I’m pleased to present in this edition of That 70’s Guy’s – Retro Review, that hidden gem that is none other than 1974’s Lost In A Dream by REO Speedwagon. REO Speedwagon is by no means an unknown band, but Lost In A Dream certainly falls into that category of being a lost classic. I can usually remember every little thing about my introduction to certain bands or albums, but, for the life of me, I can’t recall exactly what brought this classic into our group other than my buddy Rod had picked it up. By all accounts, this my REO virginity breaker.
Lost In A Dream was actually the fourth album by Champaign, Illinois’s finest. This release consisted of Mike Murphy on lead vocals, Gary Richrath on guitar as well as lead vocals on “Wild as the Western Wind“, Neal Doughty on keyboards, Gregg Philbin on bass, backing vocals and Alan Gratzer on drums and backing vocals. Ironically, I originally thought how cool it was that Kevin Cronin’s later contributions mirrored Murphy’s vocal style really well, not knowing that it was the other way round, as Cronin sang on the second album and already had the bragging rights. In fact, Murphy was actually the third singer on the first four albums, as Terry Luttrell sang on the first self-titled debut.
1974 was a great year for me and for music itself. When this album was released in October, I was 14 turning 15. I was coming of age alongside the likes of other faves such as Rush, Kiss, April Wine, Alice Cooper and Uriah Heep. Music was more and more becoming a huge influence on the person I would develop into. I remember sitting in Rod’s living room with this record on the hi-fi, playing it over and over. It was a time of having my first part time job, as a janitor at Mohawk College after school with these songs playing in my head.
This album gives you that down to earth, raw, gritty bar band type of feeling. A band full of sweat, trying to build that cult following that would eventually lead into one of the arena rock favourites of the 70’s alongside Kansas, Foghat, Styx, Boston, Bad Company, Heart, Blue Oyster Cult and Foreigner.
But first, let’s blow off a bit of rust and give it a spin once again!
REO Speedwagon – Lost in a Dream (Released 1974 on Epic Records)
- Give Me a Ride (Roller Coaster) – an album hi-light for sure. Mike Murphy is at his vocal best here and this one concludes with one of the finest singalong choruses on the album at around the 3:00 mark. Who doesn’t like a good roller coaster – especially when you are 15?
- Throw the Chains Away – quickly inserts you right into the action with this fast-paced rocker with a little keyboard/ guitar dual courtesy of Mr. Doughy and Mr. Richrath. It’s less than 2 – ½ minutes long, but leaves an impact.
- Sky Blues – a feel good happy song. Even to this day, I smile when I hear it. Gary soloing mixed with beautiful keys throughout. Wonderful chorus. Nice stuff!!
- You Can Fly – a real dreamy magical trip here. After years of “don’t you dare touch this record because LIAD is next,” this song became a crowd fave on the party play list.
- Lost in a Dream – quite frankly, this anthem is my favourite REO song of all time. Probably listened to it 1000 times or more and it has never, ever lost what it originally had. It has it all. It’s heavy with Richrath at his best. It is layered and really has that whole “experience”. When its over you think to yourself – yes even to this day – holy shit was that ever fucking great! Repeat!
- Down by the Dam – a fantastic start to side two. This one really gives that early REO signature feel. Great Gary solo and more fabulous chorus harmonies. Gary then rips through the fade out in perfect fashion. We actually used to swim and party at Wilkes Dam here in Brantford so this song really got an extra shot of love from us.
- Do Your Best – time for a bit of bluesy boogie REO. This is not my fave, but no reason to lift the needle. Mike is really grinding out the vocals here.
- Wild as the Western Wind – sung by Gary and he does a fine job, mind you. Acoustics, keys and Alan’s drums really rock this one along. I always remember loving the synthesizer solo, as they were the “in” thing back then, courtesy of Edgar Winter and Keith Emerson.
- They’re on the Road – great straight ahead rocker with guitar throughout. I love the chorus and just its overall sound. Musically, it could’ve been a hit single.
- I’m Feeling Good – a perfect playout song; who doesn’t feel good after cranking this baby? Mike can really sing. It makes you wonder what would REO have become if he stayed in the band? And, as always, Gary is subtlety ripping in the background.
There you have it, my personal favourite REO Speedwagon album. Years have passed, but I still play this one more than any other. It’s kind of sad that this record virtually had no hits and got no AM airplay in our area. In fact, it only reached #98 on the Billboard Hot 200. Another crime is that I don’t believe any of these songs have made it into their live shows since. Mike Murphy would last another two albums before Kevin Cronin returned to stay.
One of the biggest regrets in my musical life was I never saw them live, back in the day. I don’t know what we were smoking or maybe smoking too much back then, but they eluded us. We made a point of seeing everyone and anything back then when they came through, but not REO. In fact it wasn’t until 2016 that I finally crossed them off the bucket list.
If I could go back in time, I would place myself in the first row in front of Gary Richrath during the Nine Lives tour in 1979. This was the REO I loved – the real REO – the one that was pure American rock and roll. I remember when Hi-Infidelity came out and they soared to heights beyond belief. I was so happy for them that they finally made it. Millions were appreciating this little Lost In A Dream band. However, from there I strongly feel they got a bad rap and have ever since been labelled that 80’s love song pop band – even to this day.
Gary Richrath, who left the band in 1989, was a monster. An insane player that never got the dues he deserved as a first rate guitarist. He is one of the idols of my youth. He was one of those guys I wished I was. Ever since seeing them on late night TV – whether it be Don Kirshners Rock Concert or the Midnight Special, he was my guitar hero. RIP Gary.
Do me a favour. In fact, do yourself a favour. Go grab a copy of Lost In A Dream or any other 1970’s REO record. If you like straight ahead rock and roll, you won’t be disappointed.
In the meantime check this out: