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Articles Home » 1992 Articles » Richrath - 1992 Only The Strong Survive
Richrath - 1992 Only The Strong Survive

ARTIST: Richrath
ALBUM: Only The Strong Survive
LABEL: GNP Crescendo
YEAR: 1992


LINEUP: Gary Richrath - guitar, backing vocals, production * Michael E. Jahnz - lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar * Jim Sorensen - bass * Dave Fraser - keyboards, backing vocals * Tracy Martins - drums, percussion

TRACK LISTING: 01 Tragedy * 02 Outlaws * 03 Where I Play * 04 Today * 05 Searchin' * 06 Holly Would * 07 After All * 08 Captured * 09 Hearts On Fire * 10 In Your Letter * 11 Murder By Suicide * 12 Only The Strong Survive * 13 If The Nite Don't Getcha

The fallout from REO Speedwagon's late 80's era has already been covered here on their 1990 article for 'The Earth...' That Kevin Cronin and REO moved on without guitarist Gary Richrath in early 1989 can be viewed with some ambivalence by supporters of the band. Gary's contribution to REO's success cannot be undervalued, and I think for many midwest supporters, something was lost when REO returned in full with their new lineup. As much as I enjoyed 'The Earth..', it would've been interesting to hear what it sounded like with Richrath onboard rather than Dave Amato, but that's water under the bridge now. Besides, Gary hooked up with Neil Norman (i.e. Norman & Sexton) to release 'Only The Strong Survive', on Norman's GNP Crescendo label during 1992. The foil for Gary's guitar is singer Michael Jahnz. Surprisingly, Gary opts out of the lead vocal role, even though his voice is more than capable if his past REO contributions are anything to go by. There have been some interesting comments on sites like Amazon and CD Universe relating to Jahnz's performance. Some say he sounded too much like Cronin, one bloke even saying his voice was off pitch! I didn't hear any of that to be honest, though I'll admit his voice was higher-pitched and slightly thinner. Helping out with songwriting is Tom DeLuca who provides a handful of co-writes.

The Songs
Let's just say that 'Only The Strong Survive' is a variation on the REO theme, in much the same way that 1991's The Storm was a variation on Journey. I'll admit to not playing this album often, but given my urge to complete a raft of 1992 articles, this one has had the spotlight applied to it. Tell me, are the lyrics to 'Tragedy' a reflection of the way events unfolded between Cronin and Richrath? You'd think so as you read between the lines. Still, Gary's trademark guitar style can be heard unaffected. 'Outlaws' is so REO influenced that it borders on the disturbingly doppleganger! 'Where I Pray' is a great number and builds beautifully throughout in a sweeping kind of way. 'Today' is all about acoustic melodies, though the Korg synth/sound effects are annoying (as familiar as I am with them). It's just as well I didn't break out with the lyric 'Heard it from a friend, who.. heard it a friend..' A distinctive drum pattern rolls out on 'Searchin', this one turns out to be a rabble-rouser with Jahnz hitting some high notes and Richrath firing out six-string salvos. The dubiously titled 'Holly Would' fits the mould of radio-oriented ballad, and it's an ok track despite my initial reservations. 'After All' resides in ballad territory too, I quite liked this, the vocal harmonies around chorus time were pretty good. 'Captured' features a strong organ presence, again adding to the REO comparison, though Jahnz's vocal hovers in the cloud mostly. 'Hearts On Fire' takes us back to the brimstone rock of REO's 'Nine Lives' (for mine, REO's best album), the energy here is absolutely bristling. Scratch the walls and lightning could be generated. The inclusion of two previous REO songs ('Hi-Infidelity's 'In Your Letter' and the title track 'Only The Strong Survive' from 'Nine Lives') was probably unnecessary considering my comments above about Richrath being an REO variation. The closer 'If The Nite Don't Getcha' is a barroom boogie workout; something well suited to REO's Neal Doughty's style of keyboard playing. Richrath also adds some stylish slide guitar work too.

In Summary
Not much more to add other than to say that REO fans should enjoy this for what it is. Strangely though, Gary Richrath has been missing in action ever since, though I'm sure he's active at a local level somewhere in Northern Illinois.

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#1 | Eric on August 13 2013 17:28:01
One of my favorite guitarists and so underrated. Sad he's just vanished...
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