Article first published as http://blogcritics.org/music/article/music-review-reo-speedwagon-hi-infidelity/ On Blogcritics.
In 1981, REO Speedwagon released Hi Infidelity, which would be the band’s highest selling album with Gold and Platinum in its immediate future. With heartfelt lyrics and perfect pitch sound of the rock and roll anthems like “Take It On The Run,” and “Keep On Loving You,” REO Speedwagon and Hi Infidelity became the band and the album you heard on every radio station—everywhere.
Now, 30 years later, Epic/Legacy Records is re-releasing Hi Infidelity on its 30th Anniversary as a two-CD edition which includes the original award winning album and a second disc titled “The Crystal Demos.” REO Speedwagon had released several albums prior to Hi Infidelity, but it was pivotal in its career and was widely acclaimed as a triumph of writing and performance skill. Hi Infidelity sold close to 10 million copies and was number one on the charts for 15 weeks, longer than many of its contemporaries at the time. This major accomplishment was followed by the fact that it remained on the Billboard 200 album chart for 101 weeks.
In Hi Infidelity, REO Speedwagon takes you on an audio tour of the soul, from moments of joy to feelings of heartbreak that every listener could identify with. The group seems to look at relationships from two views, In “Don’t Let Him Go,” the vocalist issues a warning to not take the man you love for granted, and on “In Your Letter,” the singer is letting an ex-girlfriend know what he thinks of her “Dear John” letter. All of the tracks on Hi Infidelity connect with the listener on a personal level, which is why this album is just as great now as it was 30 years ago when it was first heard on the airwaves.
The second CD “The Crystal Demos” is a collection of demos of nine tracks from the album. It embodies the music of Hi Infidelity in its raw and un-edited form with a strong “rock and roll” edge, with most of the songs being recorded in one take. The instrumental version of “Shakin’ It Loose” stands out, as it pulls you into every note, and you find yourself just tapping your foot in time.
I have found that when bands release demo editions or pull out previously unheard tracks, there is a muddy sound or texture and the songs have obvious issues or mistakes in them. Here, it sounds like REO Speedwagon is playing in a concert hall arena, a perfect sound check before the sold out show, emotionally charged and with the “Concert Live” sound that brought REO Speedwagon fans to every show it played. Listening to the two discs, it is just very subtle differences and note by note changeups that are noticed.
I enjoyed reviewing this album. Listening to it, I remember standing in line to get tickets to REO Speedwagon when it played the Nassau Coliseum in New York in 1983. Not an empty seat was in the house, and REO Speedwagon was and still is a powerhouse onstage. And the re-release of Hi Infidelity [30th Anniversary Edition], with “The Crystal Demos” is proof that rock never stops.
The album contains songs that excited a nation of fans and was one of the few albums in history to have almost every song in the Top 10 of Billboard’s Top 100. It also creates a new milestone in REO Speedwagon’s legacy. This fantastic double CD set will be released on July 19, 2011 to promote REO Speedwagon’s Nation Wide Tour, as it will appear in concert halls from The Greek in Los Angeles to USANA Amphitheatre in Salt Lake City, Utah.