Core Curriculum: REO Speedwagon

Earlier today, as I write this, someone made a comment about whether or not I had an article in my popular series of articles on acts that have been unjustly denied a spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for REO Speedwagon. I have not (as of yet) written such a piece, but I thought that in preparation of doing so I would do something that I occasionally do here and that is ask what core songs the band has that have been covered in compilation albums. To the extent that an artist has a large body of work that is recognized as being core material by fans, such a band has a claim to have greatly influenced music. For an act that is as popular on classic radio as REO Speedwagon is, it would make sense to see just how broad its core material is aside from the handful of songs that casual music fans are most familiar with.

While I usually look up wikipedia pages for the track lists of compilation albums for bands, REO Speedwagon has a distinct shortage of such wikipedia pages for their compilation albums, so instead I am using the track lists that are included on allmusic.com. Since there is also a strong tendency on the part of some compilation albums to separate the band’s early years in the 1970’s from its core period of popularity in the 1980s, I am also combining such part one/part two sorts of compilations together to count as recognizing the core of the band, since there is no overlap to be expected between these sets and it helps demonstrate the reality that multi-disk compilations for REO Speedwagon are already somewhat the norm, which helps to demonstrate the wide body of work that is considered as core material from them even before their commercial heyday.

Let us first consider the first of these compilation combos in 1980’s “Decade Of Rock & Roll ’70-80′ and 1995’s Second Decade Of Rock & Roll ’81-91′, both from Epic:

Decade Of Rock & Roll:

Sophisticated Lady (1)
Music Man (1)
Golden Country (1)
Son Of A Poor Man (1)
Lost In A Dream (1)
Reelin’ (1)
Keep Pushin’ (1)
(I Believe) Our Time Is Gonna Come (1)
Breakaway (1)
Lightning (1)
Like You Do (1)
Flying Turkey Trot (1)
157 Riverside Avenue (1)
Ridin’ The Storm Out (1)
Roll With The Changes (1)
Time For Me To Fly (1)
Say You Love Me Or Say Goodnight (1)
Only The Strong Survive (1)
Back On The Road Again (1)

Second Decade Of Rock & Roll:

Don’t Let Him Go (1)
Tough Guys (1)
Take It On The Run (1)
Keep The Fire Burnin’ (1)
Roll With The Changes (2)
I Do’ Wanna Know (1)
Can’t Fight This Feeling (1)
Live Every Moment (1)
That Ain’t Love (1)
One Too Many Girlfriends (1)
Variety Tonight (1)
Back On The Road Again (2)
Keep On Loving You ’89 (1)
Love Is A Rock (1)
All Heaven Broke Loose (1)
L.I.A.R. (1)
Live It Up (1)

Now let’s turn our attention to 1985’s Best Foot Forward, also released by Epic:

Roll With The Changes (3)
Take It On The Run (2)
Don’t Let Him Go (2)
Live Every Moment (2)
Keep On Loving You (2)
Back On The Road Again (3)
Wherever You’re Going (It’s Alright) (1)
Can’t Fight This Feeling (2)
Shakin’ It Loose (1)
Time For Me To Fly (2)
Keep Pushin’ (2)
I Wish You Were There (1)

Here we are alreaady starting to see a differentiation being made between core songs and those that are viewed as being less essential, with some variation among deeper cuts. Let us now turn to 1988’s Hits, a highly regarded single-disk compilation:

I Don’t Want To Lose You (1)
Here With Me (1)
Roll With The Changes (4)
Keep On Loving You (3)
That Ain’t Love (2)
Take It On The Run (3)
In My Dreams (1)
Don’t Let Him Go (3)
Can’t Fight This Feeling (3)
Keep Pushin’ (3)
Time For Me To Fly (3)
One Lonely Night (1)
Back On The Road Again (4)

Here again we are seeing some songs be anthologized over and over again, and not just the obvious ones, it should be noted.

1998’s Only The Strong Survive stays away from the big hits, for the most part, but still manages to include some familiar songs:

Keep Pushin’ (4)
(I Believe) Our Time Is Gonna Come (2)
Keep On Loving You (4)
Stillness Of The Night (1)
The Key (1)
Keep The Fire Burnin’ (2)
Only The Strong Survive (2)
Music Man (2)
Shakin’ It Loose (2)
I Need You Tonight (1)

In 1999, a collection of REO Speedwagon’s Ballads was released, presumably as a counterpoint to the previous year’s compilation of mostly harder rockers:

Just For You (1)
Time For Me To Fly (4)
Keep On Loving You (5)
Can’t Fight This Feeling (4)
Take It On The Run (4)
‘Til The Rivers Run Dry (1)
In My Dreams (2)
Here With Me (2)
Building The Bridge (1)
One Lonely Night (2)
The Heart Survives (1)
After Tonight (1)
I Wish You Were There (2)

In 2000, just one year later, a one-album retrospective: Take It On The Run: The Best Of REO Speedwagon, was released, and it contained the following tracks:

Keep On Loving You (6)
Can’t Fight This Feeling (5)
One Lonely Night (3)
Ridin’ The Storm Out (2)
In Your Letter (1)
Golden Country (2)
Don’t Let Him Go (4)
157 Riverside Avenue (2)
Lightning (2)
Keep Pushin’ (5)
Keep The Fire Burnin’ (3)
Time For Me To Fly (5)
Roll With The Changes (5)
Say You Love Me Or Say Goodnight (2)
Take It On The Run (5)

Just a year after this, in 2001, Sony released “Simply The Best,” another one-disk best-of compilation that leans hevily on power ballads:

Keep Pushin’ (6)
Ridin’ The Storm Out (3)
That Ain’t Love (3)
Keep the Fire Burnin’ (4)
One Lonely Night (4)
Can’t Fight This Feeling (6)
Time For Me To Fly (6)
In Your Letter (2)
Take It On The Run (6)
Keep On Loving You (7)
Don’t Let Him Go (5)
Golden Country (3)
157 Riverside Avenue (3)

This is the first compilation that contains no new deep tracks or minor hits but contains only songs previously anthologized, marking a point in which there seems to be some consolidation of the best of REO Speedwagon, at least an essential core of a substantial number of songs.

In 2002, one year after this, a budget compilation “Keep On Rollin'” was released, with the following ten tracks:

Roll With The Changes (6)
Take It On The Run (7)
Keep On Loving You (8)
Keep The Fire Burnin’ (5)
Music Man (3)
Time For Me To Fly (7)
Can’t Fight This Feeling (7)
Like You Do (2)
Little Queenie (1)
Ridin’ The Storm Out (4)

With the exception of a Chuck Berry cover, this compilation also contains previously anthologized tracks, a remarkable achievement for a budget compilation.

In 2004, we got the two-disk compilation “The Essential REO Speedwagon” from Sony, and it contains the following songs:

Sophisticated Lady (2)
Music Man (4)
Golden Country (3)
Son Of A Poor Man (2)
Lost In A Dream (2)
Keep Pushin’ (7)
(I Believe) Our Time Is Gonna Come (3)
Lightning (3)
Like You Do (3)
Flying Turkey Trot (2)
157 Riverside Avenue (4)
Ridin’ The Storm Out (5)
Roll With The Changes (7)
Time For Me To Fly (7)
Say You Love Me Or Say Goodnight (3)
Back On The Road Again (5)
Only The Strong Survive (3)
Don’t Let Him Go (6)
Keep On Loving You (9)
In Your Letter (3)
Take It On The Run (8)
Keep The Fire Burnin’ (6)
The Key (2)
One Lonely Night (5)
Live Every Moment (3)
Can’t Fight This Feeling (8)
That Ain’t Love (4)
In My Dreams (3)
Variety Tonight (2)
Here With Me (3)
Love Is A Rock (2)
Building The Bridge (2)
Just For You (2)

This set makes a strong case for being the core music of REO Speedwagon, with two disks of 33 songs, all of which have appeared on previous compilations, and including every single hit single the group ever had and just about every notable deep cut that had been previously recognized on the band’s most notable compilations.

In 2006, another budget compilation came out, called “Collections,” with the following tracks:

Keep On Loving You (10)
Take It On The Run (9)
Ridin’ The Storm Out (6)
Only The Strong Survive (4)
One Lonely Night (6)
Roll With The Changes (8)
Here With Me (4)
Can’t Fight This Feeling (9)
Keep The Fire Burnin’ (7)
Time For Me To Fly (8)

With all of the songs on this compilation having been anthologized at least three times before, this seems like a pretty obvious subset of the core REO Speedwagon songs. This same set of songs was released as a Greatest Hits album in 2008 by Sony in Canada.

In 2008, Sony released a Playlist one-cd retrospective for REO Speedwagon as it has for other artists, with the following tracks:

Take It On The Run (10)
Keep On Loving You (11)
Keep Pushin’ (8)
Roll With The Changes (9)
Keep The Fire Burnin’ (8)
Can’t Fight This Feeling (10)
Back On The Road Again (5)
Time for Me To Fly (9)
That Ain’t Love (5)
In My Dreams (3)
Here With Me (5)
Don’t Let Him Go (7)
Ridin’ The Storm Out (7)

Here again all of the songs had been anthologized multiple times already, suggesting that the various compilations at this point were just choosing among songs that were already recognized as classic or essential works, for the most part. This seems to be born out by the fact that since this time we have had no compilations and only box sets come out.

It seems impossible at this point to think that a single cd alone would be sufficient to capture the fullness of REO Speedwagon with any degree of competence. Even two cds fail to include the fullness of material that has been judged as being worthy of investigation by the larger of the compilation efforts. It seems that if we want a more complete anthology than the two-cd Essential REO Speedwagon, which is only missing a few of the somewhat anthologized tracks.

One can see, over the course of REO Speedwagon’s history, that the following process occurred: First, there were efforts at cataloguing the most significant songs in the early days of the band and then the commercial peak of the band, then various components of the band’s catalogue, and finally there was a consolidation of various selections among nearly 40 songs that had received considerable praise and interest, to the point where eventually it was decided that only box sets could even remotely fully capture the band’s career. A two-disk set seems about right, even if it is a bit incomplete, for the casual fan who does not want to listen to all of their studio albums but wants to get a sense of this band’s output.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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