Any band that doesn’t produce best-selling records from the near offset, likely doesn’t have much life left in them, label-wise. The mantra now is to “sell well or see hell” thereby leaving many learning bands in the dust, undeveloped. Fortunately, unless a band was impossible, that was a rare situation in the early days of developing rock. For a prime example, classic rock fans need only to rummage through the R section and dig up their favourite R.E.O. Speedwagon albums. Chances are high that it will be You Can Tune a Piano but You Can’t Tuna Fish (1978) or their multi-hit zenith, Hi Infidelity (1980). But, if you didn’t know, those albums were not their first. In fact, success at that height for the band came on their 8th album. So, what of their previous 6 studio releases? Good question.
In 1972, R.E.O. Speedwagon (Southern Illinois boys) released T.W.O., their second release on Epic Records. After the dreary sales of the first album, R.E.O. Speedwagon churned out a spectacular album in T.W.O. The album has 8 tracks, 7 of them very strong songs. The songs are rougher than what the better selling albums contain and, as far as I’m concerned, better constructed tunes. Hearing Richrath letting loose here is great although he develops more confidence as the band pushed successive albums through the door. Cronin’s evangelical vocal flash is in force here, just as you’re used to. And with Doughty (keyboards), Philbin (Bass), and Gratzer (Drums, Percussion) to round it out, R.E.O. Speedwagon’s second album was a constant play on the turntable at our house.
The album starts with “Let Me Ride,” slips into more great rockers with “How The Story Goes,” and the classic piano rock of “Little Queenie.” “Being Kind (Can Hurt Someone Sometimes)” is a deep album track, a little more FM than the rest of the album but definitely earns its keep here. The album is barely getting started with 4 more songs ready to leap out in “Music Man,” the excellent “Like You Do,” “Flash Tan Queen,” and the best song for last, “Golden Country.”
As R.E.O. studio albums go, you may not find a better R.E.O. rocker than this one, largely ignored and forgotten, with piles of dust. But if you pull it out, blow it off, and put it on, I’m betting that you’ll be a fan of the album. If I had to make an R.E.O. album assessment, their best was certainly T.W.O.
And for those bits of arcane album knowledge gatherers, that’s Boots Randolph playing sax on “Little Queenie.”