REO Speedwagon

R.E.O. Speedwagon

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After all those power ballads it's easy to forget that REO Speedwagon started out as a by-the-numbers boogie band with 1971's REO, kicking odes to the "Anti-Establishment Man" and a "Gypsy Woman's Passion." This is a band that's quite different from the arena-conquering rockers of a decade later, but they were no different than their time, embodying almost every cliché of the era from the spacy hippie meditation of "Five Men Were Killed Today" to the numbing nine-minute venture into the heavy jams of the closing "Dead at Last," where a flute is hauled out, presumably to compete with Jethro Tull. As captivating as they are, these are but detours from the main road of straight-ahead blues boogie, a road that hits its highlight early on with the rollicking shuffle "157 Riverside Avenue," a piano-driven rocker that in no way points toward REO Speedwagon's later strengths; if anything it sounds like a leaner Chicago fronted by a Rod Stewart wannabe in Terry Luttrell. There are a few other noteworthy moments scattered throughout -- an able aping of the Jeff Beck Group on "Lay Me Down," for instance -- but this pretty much is generic '70s hard boogie that needed a little more flair in some area, any area, to be memorable.

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