Tag: REO Speedwagon

Roll with the Changes: Dave Amato Talks Guitars and 25 Years with REO Speedwagon

Since REO Speedwagon’s arrival on the scene 40-plus years ago, the band has seen a lot of musical changes. Touring relentlessly through the Midwest in the 1970s, they finally broke through, scoring a pair of No. 1 hits in the 1980s. They also had the bestselling rock album of 1981, Hi Infidelity.

REO Speedwagon (Photo: Lisa Cuvo)
REO Speedwagon (Photo: Lisa Cuvo)

Some might even say they were the originators of the term “power ballad.”

And although the band also has gone through a few personnel changes over the years, they never cease to bring their lineup of hits to eager fans every year.

The band, which includes Kevin Cronin (vocals, rhythm guitar), Dave Amato (guitars), Bruce Hall (bass), Neal Doughty (keyboards) and Bryan Hitt (drums), performed 96 shows last year and are on pace to do an equal amount in 2014, including a summer co-headlining tour with Chicago.

I caught up with Amato, who recently celebrated 25 years with REO Speedwagon. I asked him to reflect on his career with REO and his affection for guitars and vintage gear. He also told me about an important lesson he learned from his early years working with Ted Nugent.

GUITAR WORLD: Twenty-five years with REO Speedwagon. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about that?

I think brothers. We’ve been together for 25 years, and these guys are my friends and my brothers. It’s great playing with them every night.

Can you tell me the story of how you joined the band?

My friend Jesse Harms was a keyboard player in Sammy Hagar’s band and was also writing songs with Kevin [Cronin]. Gary [Richrath] wasn’t with the band anymore and they were looking for a guitar player. They didn’t want to put out a “cattle call” for people in LA, so Jesse mentioned me to Kevin and they gave me a few songs to see what I could do with them. I remember I went in on a Friday around 1 p.m. We played a few of the songs together and then played a little basketball. Then we went back in and jammed again until around 5. That was when they offered me a spot in the band. It’s a good story and was just meant to be.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Dave Amato by Clicking Here!

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REO Speedwagon Rocks Penn’s Peak In SOLD OUT Performance

REOSpeedwagonIt didn’t take long for REO Speedwagon front man Kevin Cronin to make the announcement. After completing the band’s third song of the evening – the monster hit “Take It On The Run” from their ten-million selling “Hi Infidelity” album – Cronin took to the mic to announce that the band had recently been self-anointed the Kings Of Classic Rock.

Although obviously made in jest it’s hard to argue the fact, based upon the evidence that was presented at last night’s SOLD OUT show at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe, PA.

REO Speedwagon has always been notorious for bringing one of the most magical, high-energy shows around, but the band’s performance last night seemed more like a musical revival than a typical rock concert – and REO preached the gospel as fans were treated to music spanning the length of the band’s 40+ year career.

Kevin Cronin surveys the kingdom. (Photo by REO Speedwagon).
Kevin Cronin surveys the kingdom (Photo by REO Speedwagon).

Front man Kevin Cronin’s vocals never seemed to waver – singing the same songs he’s been performing since the mid 1970’s with both gusto and perfection. For a man who has written an arsenal of classic rock favorites over the years, he’s still at the top of his game.

Kevin Cronin, Bruce Hall and Dave Amato deliver the goods!
Kevin Cronin, Bruce Hall and Dave Amato deliver the goods!

Guitarist Dave Amato, who just celebrated 25 years with REO is a force to be reckoned with. Not only does he make fellow guitarists (like me) drop their jaws at his playing and collection of Les Pauls and Fender Stratocasters, but he’s also one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

A dapper Neal Doughty performing 'Roll With The Changes'
A dapper Neal Doughty performing ‘Roll With The Changes’

Keyboardist Neal Doughty remains the sole member of the band’s original line-up since its formation in 1967, and one of the most magical moments of the evening came when Cronin introduced him before Doughty began playing the opening intro to their smash-hit “Can’t Fight This Feeling”.

Drummer Bryan Hitt doesn’t miss a beat – literally. Whether he’s playing the intro to “Don’t Let Him Go” or wailing away on the gong while surveying the landscape, there’s no one who can deliver the back beat for REO better than Hitt.

REO is also well-known for unleashing its classic rock heavy artillery towards the end of the set and last night was no exception. Following an audience participation request by Cronin, bassist Bruce Hall took to the mic for the anthemic “Back On The Road Again”.

Bryan Hitt shows 'em how it's done.
Bryan Hitt shows ’em how it’s done (Photo: Lisa Cuvo)

Following another staple of 70’s radio – “Roll With The Changes”, the band came back for an encore of their first #1 hit (“Keep On Loving You”) followed by Cronin’s infamous “Last song people” announcement before launching into a rousing finale of “Ridin’ The Storm Out” – complete with sirens!

I’ve seen REO Speedwagon more than a dozen times since the mid-80’s. From small-town college gymnasiums and theaters to large outdoor theme parks and music festivals. Each time, they just seem to get better and better. But last night’s show at Penns Peak was more than just another sold out, high energy performance by classic rock royalty. It was a kinship of music lovers celebrating the career of a band they love – and one whose songs have helped them through both good times and bad.

As one of the 1,800 loyal subjects who surveyed the REO Speedwagon kingdom last night, I am pleased to report that our future is in good hands.

Long live the kings.

REO Speedwagon Set List (Jim Thorpe, PA)

Don’t Let Him Go
Music Man
Take It On The Run
Keep Pushin’
Golden Country
Can’t Fight This Feeling
That Ain’t Love
Tough Guys
Like You Do
Keep The Fire Burnin’ (Acoustic)
Time For Me To Fly
Back On The Road Again
Roll With Changes

Encore:

Keep on Loving You
Ridin’ The Storm Out

REO Speedwagon: Live at Moondance Jam

REOMoondanceIt was a cold winter’s night back in 1985 when I braved the frigid February elements and drove my beat up rickety Toyota station wagon to a local college gymnasium to see REO Speedwagon. I was just a wiry, sixteen-year old at the time. A novice of the live band brouhaha and attending one of my very first concerts.

I’m not sure whether it was REO’s performance that night, or the fact that I was in the thick of what would one day become known as the “classic rock” era of music [more likely a combination of the two], but that night still reigns as one of my favorite shows ever.

Now almost thirty years later and with 40 million albums sold world-wide and thousands of more shows under their belts, attending an REO Speedwagon concert isn’t just an event, it’s an experience [and trust me, I’ve seen many of them]. I liken it to being witness to the opening of a time capsule of classic rock goodness.

A lot of people seem to forget that it was REO Speedwagon’s mid-west work ethic in the early 1970’s that paved the way for bands like Styx, Kansas and Cheap Trick. They’re also one of few bands from that so-called bygone era who still continuously tours year after year. And why not? The band’s blockbuster album, “Hi Infidelity” sold more than 9 million copies alone and spent an astounding 15 weeks in the #1 slot. A feat that’s simply unattainable in music today.

REO’s new album/DVD, “Live at Moondance Jam” was recorded in 2010 at the annual mid-summer festival in Walker, MN and once again showcases the band at its absolute finest. A performance that begins with a superfecta of songs from the Fidelity album before bounding around the Speedwagon catalog of hits that include “Roll With The Changes”, “Time For Me To Fly” and “Ridin’ The Storm Out”. Every song on this live album package was at one time or another burned out on a vinyl turntable or cassette deck.

Consisting of lead singer/guitarist Kevin Cronin (who’s penned not one, but two #1 hits; both of which are performed here), Neal Doughty (founding member of the band); Bruce Hall (Bass); Dave Amato (Lead guitar/Vocals) and Bryan Hitt (Drums), REO Speedwagon continues to prove that real rock is alive and well and hard work pays off.

“Live At Moondance Jam” is a concert experience you won’t have to brave the elements to attend, but one that’s a must have for your collection.

REO

Tracklisting:

CD: Don’t Let Him Go; Keep on Loving You; In Your Letter; Take It on the Run; Keep Pushin’; Golden Country; Can’t Fight This Feeling; Like You Do; Time for Me to Fly; Back on the Road Again; Roll with the Changes; Ridin’ the Storm Out; 157 Riverside Avenue.

DVD / Blu Ray: Don’t Let Him Go; Keep on Loving You; In Your Letter; Take It on the Run; Keep Pushin’; Golden Country; Can’t Fight This Feeling; Like You Do; Time for Me to Fly; Back on the Road Again; Roll with the Changes; Ridin’ the Storm Out; 157 Riverside Avenue. Bonus : Interview with Kevin Cronin

REO Speedwagon:

Neal Doughty – keyboards, organ, piano, synthesizer
Kevin Cronin – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, piano, keyboards
Bruce Hall – bass guitar, vocals
Dave Amato – lead guitar, vocals
Bryan Hitt – drums, percussion

Dave Amato Talks Les Pauls, Touring and REO Speedwagon

DaveAmato

If you’re a child of the ’80s and ’90s, chances are you’ve heard the work of guitarist Dave Amato.

Amato’s six-string prowess is a major part of songs by REO Speedwagon, and his impressive resume includes stints with Ted Nugent, Richie Sambora, Cher and Latoya Jackson.

Amato, a self-professed gear head, has amassed a collection of more than 100 guitars and a dozen Marshall stacks over the course of his career (most of them vintage).

I recently spoke to Amato, who’s now on tour with REO Speedwagon, Styx and Nugent, and got the scoop on his time with the band as well as his affinity for vintage gear and his forthcoming signature model Gibson Les Paul.

This is the second annual Midwest Rock and Roll Express. How has it been reuniting with Ted (Nugent) for these tours?

It’s fun. I was Ted’s understudy in the 80’s and we’re close friends. And Styx and REO are like family, so it’s a great bill.

You always play a lot beautiful guitars on stage.

I love guitars and like to show them off. When people come backstage after the show, we’ll talk about everything and that’s great. But if we start talking about guitars, I’ll keep them there all night. I’m a gear head first and foremost. [laughs]

Read the rest of my Guitar World interview with REO Speedwagon’s Dave Amato HERE

REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin Discusses Latest Tour, Guitars and ‘Hi Infidelity’

REO_RandeeSt.NicholasPowered by the vocals and songwriting of guitarist Kevin Cronin, REO Speedwagon continues to bring its brand of mid-west rock and roll to the masses.

Cronin briefly left the band during the recording of the “Ridin The Storm Out” album, but rejoined in 1976 and has been with them ever since.

Guitarist Gary Richrath, whose signature Les Paul sound became synonymous with hits like “Roll With The Changes” and “Take It On The Run” left the group in 1989 and was replaced by Dave Amato, whose resume includes stints with Ted Nugent and Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi).

REO Speedwagon is: Kevin Cronin (vocals/guitar), Dave Amato (guitar), Neal Doughty (keyboards), Bruce Hall (bass) and Bryan Hitt (drums).

I spoke with Cronin about this year’s “Midwest Rock ‘n Roll Express” tour which brings along veteran rockers Styx and Nugent. We also discuss the Hi Infidelity album and a recent encounter he had with Richrath.

Where did the idea for a “Midwest Rock and Roll Express” originate?

We had always been toying with the idea taking a little bit of our mid-west culture and bringing it around the country.  So last year I called my buddy Tommy Shaw and he was in. Then to find that third piece, Tommy mentioned Nugent (from his ‘Damn Yankees’ relationship). The idea worked out so well last year that we decided to do it all again.

Read the rest of my Guitar World Interview with Kevin Cronin Here

Eye Of The Tiger: My Journey With Survivor

It was a hot summer night almost thirty years ago when my neighbors drug my brother and I to the movies to see the third installment of the Rocky Balboa franchise. Not that we went kicking and screaming mind you. Any opportunity for teenage boys to get out of the house was most welcome. No, it’s just that we would have much preferred to see “Poltergeist” or better still, sneak into see the R-rated “Fast Times At Ridgemont High”. Looking back now though I’m glad we chose to consume large quantities of popcorn and Coke with Sly Stallone instead of Jeff Spicoli.

Rocky III was the film that first introduced me to Mr. T, the mo-hawked muscle man who would go on to pity fools for the remainder of the 1980’s and beyond. But Rocky III also introduced me to something else: something even more powerful than Mr. T’s gold chains or feathered earrings. It was also the film where I first heard the now infamous guitar riff for a song from a band that would change my life: Eye Of The Tiger by Survivor.

Written by Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik and sung by Dave Bickler (who would later achieve great fame as the singer on the Real Men Of Genius Bud Lite commercials), the theme from Rocky III is still as popular as ever three decades later. Along with winning a Grammy the song was also nominated for an Academy Award, became the #1 song of 1982, has to date over 2.5 million downloads on iTunes and ranks as the #3 best song to workout to according to Men’s Health magazine.

The band would strike Rocky gold again a few years later when the song “Burning Heart” was released as part of the Rocky IV soundtrack. Although this song didn’t fare quite as well as Tiger, the music from Survivor continues to be both inspirational and motivating to me. As you’ll soon discover, the seed planted with Eye of the Tiger would not only begin my admiration for the band but would ultimately become the spark that would fuel my life and music for years to come.

When I first started playing guitar in 1984 a new Survivor album was already making its way up the charts. Vital Signs was the first album to feature new singer Jimi Jamison on vocals and was the very first record I ever purchased. (Jamison would later go on to sing the infamous theme from the television show Baywatch). Songs like “I Can’t Hold Back“, “High on You” and “The Search is Over” were getting tremendous airplay on both radio and the early days of  MTV(back when they used to play music videos). These were songs with melodies and lyrics that really spoke to me. Words of encouragement in my love less adolescent youth. Songs I wanted to learn how to play.

So while most other aspiring guitarists were locked away in lesson rooms with their guitar teachers learning Van-Halen and Def Leppard solos I was dragging my butt in with a menacing jet black Gibson Explorer asking my teacher to show me how to play “I See You In Everyone“, the final song on the Vital Signs album, note for note.

Now that I think about it I can still recall the puzzled look on my teacher’s face when I brought the album to lesson for the first time. And I can still picture him saying: “What, no RUSH?….No AC/DC?…No Bon Jovi?” and I’d just smile and think to myself, “Nope, even better!” For how could I possibly tell a man who grew up watching artists like The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin that the absolute best concert I ever saw in my life was Survivor and REO Speedwagon in 1985? But it was, and quite frankly still is, true.

By 1986 my longing for a new Survivor record was finally appeased. When Seconds Count was released and immediately consumed me. Songs like “How Much Love” and “Rebel Son” inspired a then seventeen year old boy to reach higher and the ballad “Man Against The World” made me want to track down keyboardist Jim Peterik himself and make him show me how to play its beautiful melody. By this point I think most of my friends knew that my whole Eye of The Tiger/Survivor phase wasn’t just a passing fad. In fact, one of my best memories of graduating high school was the post grad party my parents held where me and a bunch of other musician friends all set up our gear and played half of the Vital Signs record.

It wasn’t long before college came calling and once again Survivor was there with me. This time with 1988’s Too Hot To Sleep. I can’t begin to tell you how many trips across the miles of campus I made with “Didn’t Know it Was Love” and “Desperate Dreams” blaring on my Sony Walkman. Although the band themselves consider this to be their best album the fact that it didn’t achieve big commercial success didn’t bother me one bit. For me, much like them, it’s always been about the music and this one delivered the goods.

Once college life was over the job of real “work” began. While playing my part in the 9-5 crowd over the years I’d keep myself busy in the musical groove by writing and performing in various bands. All the while I’d find myself writing songs that were influenced by the amazing songs from those Survivor records. Unfortunately it would be quite a while before I would hear any new music from the band other than from compilation albums. Unless of course you count that hilarious Starbucks commercial.

Finally in 2006 a brand new album, Reach was released and listening to the first song and title track was a much welcomed slap in the face. The blaring guitars and drums told me that at long last the Tiger was back. I immediately proclaimed, to myself anyway, that this song should be the one they start every show with. This record not only featured guitarist Frankie Sullivan singing lead on few tracks but also contains the song “Fire Makes Steel”, yet another inspirational anthem which, go figure, was almost and should have been included in the film “Rocky Balboa”.

As you can see, I’m a huge fan of this band. I also know that the band has gone through several line-up changes over the years. Different singers, bass players and drummers have come and gone. There’s no need for me to know all the reasons why. I can personally attest to there being drama in every band so line-up changes are not at all that surprising. But it was unfortunate that Jimi Jamison, the voice that became synonymous with Survivor for me had left the group shortly after this record was released. Robin McAuley, most known for his work with McAuley Schenker Group would take over on lead vocals for subsequent tours over the next few years.

Flash forward to 2012: A surprise announcement was made that Jimi Jamison, who had released several well received solo albums since his departure five years ago, would once again be rejoining Survivor for a new album and tour. Having suffered for years listening to robotic voices and synthesized loops in what’s being peddled as “music” these days my prayers for real new music and songwriting from my favorite band is about to come true once again! To say that I’m excited is an understatement.

Ironically enough, it all seems to have come full circle for me. This “new” Survivor is going to happen nearly thirty years to the day since I first heard that guitar riff in the darkened movie theater. The summer night that changed everything for me. And the message of the song couldn’t be more true today:

Just a band and it’s will…to survive.

30 Years of Hi Infidelity

Thirty years ago at this summer a young twelve-year-old blogger (me) was busily wearing out the vinyl of one of his favorite albums: Hi Infidelity, the break-through album by REO Speedwagon, a band who had achieved moderate levels of success during the 1970’s with songs like “Time For Me To Fly” and “Roll With The Changes”.

The release of Hi Infidelity catapulted the band from a local mid western act into a world-wide arena rock sensation selling an estimated 10 million copies and spending fifteen weeks at #1 on the Billboard album charts. Powered by the songs “Take it On The Run”, “Don’t Let Him Go” and the song that started the power ballad craze, “Keep on Loving You”, which became the band’s first #1 song.

REO Speedwagon has gone through a few line-up changes over it’s 44 year history (yes they’ve been rockin’ since the 1960’s)  but still holds founding member Neal Doughty (keyboards/Hammond Organ) in it’s arsenal along with long time members Kevin Cronin (vocals, guitar), Bruce Hall (bass guitar) and the “babies” of the group: Dave Amato (21 years as lead guitarist) and Bryan Hitt (20 years on drums). Gone are the original members who contributed to the Hi Infidelity album: guitarist Gary Richrath (left in 1989) and drummer Alan Gratzer (retired).

Not surprisingly, the band is celebrating the 30th anniversary of this monumental event with the digitally remastered release of Hi Infidelity: The 30th Anniversary Edition.

What sets this 2 CD release apart from most other milestone reissues is what’s also included on disc two:  The Crystal Demos –  previously unreleased demo versions of nine songs from the album. Here, listeners actually get the opportunity to hear the “raw” sound of what was to become the biggest selling album of 1981. In addition, the CD package also contains liner notes from Kevin Cronin and long time guitarist Gary Richrath.

Hi-Infidelity’s accolades include:

* The highest-selling rock LP of 1981

* Has sold more than 10 million copies in the US

* On February 21, 1981; the album reached #1 on the Billboard album chart and remained at #1 for 15 straight weeks; over-taking  John Lennon’s “Double Fantasy” album. Not many bands can claim their record dethroned a Beatle.

* Remained on the Billboard 200 album chart for 101 weeks, unprecedented for an American rock band at the time

* The single “Keep on Loving You,” certified  #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on March 21, 1981

* “Take it On The Run” and “Keep on Loving You” were one of the first videos that aired on MTV (#9 and #17 respectively)

REO Speedwagon is currently out on the road in support of their “new” record.  As an bonus, in addition to all of the other hits they are known for, the band has also included at least six songs from the Hi Infidelity album into their set list.  It’s the perfect opportunity for fans to hear most of this milestone record performed live.

There are plenty of reasons 80’s rock fans should revisit REO Speedwagon’s magnum opus. What’s even better: wearing out the polycarbonate plastic on this 30th Anniversary Edition is much harder to do than it was on the original vinyl. Be sure to check it out.

 

Article first published as 30 Years of Hi Infidelity on Technorati.