Real Artists Working REO Speedwagon

featuring: Kevin Cronin, Neal Doughty, Bruce Hall, Dave Amato, and Bryan Hitt

director: Greg Pineda

110 minutes (E) 2002
Wienerworld DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Stephen Lee

Real Artists Working (RAW) appears to be a series of behind-the-scenes music videos brought to us by the Hollywood Music Store, although it seems the only other one is about Chicago, which this reviewer has not seen.
Hi Infidelity (1981) was the only REO Speedwagon album I ever owed and it remains the band’s best work and their most successful, selling over 10 million on its way to America’s number one. This is well reflected by four of the eight song’s shown being from that era of Speedwagon’s long career. Unfortunately, the host and interviewer – a blonde bimbo called Alex – does a very poor job with questions one would expect on Saturday morning kids telly and some very sloppy microphone work. First up is lead guitarist Dave Amato (ex-Ted Nugent band) shows his collection of stringed instruments by Fender, Gibson and Les Paul both originals and copies of retro 1950s’ style axes inspired by Jimi Hendrix. Of course, Amato was playing when only eight years old. This guy has back-ups for his back ups, including three sets of Marshall amplifiers on live sets. Bass player Bruce Hall is next in line for the airhead Alex to try quizzing about his use of technology like wireless amps and computerised sequence triggers, whilst maintaining the life of his original bass by replacing the bridge pickups and strings. Imitations of which can be purchased with a pre-worn finish.
Drummer Bryan Hitt gets the spotlight treatment after only being with the band just over a decade, and forced to make changes to medleys of their early material only having heard it the previous day. Rare footage of the group at rehearsals and sound checks is a treat and the ‘family’ bond shines through, perhaps explaining their own brand of longevity having never stopped touring in any year, visiting every American state despite a changing line-up, now standing since 1990. Founder member Neal Doughty still plays the same Hammond organ he started with in 1971 when he named the band after Ransom Eli Olds’ prewar Speed Wagon. He went on to form the Oldsmobile Company of Michigan, the manufacturers of fine classic autos like the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme (much desired by this reviewer).

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Front man Kevin Cronin looking rather aged, singing his own songs as lead vocalist whilst playing acoustic guitar or piano. His interview is saved till last, and here we see enough live excerpts to be a concert. Including Speedwagon’s forte, the power ballads Can’t Fight This Feeling, Don’t Let Him Go and Take It On The Run. Throughout the interviews there was a common theme from all band members (and a passionate ideal from a group having made over a dozen albums selling tens of millions); that of a music education for all youngsters instead of being top of the hit list of school cost-cutters. Influenced by the Beatles at their height, Speedwagon played on stage with Ringo, and were America’s favourite at Live Aid in 1985, but their low I believe was playing Clinton’s inauguration ball. Sad…
I hope to see more from RAW in the future – ideally, Canada’s Rush, but more likely the Eagles or Aerosmith. REO Speedwagon flirted with films before, but this is a real celebration of their music and the only thing lacking is some input from their peers. Yet the disc remains true to its title and sticks to showing real artists working.