagon’s greatest hit almost wasn’t. “Kevin [Cronin] brought that song in,” Doughty remembers. “He’d written it on piano, and he started playing it for us with just him and piano. We didn’t really like it – we thought that’s too soft for us. But then Gary [Richrath] just picked up his guitar and started adding his part to it, and we went, ‘Oh, this must be one of those things they call a power ballad.’ I’m not even sure we’d heard such a thing before.” It was a good move, because the ‘Hi Infidelity’ album would collar the top spot on the album chart for 15 weeks and has sold more than 10 million copies.