Wednesday, April 29, 2020

"Variety Tonight" by REO Speedwagon

Song#:  3118
Date:  05/09/1987
Debut:  88
Peak:  60
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  REO's Life As We Know It album didn't necessarily start off well. Its first single, "That Ain't Love," got to #5 at Rock, but received a cooler welcome at Pop where it stopped at #16. Their previous album Wheels Are Turnin' similarly got off to a shaky start, but its second single "Can't Fight This Feeling" (#1 Pop) ended up making the album a #7 double-platinum seller. The band was perhaps hoping this next single from Life As We Know It might prove to spark sales as well, but it didn't work out that way. The track was a minor entry at Rock getting to #28 while not even cracking the top half of the Pop chart. With the album stalling at #28, their next single needed to do much better (spoiler - it did, but not in a major way) to boost sales.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't a fan of the band's material that followed the classic Hi Infidelty album. About the only single I kind of liked was 1982's "Keep the Fire Burnin'" from Good Trouble. After that, their output was full of tepid pop/rock tunes or overblown ballads. However, this single was an unexpected surprise. It didn't necessarily fall in line with REO's typical sound, which was a good thing. It was one of the rare songs written by the band's keyboardist Neal Doughty and he did a fine job giving the band something new to do. It was definitely not the rock 'n' roll of the band's earlier days, but it was a nice stab at 80s-influenced rock. I quite like the churning feel of the tune along with the chorus and background vocals. The tune kind of reminds me of something a UK band like Wang Chung or Tears for Fears might have done, which is a positive comment. Was it classic REO? No and perhaps that is why did didn't do so well on the charts. But for me it was their best track since the Hi Infidelity days.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Listeners of the syndicated Bob & Tom radio morning show may be familiar with the blues singer/songwriter/guitarist Duke Tumatoe. He and his band make guest appearances on the radio program several times a year. Tumatoe has remained a popular club attraction over the years around the midwest and specifically in his adopted home of Indianapolis. He has recorded several albums and even had one produced by John Fogerty, 1988's live disc I Like My Job. Originally from Chicago, Tumatoe's given name was Bill Fiorio. In the late 60s, Fiorio became the guitarist for a local band named REO Speedwagon. At the time, the band was more soul-oriented and that fit in with Fiorio's love of Chicago-style blues. But then in 1969, the band decided to make a shift towards rock music. The new direction wasn't a fit for Fiorio, so he left the band before they got signed and issued out their 1971 debut album.


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