I loved these guys back in the day. They had a burst of popularity in the early days of MTV, with concert footage of their late '70s and early '80s material along with the MTV-made-to-order music videos of their then-current early '80s stuff getting heavy play rotation. Take It on the Run. Time for Me to Fly. Roll with the Changes. Ridin' the Storm Out. Don't Let Him Go. Keep on Lovin' You. And then the rapid descent into the pop ballad days of Can't Fight This Feeling and One Lonely Night. Although I like melodic sappy music and have a high tolerance for schlock as long as it has a good melody and decent lyrics, they got to the point where they even lost me, but that's a different story... Between about 1976 and 1982, they made a lot of good music, much of which (to me) was centered on Gary Richrath's guitar playing.
To this day, when I think of Gibson Les Paul players, along with Jimmy Page and a host of more accomplished guitarists, Gary Richrath of REO Speedwagon always comes to mind for me. I wouldn't say that Richrath was a great guitar player, but his lyrical solos, fills, and crunchy power chords, were a trademark of the REO Speedwagon sound.
My understanding is that Richrath left the band sometime in the late 1980's over disagreements with lead singer Kevin Cronin as to the direction of the band. Wikipedia would indicate that this is substantially correct.
The band is currently cashing in on the ability of geezer bands to get people like me to pay good money to see them in concert and attempt to recapture, or at least re-live, a small portion of our youth. Apparently, at one benefit concert in 2013, Richrath even joined the band on stage for a song or two. In 2014 they are touring with Chicago (but not Richrath).
A few tidbits courtesy of YouTube:
- Take It On the Run - Back near the height of their MTV-induced popularity (1980).
- Time for Me to Fly - Denver CO in 1981.
- Roll With the Changes - At Live Aid in Philadelphia (1985). I was in Budapest, Hungary, behind the Iron Curtain on this date... Check out members of the Beach Boys, Paul Shaffer from David Letterman's band, and the background shots of the long-gone Veteran's Memorial Stadium in this video.
- Ridin' the Storm Out - Back in the day (again in Denver CO, 1981). Or even earlier (late '70s)....
- Ridin' the Storm Out - Recent (December 2013), with Gary Richrath reunited to play with the band. Yikes. I think I wish I had never seen this... Or this... To be fair, as...unflattering...as my initial reaction to this may have been, watch the way Richrath works the left hand between about 2:00 and 2:30 on the first link, and then around the 3:30 minute mark...he can still play. Sometimes it's about tone and not about speed. Or how you look.
But...all of this does make me yearn for something on which to play those old vinyl LP's that were salvaged from Ridge Lane...