Life As We Know It (1987)


1. New Way To Love 2. That Ain't Love 3. In My Dreams 4. One Too Many Girlfriends 5. Variety Tonight 6. Screams and Whispers 7. Can't Get You Out of My Heart 8. Over the Edge 9. Accidents Can Happen 10.Tired of Gettin Nowhere


 

You really do have to give these guys credit for trying. Most of their arena rock counterparts from the late seventies - early eighties had long since gone, or were laboring on with only a fraction of the personnel that made them famous. This band's last couple of records didn't come close to bringing in the success of 1980's Hi Infidelity, so they figured if they were going to do anything worthwhile, they better get with the times. Problem was, the current music atmosphere wasn't really conducive to REO Speedwagon, and newer, younger fans weren't exactly enthralled by their sound.

But try they did, and even though this record fails more than it succeeds, it manages to produce a few songs that do hold up, and do really warrant attention with some of their best material. Being 1987, there are a lot more synthesized sounds in the mix, and Alan Gratzer's drumming seems to favor a bit more of the electronic drum variety, but Kevin Cronin is still belting out songs from the heart, and you can still hear Gary Richrath's distinct guitar walla-walla if you listen hard enough. The band merges the new with the old on the first single That Ain't Love which manages to be diverse enough from their catalog to garner attention, yet still have a strong signature sound that the band is well known for. It's the best thing here.

The second single is a bit of a weird one, and it manages to alienate quite a lot of the faithful because of it's pulsating, new-age sounding accompaniment - another Kevin Cronin song, In My Dreams. It actually sounds quite beautiful, and it does hold up well, probably managing to bring in a few new listeners. It's just not one of those songs that probably translates well to the live stage, and remember, that was really this band's overall strength all along. The other good addition is Neal Doughty's Variety Tonight,that's a much more straight ahead rocker than his one composition from Wheels Are Turnin', One Lonely Night. After hearing these two songs on back to back albums, it makes you wonder, why didn't Doughty write more material? He certainly seemed capable.

Speaking of "capable", Gary Richrath was sadly, losing a lot of steam at this point. He was sacked shortly after the album came out for various reasons and it was sad to see what many consider the "leader" to sink so low in terms of professionalism and ability. He only has two co-writing credits here and neither are worth mentioning. As a matter of fact, relationships were so strained, that Cronin has a piece here aimed straight at him, One Too Many Girlfriends. That song isn't any good either.

The whole album just seems to sink mainly from the band trying to sound relevant to the changing times. I'm not sure if anyone could have salvaged this record, nor do I think the band was running dry, it was just bad timing. Witness the Bruce Hall song, Accidents Can Happen. It's actually quite catchy and melodic, and you'll find yourself singing right along, yet at the same time, it tends to also be fretfully annoying due to its contemporary sound. I can't imagine fans of the early Speedwagon from the seventies wanting to come anywhere close to this record. Still, there are a few good spots here that manage to make it somewhat listenable. It just might be more beneficial to grab those songs on one of the many "best of" compilations.



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