Though REO Speedwagon frontman Kevin Cronin says that he’s “not one for nostalgia,” he’s enthusiastic about the band’s two-year plan to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its biggest-selling album, 1980’s “Hi Infidelity” — which includes a deluxe reissue and possibly a tour playing the full album.
“This is 2010, so we’re kind of celebrating 30 years since we recorded the album,” Cronin tells Billboard.com. “Next year is 2011 — 30 years since 1981, the year that rocked our world…The ‘Hi Infidelity’ record was such a turning point for us, just on a personal and professional level. And an awful lot of people took this music into their lives, into their hearts. It’s just too special of a time to ignore, so I just decided for this anniversary I’m going to embrace it and go for it…We’re milking it for everything it’s worth!”
“Hi Infidelity” was REO’s only No. 1 album and the top-selling rock release of 1981. It’s been certified nine-times platinum and spawned four Top 40 hits, including the chart-topping “Keep on Loving You” and the Top 5 “Take It on the Run.” And, Cronin adds, it came at a time when REO was “literally on the brink of being dropped by our label. This was kind of our last chance.”
Now the group and its fans will have multiple opportunities to relive “Hi Infidelity.” The group is performing the album’s entire first side, with some subtle re-arrangements, on its current summer tour with Pat Benatar; meanwhile, Cronin says, REO is talking about performing the complete album in 2011 — which it’s only done once before, for an XM satellite radio broadcast.
Also on tap for next year is a deluxe edition of “Hi Infidelity,” which will likely include the original demos that REO’s manager recently found in his garage.
“He found a box that said ‘REO’ on it,” Cronin recalls. “It was mostly old photographs, but he dropped it off at my house and when I went through it there it was, a tape from Crystal Recording Studios, July 1980. No one knew where they were. We searched the vaults in New York, L.A. — a full cavity search, you might say — and no one found them. So we were like, ‘All right, I guess that’s our holy grail. We’ll keep searching for them’. “
Cronin says it took significant work to get the tape into usable shape, but the results were as good as he remembered. “It’s pretty fun to listen to — no keyboards, no backing vocals, just guitar and lead vocals. On the finished ‘Hi Infidelity,’ about half of it is performances that were on that demo tape. There was just some magic in those performances, so hopefully we’ll include that in the deluxe set.”
Other plans for the reissue are still being set, as are REO’s tour plans for 2011. Meanwhile, Cronin says the current edition of REO is in a “creative spurt” that he hopes will yield the group’s first set of new material since 2007’s “Find Your Own Way Home” (not counting the 2009’s holiday album, “Not So Silent Night.”)
Cronin is playing a new song in concert — which he says will be called either “Can’t Stop Loving You” or “Unfinished Poem” — and he’s pleased that “this is another one of those tight periods for the band. You can’t take it for granted when you get five guys all in the same mindspace — like we were for ‘Hi Infidelity.’ It’s a real special thing.”