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You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can't Tuna Fish
REO Speedwagon

Epic JE 35082
Released: April 1978
Chart Peak: #29
Weeks Charted: 48
Certified Platinum: 11/7/80

Kevin CroninNo matter how catchy and feisty it may be, REO Speedwagon's eighth album unfortunately duplicates the problem that has prevented the band from becoming a blockbusting Seventies act: its facelessness. Though Speedwagon's cheery heavy metal/power pop builds momentum from rhythmic snappiness, reinforced chords and exuberantly ripe harmonies in a manner that mops the floor with such carnivores as Kiss or Angel, all the songs here are somewhat shackled by undistinguished, though likeable, lead vocals and dull lyrics. Maybe this group could really command attention if it adopted some cenceptual pretensions or searched out a wonderfully slimy lead singer like Queen's Freddie Mercury.

That aside, You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can't Tuna Fish is probably one of REO's strongest efforts. Because of the band's melodic flair and creative theft, Speedwagon at times demonstrates that facelessness can be its own reward: "Lucky for You" cleverly fuses Poco's bounciness, some Southern-style twin lead guitars and the Ramones' buzzsaw rock & roll, while "Do You Know Where Your Woman Is Tonight?" is tasty, ersatz Fleetwood Mac. The LP derives additional power from the group's textured, crisp self-production. This is best illustrated by the electric and acoustic guitar work on "Blazin' Your Own Trail Again," a song that mates metallic thunder with country-rock bouyancy.

REO Speedwagon - You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can't Tuna Fish
Original album advertising art.
Click image for larger view.
Without undue strain, rock & roll zealots could argue that REO Speedwagon makes everything sound too damned friendly, that the band's music lacks any genuine tension. But what helps free the group from such criticism is its vivacious professionalism and finely crafted songs, both of which are definitely in abundance here.




Further reading on
Super Seventies RockSite!:

Album Review:
Hi-Infidelity

REO Speedwagon Lyrics

REO Speedwagon Videos

- Mitchell Schneider, Rolling Stone, 6/29/78.

Bonus Reviews!

This hardworking Midwest rock band struck gold on its last live double LP, and there is a good chance this studio effort will do at least as well. While not breaking any new ground instrumentally or thematically, the band is solid, tight and thoroughly entertaining. The five-man group plays very commercially viable rock, full of hooks and smooth vocal harmonies. The songs are well crafted, concise and to the point. Best cuts: "Roll With The Changes," "Blazin' Your Own Trail Again," "The Unidentified Flying Tuna Trot," "Do You Know Where Your Woman Is Tonight?"

- Billboard, 1978.

You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can't Tuna Fish was REO Speedwagon's biggest hit of the '70s, featuring the singles "Roll with the Changes" and "Time for Me To Fly." * * * *

- The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can't Tuna Fish offers a similar brand of feel-good arena rock as REO's 1981 mega-seller Hi Infidelity. * * * *

- Brandon Trenz, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

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