Tag: REO Speedwagon

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.