Building the Bridge (1996)

1. Can't Stop Rockin' 2. I Still Love You 3. Building the Bridge 4. When I Get Home 5. Then I Met You 6. Look the Other Way 7. After Tonight 8. Hey Wait a Minute 9. One True Man 10.She's Gonna Love Me 11.Ballad of the Illinois Opry


During the early 1990's, REO Speedwagon basically disappeared. They weren't really a commercially successful product anymore, and without word of mouth via a super information highway such as the internet, they found themselves playing in some pretty depressing gigs. Without a major record label behind them, they apparently scraped up enough cash and went on an Indy label - which basically means your product will be ignored upon release. That's not to say that this album didn't deserve to be ignored. It's pretty bad. The band finds themselves going through the motions, and apparently there wasn't anyone around them in the recording studio to tell them how ill fated this would turn out to be.

They've dropped their "polished" sound of the late 80's - early 90's and, to some, extent seemed to revert to a sound similar to the early 70's, when Cronin was out of the band and they essentially had nothing that resembled success. The songs here have a much more stripped down, almost country-folkish quality about them. Again, without Kevin Cronin's voice, you can't tell that this is the same band that you may have grown to love 15 years ago. Sadly, most of the music here is just plain bad. There are a few exceptions, but they sound like they're not even trying and the music doesn't have any qualities about it that makes you want to revisit it multiple times.

The opener Can't Stop Rockin', unfortunately, is a perfect introduction to a disc filled with mediocrity. It's one of those songs where Cronin pays homage to growing up and learning how to rock. I dunno, but I really get tired of musicians who feel it's necessary to try to put lyrics into a song about "That Ed Sullivan Show" where they first saw The Beatles. Musically it's awful as well. It might have made a decent song to a sugarless gum advert.

The title track is somewhat unoffensive. It's not particularly great, but it's leaps and bounds over everything else on the front of the album. The hook is somewhat nice and inspirational, but it only succeeds marginally. Sadly, things only get worse. The bright spots start to appear around the end. Bruce Hall has a weird number, complete with a Mardi Gras-ish intro, Hey Wait a Minute that sounds kind of silly, but compared to most of what is here, it actually stands out as one of the brighter spots. Hall isn't immune to disaster either - as he's credited with the lukewarm After Tonight which is about par for the course with most of material here.

Near the end, things get a little better with One True Man, and the closer Ballad of the Illinois Opry isn't as hoaky as you might think. Definitely the worst REO album of the Kevin Cronin era.

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