REO Speedwagon: Not So Silent Night

RIYL: REO Speedwagon, Air Supply, the Grinch

Their name has long been synonymous with toothless, Wonder Bread-flavored AOR, but once upon a time, REO Speedwagon really did aspire to be a kick-ass rock band – and they showed flashes of getting there over a 15-year period, occasionally managing to work up a decent sweat during minor FM classics like Hi Infidelity and Good Trouble, only to be thwarted at every turn by the soft, pale presence of vocalist Kevin Cronin. He’s had his moments as a songwriter, but as a singer, Cronin is about as rock & roll as Liberace, and his fondness for schmaltz has steadily robbed the band of whatever limited credibility it might have enjoyed. And speaking of schmaltz, here’s Not So Silent Night, a fascinatingly dreadful collection of holiday tracks “with a unique REO Speedwagon musical twist,” which is publicist-speak for “corny as all get out.” Not that Christmas albums need to rock, necessarily, but Cronin really castrates the band here, tossing in shiver-inducing spoken-word sketches, terribly inappropriate ad libs, and borderline offensive cover choices (you can’t help but wonder if John Lennon would still be a pacifist if he could hear this version of “Happy Xmas [War Is Over]”). He’s always had the charisma and vocal authority of a hairless kitten, but Not So Silent Night really begs the question of how Kevin Cronin has managed to keep his grip on REO Speedwagon all these years. Of all the veteran bands who should have gone out and found themselves a nice young replacement singer from the Philippines by now, this one surely tops the list. (Sony Legacy 2009)

REO Speedwagon MySpace page


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