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Hello, My Name Is Kevin

| April 27, 2007

Hello, My Name Is Kevin

This month’s conversationalist is erstwhile IE cover vet Kevin Cronin, who has REO Speedwagon back on the road.

IE: Last we talked, your kids were bursting through the gates of your home studio. I was wondering if you’re besieged currently.

Kevin Cronin: Actually they are at school as we speak and there’s an unsettling calm here. No housekeeper, no children, just my wife and I in the house by ourselves. It’s not normally this calm. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop somewhere.

IE: The new album’s name changed at the last minute, didn’t it?

KC: What occurred to me after a fruitless art meeting was perhaps the album title was wrong. It was one of those things where a woman is pregnant and you start referring to the abdomen as whatever the [chosen] name is, you know, “Bob.” And then the child is born and you realize “That’s not really a Bob, it looks more like a George.”

IE: Then there’s this crazy Wal-Mart box set.

KC: That was another thing: We had planned on a two-CD set right when we were first talking to the Wal-Mart folks. And then at the last minute they decided they wanted it to be a three-disc set. When I got the call I was like, “It’s impossible to record an unplugged concert and produce a DVD in the amount of time you’ve given. I talked to [producer] Joe Vanelli, and we really can’t do it.” Then we got the call back and it was, “You have to do it.”

IE: You kind of come out swinging on the new album. “Smiling In The End” is one of your most aggressive songs.

KC: Yeah, I would agree to that. The band was kind of known for that kind of music in the early ’70s. “Like You Do” comes to mind, but “Smiling In The End” is more aggressive than that. I kind of had a feeling that was gonna be balls to the wall. Interestingly, on the unplugged thing we play it on acoustic guitars and it’s like The New Christy Minstrels.

IE: When you put 10 years between albums, is it easy to approach old fans with new sounds?

KC: If the songs aren’t strong enough, that’s when you run into problems. You’re trying to take a song that isn’t worthy and you’re trying to build it up with arrangement. You’re in trouble when you start trying to do that. It wasn’t by choice or design that there was a 10-year gap between records. When we hit some fertile ground, songwriting-wise, the band reacted to it. There wasn’t any conscious effort to sound a certain way — we sound how we sound. In 10 years you just hope that you improve a little bit.

REO Speedwagon’s Find Your Own Way Home is available now. REO also appears May 9th at Allstate Arena in Rosemont.

Category: Columns, File, Monthly

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  1. Mark says:

    Last January Kevin Cronin said, “Of the eight songs we are going in [to the recording studio] with next week, there is one, kind of sweet acoustic number, and the rest are all sweaty, blister-fingered, Midwest rock’n roll.” WHERE ARE ALL THOSE SWEATY, BLISTER FINGERED MIDWEST ROCK N’ ROLL tunes? All we hear are ballads! What happened to the “speed” in REO Speedwagon??? This album could very well go down as the worst in REO Speedwagon history.

    Review of “Find Your Own Way Home” from the Chicago Sun Times:
    “After a decade of countless repackaged, retreaded hits collections and live recordings, the Champaign-born arena rock band returned to the studio two years ago and has emerged…and eventually falls flat.”

  2. Powerchord says:

    This new REO CD is the worst album in the band’s history – and that’s saying a lot considering how awful both “The Earth, A Small Man His Dog & “A Chicken” and “Building the Bridge” were. None of these new songs stand on their own merit, since Cronin resorts to playing acoustic versions of REO’s greatest hits (Ridin’ the Storm Out”; Take It On the Run) to draw even modest crowds to the Wal-Mart cash register. There isn’t a song worth pulling out of the toilet on this fiasco.

  3. Lorya says:

    This was possibly the worst album I have ever heard, not only the worst album REO ever put out. “Smilin’ in the End” is horrid, but yet “I Needed to fall” was the lamest and most, um, geeky… This is not even the equivelent to hits like “Golden Country”, or “Riding the Storm out”, which, even I will admit, were more talent-filled than this. I think they totally sold out. This album is Mediocracy and fully deserves to be at WalMart, I think. A half a star, all the way… If i could give it -5 stars, I would, but they don’t make ratings like that. Sorry.

  4. Peter Rainey says:

    I heard the new record on a Kentucky radio station last week. Sounded OK to me, don’t know what you’re expecting
    Lorya and Powerchord. It’s been 25 years since REO’s best music. Bands get older and in most cases, their music declines. I can’t say any of their peers music is any better. Richrath
    left the band when Bush Sr. was in office. Get over it. Let it go.

  5. James Cecil says:

    I agree with Peter. I just recently saw them on July 24th and they rocked. The new songs they played were much better live than on CD. I havent seen the band this enthusiatic since the mid 80’s early 90’s. Even though this CD’s not their best it’s definitely not their worst. Having been a fan since 1975 I like everyone else miss Gary terribly. With that said a true fan will stick by the band through thick or thin.

  6. Spike says:

    We’re clearly not listening to the same album here, people!

    Just one example of many: I don’t see how ANYBODY could listen to Track 2 and Track 6 back to back and not admire how Cronin has crafted this psychological “mirror image” of the same event[s] (the pain and rage of infidelity, first in Track 2 from the point of view of the person cheated UPON, and then in Track 6 from the perspective of the person who cheated and now has to say an guiltily uncomfortable goodbye to the third party).

    OK, well maybe not ANYBODY would read this record as somewhat of a personal-growth concept album. You kinda have to be 50-something & long-married, as Cronin is. (As also is Stephen King, who recently released “Lisey’s Story” – in my opinion much the same sort of thinly-fictionalized literary roadmap to someone’s personal-growth process by way of marital crisis and/or addictions as is the new REO Speedwagon a thinly-musicalized representation of the same terrain.)

    Nuts to the professional reviewers; this album marks for me the moment when one ofthe favorite bands of my misspent youth finally grew up…and surprise surprise I seem to gotten there too, if the utter incomprehension on this board of any lyrical content that attempts to exceed “blunts, bee-yatches, and BMWs” is truly representative of what, in David Letterman’s famous phrase, “the kids are listening to these days.” Let’s not forget, both “the pros” and “the kids” slammed Trent Reznor’s last two albums, too…even though genius continues to leak from HIS every pore…