The Earth, A Small Man, His Dog and a Chicken (1990)


1. Love is a Rock 2. The Heart Survives 3. Live it Up 4. All Heaven Broke Lose 5. Love in the Future 6. Halfway 7. Love to Hate 8. You Won't See Me 9. Can't Lie to My Heart 10.L.I.A.R. 11.Go for Broke


 

The freqeunt lineup changes of the early REO Speedwagon were enough to make your head spin. Around 1978, their "classic" lineup was formed and they remained in that incarnation for more than a decade. As the nineties unfolded, the band found themselves in a personnel mess once more. Drummer Alan Gratzer retired and Guitarist Gary Richrath was basically fired. The fact that these two guys were original members meant that only keyboardist Neal Doughty remains as an original member. For whatever reason, another keyboardist, Jesse Harms, is added. Why do they need two keyboardists? Anyway, there were several temporary shuffles between the last album and this one, yet they finally settled on Dave Amato as the new guitarist and Bryan Hitt as the new drummer. So all of this in itself sort of takes your attention away from the finished product here.

The product really is a mixed bag. Not being a musician, I can't really notice much change in the musicians. Yes, it's true that you can definitely not hear that classic Gary Richrath sound that wailed so distinctively, but other than Kevin Cronin's famous voice, nothing here really sounds like the REO Speedwagon classic years. Nowhere, for example, do we hear Neal Doughty's boogie-woogie piano, and the absence of the expected Bruce Hall contribution is sorely missed as well. So in a weird way, this almost sounds like a Kevin Cronin solo album as opposed to a genuine REO effort.

The album itself is very well produced. It's almost over produced. The sound is basically immaculate, and there's a lot of sound. The overall mix is very clouded with a lot of background singers, keyboard sounds (there are two now, remember) and dubbing and overdubbing. This was the style in 1990, though, and unlike some of their more recent records, this doesn't sound that dated, it just sounds a lot different from what we're used to when we think of this band.

The music here is mostly good. Newcomer Jesse Harms shares writing credits in about half of what is here, but being that he's so new, I really wouldn't be able to distinguish his writing from, you know, a professional songwriter that's usually brought in to help the writing on bands that are kind of on the way down. Maybe that was part of the purpose of him joining? They succeed the most on their ballads, which seems to be their overall strength anyway. The Heart Survives, Can't Lie To My Heart and Halfway are easily the best things on the album. A lot of the middle of the road stuff sounds pleasant, but many of those songs are missing some badly needed hooks that make good songs sound great. They only truly rock near the end of the record on L.I.A.R. and Go For Broke, the latter being the only one with much merit.

Whatever the reason, the album simply bombed. It probably deserved better than it received, but the times had changed and tastes changed. Fortunately, they would stay together as mostly a "reminiscing" type band, so this record isn't really known by many at all. It's really o.k., though. Of course, whoever came up with the idiotic title of this record may be partially to blame for its failure. It is kinda stupid.



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