How REO Speedwagon’s ‘Ridin’ the Storm Out’ Succeeded in Tough Times
When REO Speedwagon’s third studio album arrived in December 1973, no small amount of confusion still surrounded these legendary Illinois rockers.
At this point, REO was without longtime frontman Kevin Cronin, who left during the recording sessions. His replacement, Mike Murphy, became the band’s third lead singer in as many years – joining lynchpin guitarist Gary Richrath, keyboardist Neal Doughty, bassist Gregg Philbin and drummer Alan Gratzer – and would remain with the group throughout their next three unfairly uncelebrated studio LPs.
And, as longtime fans know all too well, the resulting Ridin’ the Storm Out didn't showcase your little sister’s REO Speedwagon. Instead of the sleek, radio-conquering, arena-rocking AOR juggernaut from Cronin’s second term in office, this was a versatile rock and roll ensemble, unafraid to color their commercial aspirations with trace elements of other musical styles.
Most prominent among these were the roots and Southern rock ingredients peppering tunes like "Whiskey Night" and "Son of a Poor Man," the soulful R&B tendencies reflected in the organ and girl group backing vocals gracing "Find My Fortune," "Open Up" and others – to say nothing of the occasional progressive inflection supplied by Doughty’s synthesizer and consistent hard-rock threats made by Richrath’s naturally incendiary guitar work.
Ridin’ the Storm Out may have lacked the undeniable hits and pop-focused songwriting capable of saturating REO Speedwagon to the masses, but the album quietly sold ... and sold ... and sold. In fact, it eventually achieved platinum certification with a little help from the band’s Olympian touring schedule, despite never rising higher than No. 171 on the Billboard charts.