Last October, Cherry Red/Hear No Evil released the 8-CD The Early Years 1971-1977, chronicling REO Speedwagon’s beginning on Epic Records. And now they’re back with the follow-up set: The Classic Years 1978-1990, containing the group’s seven remaining Epic albums and a bonus live disc across 9 CDs, highlighting the period when REO Speedwagon became a household name.
Cherry Red/Hear No Evil’s new box offers a lot of bonus material, with every album except Good Trouble being expanded. You Can Tune a Piano offers three single versions and the seven track EP “Live Again” from 1978. Nine Lives and Wheels Are Turnin’ each add several single edits and versions, with Wheels also containing the band’s song for the Goonies soundtrack: “Wherever You’re Goin’ (It’s Alright).” Life As We Know It adds two single edits and two songs from The Hits(the last songs Richrath and Gratzer performed on) while The Earth, A Small Man, His Dog and A Chicken is expanded by three single versions and two songs from the 1999 compilation The Ballads. Hi Infidelity gets the most generous expansion with a whole second disc devoted to bonus content. Nine demos from the album (first released on a 2011 reissue) are joined by two single edits and five live tracks. More live material can be heard on the tenth and final disc of the boxset which contains 17 tracks recorded at various locations from 1980 through 1990.
Matching the design of the previous box, all of the discs are housed in a clamshell case and come in individual paper sleeves replicating the original album artwork. The 40-page full color booklet contains new liner notes by Malcom Dome which draw on new interviews with Cronin, Gratzer, Hall and Neal Doughty. The book also has reproductions of some artwork from singles and advertisements. The remastering was done by Tony Dixon at Masterpiece, London and is solid throughout.