Nine Lives (1979)

1. Heavy on Your Love 2. Drop It (An Old Disguise) 3. Only the Strong Survive 4. Easy Money 5. Rock & Roll Music 6. Take Me 7. I Need You Tonight 8. Meet Me on the Mountain 9. Back on the Road Again


Looking back a the latter, successful period of REO Speedwagon's history, this album tends to sadly be overlooked. The biggest drawback to this record is that it doesn't really have any standout singles that the band would make famous. No, these guys still hadn't quite ignited the charts, but when they did, people could look back on their last few albums prior to the explosion and cherry pick some nuggets that should have bit hit singles and embrace them as long time favorites. Such songs are hard to find here.

The only thing here a casual fan would know is Bruce Hall's Back on the Road Again. This was the new Bassist's first composition with the band in which he writes and sings, and not only would be his best ever, but one of the best overall REO Speedwagon songs ever. Since Kevin Cronin is now firmly established as the band's lead singer, any song without him on vocals doesn't sound quite as identifiable, but Hall's track here, like most of his sparse songs, is loved by fan's everywhere.

So once you take that song out of the equation, there's not much here that you would probably be familiar with, and let's just say, should be familiar. This is a great album. This is also a hard and tough album. This is the hardest thing these guys would ever do, and as even the cover suggests, this was not a record that would be filled with syrupy ballads. The "Nine" in the title seems to signify that this was their "ninth" record, and it could also be that there are "nine" songs here as well. But these guys never rocked as hard as they do here, but it's still REO, so fans won't feel alienated.

At times they sound very familiar. Gary Richrath's Meet Me on the Mountain sounds very similar to Ridin the Storm Out from the album of the same name, yet it seems like every album that REO has put out since then has tried to resurrect that particular song. This is the instance where it works the best. Other times, they push the envelope as well, as on the reggae Easy Money that they manage to pull off nicely as well

. Like the album's predecessor, this record is brief, not even clocking in at 35 minutes, and when a record is that short (although for the times it was about average), the weak spots tend to be more glaring. The cover of Chuck Berry's Rock & Roll Music seems forced and unnecessary, and I Need You Tonight sounds a bit corny to me as well (although to be fair, a lot of fans rank that one as one of the best). You know this is a great album though, when the 35 minutes are up, and you stare at your stereo system waiting, no, hoping for another track, and being disappointed because the album is over. Definitely the most underrated album in the band's catalog.

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