Great Rock Albums of 1987: REO Speedwagon- Life As We Know It

When I got to England, I found I had the same problem in discovering new music I had when I was in the USA, only the problem was that it went in the opposite direction. Now when new releases came out in America, they would take a couple of months before they reached the UK. There was no internet in 1987, which is a huge advantage people have today. This was the case in regards to the 1987 “Life As We Know It” from REO Speedwagon. I only found out they had a new record out in early 1987 when I happened to hear the US top ten on British radio.

In the early 1980s, I would have been chomping at the bit at the thought of a new REO album as I was a big fan of their in the early part of the decade. But that was before the 1984 “Wheels Are Turnin'” album where if you read my post on that album, I had accused them of ‘selling out.’ Then again, as a metalhead back in the day, I accused quite a few artists of doing that. 38 Special and Van Halen both fell victim to my branding in 1986 but that’s another story. However, I’m all for giving people a second chance so that is what I did with the “Life As We Know It” album.

Getting right to the point, I don’t think this album is a big sell out like I did with the previous album. Then again, my older self didn’t think that album was the big sell out that my 23 year old self thought back in 1984. I do think though that “Life As We Know It” was a more determined attempt to return to their mighty successful “Hi Infidelity” album from 1981. Let’s take the hit single from the album, “In My Dreams.” It is a ballad but it is much better than the bigger selling one from the previous album. It’s a good song.

What I also like on this album was that the band went out a bit more. The album’s opener, “New Way to Love” reminds me of Jerry Lee Lewis, especially the piano parts. I said this when I wrote about past REO Speedwagon albums and I’ll say it again here. Neil Doughty deserves more recognition as a keyboards player, he is definitely underrated! It’s not just his piano, his organ playing on some of the other tracks too. The intro on “That Ain’t Love” might sound like it could have been done my Mr. Mister but Neil makes it sound amazing. His best effort and the band’s as well comes on the track, “Variety Tonight.” Neil’s intro kicks it off but then then Gary Richrath lays down some good guitar jams and probably plays his best guitar solo on the album. The female backing singers add a unique touch too and as much as I went on about Neil, I can hear from this song and on “That Ain’t Love” that Bruce Hall doesn’t get the recognition he deserves as a bass player. Furthermore, he sings lead on “Accidents Can Happen” and sounds all right.

What first got me listening to REO Speedwagon in 1980 was the hard rock sound of their 1979 “Nine Lives” album. While “Life As We Know It” doesn’t go back to that sound, it does have its hard rocking moments. “One Too Many Girlfriends” is on song that rocks and I have recently discovered that the song was actually highlighting the growing tensions between band members Kevin Cronin and Gary Richrath. This would be the last album with Gary and Alan Gratzer. Anyway, “Screams and Whispers” and “Over the Edge” also rock out pretty well and if I could have selected a track to be a single, it would have been “Can’t Get You Out of My Heart.” This song is well suited to the 1980s in the sense that there is some good synth work with a hard rocking guitar driven rhythm to it and the lyrics lament a love lost. So, my question is: while wasn’t this song released as a single? Feel free to answer.

Track Listing:

  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 Getting Nowhere
REO Speedwagon

Kevin Cronin- lead vocals, rhythm guitar

Gary Richrath- lead guitar

Neil Doughty- keyboards

Bruce Hall- bass

Alan Gratzer- drums

I won’t go as far as to say that “Life As We Know It” started off my 1987 in style. After all, I didn’t hear it until March and neither the album nor any of the singles got any airplay in the UK. Still, it’s a decent album and showed me that they were still more than the top forty band I had accused them of becoming on their previous album.

Next post: Suzanne Vega- Solitude Standing

To buy Rock and Roll Children, email me at: tobychainsaw@hotmail.com

12 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1987: REO Speedwagon- Life As We Know It”

  1. That made me think of the US top ten with casey casem..wow nice one . great memories

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 1987 was the year that 11 year old me got my first radio in my bedroom and I started to seek out sounds different than my dad’s musical tastes which played in the house. I remember when “In My Dreams” was briefly an FM rock staple at the time. Good times 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Funny, I never think of their rock songs. Maybe we just got inundated with the ballads so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is and they seem to be very popular in the UK.

    Like

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