From the time I first heard REO Speedwagon's A Decade of Rock & Roll 1970-1980 I've been a huge fan of their early material. I grew up being exposed to their softer 80s balladry but it's their special brand of fun-loving 70s rock that I keep going back to.
Since I was in high school I've been searching for their 1970 debut album which was only briefly available on CD. I was hoping to find it on eBay (and did a few times, but the bidding always went way over my range). I recently found it through a file swapping service.
What some of you may or may not know, Kevin Cronin, was not the original lead vocalist of REO Speedwagon. Their original lead singer was Terry Luttrell. Luttrell was let-go so REO could find a "better" singer. Luttrell went on to sing lead for the prog-rock group, Starcastle (sometimes mistaken for, often criticized for and sometimes praised for sounding too much like Yes). I've been hankering to hear Lutrell's voice on songs that Cronin has gone on to make his own, songs like 157 Riverside Avenue (a staple of REO concerts) and the fun-loving and rollicking Lay Me Down.
What strikes me on listening to this time-capsule of music is how well Neal Doughty's keyboard/piano chops fit in to the music making it sound like something you'd expect to hear performed by a bar band at some out of the way dive with Harleys lined up outside. It sounds like biker bar music and it's just plain fun.
It truly is a shame that this isn't more readily available on CD because it's a great set of songs, perfect for road-tripping or just kicking back and listening to over a bottle of your favorite brew after a hard day's work.