Live: You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can't Tuna Fish (1978)


1. Roll with the Changes 2. Time for Me to Fly 3. Runnin' Blind 4. Blazin' Your Own Trail Again 5. Sing to Me 6. Lucky for You 7. Do You Know Where Your Woman is Tonight? 8. The Unidentified Flying Tuna Trot 9. Say You Love Me or Say Goodnight


 

This is the album where the Speedwagon finally arrived at its destination. They now have the signature sound nailed down that would propel them to the top of the charts in a few short years. That being said, it must be known that this album, like everything else they had released so far, didn't really sell that well. But after listening to this album, you could safely say that it was just a matter of not yet being at the right place nor the right time. For someone to pick up this record thirty years in the future and listen to it side by side with the 1980 blockbuster Hi Infidelity, you can't really tell much of a difference. So it's safe to say that if you're a fan of the band's classic period, you shouldn't miss out on this one.

Bassist Bruce Hall joins the band and replaces Greg Philbin, who to my recollection, is never heard of again. Hall would later impact this band in a big way by writing and singing a killer track or two on each album that would give the records a push in the positive direction. He doesn't do that yet here, but the band's "classic" lineup is now in place. They lead of this record with two of their very best songs ever - the rocker Roll With the Changes and the somewhat slowed down semi-ballad Time For Me To Fly. Had these songs been on the aforementioned Hi Infidelity (or anything shortly after), I'm convinced they would have shot to the top of the singles charts. But, again, not too many people were exposed to these guys just yet.

The rest of the album succeeds very nicely most of the time as well. If anything, lead singer Kevin Cronin is firmly establishing his place in the band, not just as a lead singer, but the key songwriter as well. As time would tell, it would be mostly his songs that would stand out the best and give this band the majority of its success. His other solo composition (other than the two lead off tracks), Blazin' Your Own Trail Again excels very well also. it's almost a heartfelt goodbye song, in its own peculiar way, and it uses the newly found semi-reverb effects that these guys are now adopting to the full extent really showing off not only Cronin's vocals, but Richrath's now signature guitar sound.

Speaking of Gary Richrath, he shares about half the writing credits, and although his work would suffer a bit on forthcoming albums, he mostly succeeds here. He co-writes the incredible closing track Say You Love Me or Say Goodnight with Cronin that has plenty of bells and whistles (including some powerful saxophones) that would make this a concert staple for many years. In many ways, the other track they co-write Lucky for You has many of the same elements, and as the song progresses, it turn into a very nice up tempo jam session. The Unidentified Flying Tuna Trot is the instrumental "sequel" to Flying Turkey Trot from the band's last album R.E.O., and like its predecessor, it manages to sound very powerful even though it can be quite corny at times.

The album suffers a bit with the too-fast and too-heavy Runnin' Blind that probably should not have been an unintentional metaphor with how the song actually sounds. Do You Know Where Your Woman is Tonight is probably the stupidest name for any REO Speedwagon song in the band's history. The lyrics and music aren't really that good either. These two songs are minor infractions, but when the whole album is less than 35 minutes long, it's hard to label this thing as a "classic", even though it comes close. Fortunately, after the band did explode in popularity a few years later, many fans bought some of their older catalog to try to discover just what they were missing. When this album was snagged up, people weren't at all disappointed.



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