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Chicago - Chicago (aka Chicago  II) CD (album) cover

CHICAGO (AKA CHICAGO II)

Chicago

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.09 | 104 ratings

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sealchan
3 stars Chicago - Chicago (3.13 stars) Original Release: 1/26/1970

Songs:

Movin' In (3 stars) This introductory song is like the song "Introduction" on Chicago Transfer Authority (CTA). Musically it seems less intense than the former and in that light forebodes for me that character of what was originally the first of a two record album. As in the introduction on CTA the lyrics are a kind of mission statement of the band's intentions.

The Road (3 stars) Another self-conscious song of a band member trying to seduce an adoring female fan into doing whatever they want and not worrying about the limited time, due to being on "the road", they will have together.

Poem for the People (3 stars) A little more musically interesting longer song. The song's lyrics complain that close- minded people often dismiss so much of what goes on in the world. The chorus ironically claims the world is a funny place but mostly nothing to laugh about. I guess they mean funny strange rather than funny haha.

In the Country (4 stars) Song switches gears a bit half way through bringing up the intensity a notch with a slowly evolving suite of the central melody. Lyrically the song finds inspiration in the country (vs the urban/city) via a chance encounter with a perfumed enchantress. Song wraps up in a cool guitar coda bringing in an intense horn debriefing. This song has more of the character of songs from Chicago's first album as it is longer and more complex but would still end up as one of CTA's shorter songs.

Wake Up Sunshine (3 stars) Lyrical appreciation of a woman who brings life and light into a man's life. The lyrics could almost be literally about the sun except for the last line. Upbeat instrumentals make this song more just a short, pleasant thought.

Ballad for a Girl in Buchanan: (3 stars) A possibly too quick whirlwind tour through the conflicting passions that can be awakened by one who feels the call of love. The suite encompasses "Make Me Smile" through "Now More Than Ever". Musically this suite feels as random as The Beatles' "Abbey Road" medley, yet despite the "Ballet's" central theme around which the music nicely rests, I felt hurried through it and I would compare it unfavorably to the Beatles' effort. It seems I used to like this song more than I do now, so perhaps repeated listening has not proved favorable for my appreciation. Only Make me Smile and Colour My World are, in and of themselves, long enough to constitute a full song, the rest of the songs clock in at well under 2 minutes.

Make Me Smile (4 stars) Optimistic look at love; the song feels like a fanfare at the end of a symphony or at the beginning which is precisely how this theme is utilized to define the suite that is the "Ballet". Strong horns fuel the energy of this song and the suite.

So Much to Say, So Much to Do (3 stars) This song lets the air out of the tire bringing in ominous overtones that show the lover's hesitations, concerns, distractions. Very short song that might have done with a longer treatment. I'm not clear on some of the lyrics meaning.

Anxiety's Moment (3 stars) Instrumental suggests a moment of hesitation in the progress of a blossoming love; a tone of trouble sets in and crests into a musical conflict which resolves into...

West Virginia Fantasies (3 stars) ...a countryside cruise theme...suggesting that perhaps lover's anxieties need a quick getaway to allow them a space to be examined.

Colour My World (3 stars) Piano piece with a slightly too brisk tempo for my tastes. The lyrics evoke a renewed appreciation of the love that was first declared in "Make Me Smile". I've often thought that the reason why a movie can just be about love is that love creates its own weather, its own drama. This "Ballet" is like those emotions in minature. Again for me the piano comes off as a bit heavy-handed (or, perhaps, heavy-fingered). I also find myself wanting more sostenuto here.

To Be Free (3 stars) This instrumental suggests renewed commitment and determination. Perhaps the singer/lover is now returning from West Virginia and driving all night back to chicago to see the love that had inspired all this inner drama.

Now More Than Ever (3 stars) We return to the theme of "Make Me smile" with a quick, happy ending; love will survive.

Fancy Colours (4 stars) The song begins with a soothing, tinkling of wind chimes and an organ's sustained note fades in making this one of the more imaginative beginnings to a Chicago song. Then a bittersweet melody gives way to a wacky, upbeat theme. Musically this song is very interesting. The lyrics are a bit difficult but also evocative. This innovative song introduces what was the second record of the two record album and heralds, for me, the fact that this second record brings back some of the flavor from CTA. The song ends with a disturbing series of horn blasts.

25 or 6 to 4 (4 stars) This song also carries a strong sense of CTA. It's intense rhythm recalls the guitar chorus of Led Zeppelin's "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You". This theme is kept up throughout the song. The lyrics effectively echo the sense of urgency, anticipation and expectation that the music portrays.

Memories of Love: (3 stars) This four part composition brings in a different tone with orchestral-like arrangements ending in a mournful song. It is a nice change in tone but does not particular stand up well for me on its own.

Prelude (3 stars) Nice, gentle instrumental introduction to the two following instrumental movements.

A.M. Mourning (3 stars) Colorful orchestration sounds dated to me. The theme moves gradually from morning to an orchestral climax which resolves into...

P.M. Mourning (3 stars) ...a trumpet which paints a sultry evening. Strings come in and add some tension followed by a brass section that adds some hope.

Memories of Love (3 stars) Plucked strings form the backdrop to a profoundly sad homage to a love just now lost. The music doesn't quite hold up to the restrained passion of the lyrics for me and the overall composition doesn't hang together for me.

It Better End Soon: (4 stars) This four movement song works better for me than the "Ballet" or "Memories of Love". I think it is due to its sharper focus.

1st Movement (4 stars) Revolution is in the air and its time to take it to the streets! The horns strengthen the determination as always. The lead vocalist convinces me that the time is drawing near...

2nd Movement (4 stars) Flute and guitar work together to provide a dialogue of sorts; a building jam that isn't too dense. Also check out the Ian Anderson-esque vocalizations which seem from this recording to be comin from the flute player.

3rd Movement (4 stars) A melodic revolutionary rap. You should be willing to pitch in and join the cause by the time this movement is done...or you ain't a true peace lovin' brother.

4th Movement (4 stars) Nice brief refrain with good horn section to close it out.

Where Do We go From Here? (3 stars) This appears to be an early work by Peter Cetera. A good indication of his song writing capabilities, the interesting vocalizations almost make this a four-star song for me...but not quite. This song makes something of a nice coda to "It Better End Soon".

Make Me Smile [Single Version] (2 stars) This version stitches together the vocalizations from "Make Me Smile" and "Now More Than Ever" leaving you no instrumental or bridge between the two. It definite feels like the "Ballet" got gutted.

25 or 6 to 4 [Single Version] (3 stars) Version of the song for people with short attention spans.

Album: Having carefully reviewed each side and song of this two record album I have come to realize that I have a strong preference for songs composed by Robert Lamm. The first record in this album does not feature Robert Lamm songs and, as such, introduces works by other members of Chicago that were less present on Chicago Transit Authority. Apparently I appreciate the intense arrangement of horms that Lamm supplies. Other songs allow the horns less restraint and so they become, to my ear, more ornamental in character, less strong, less Wagnerian.

Also, it should be especially noted that the sound quality of the CD is very poor in comparison with Chicago Transit Authority and it hardly sounds like this album has been remastered.

Progressive rock fans might like the "Ballet for a Girl in Buchanan" more than I do, at least on this recording. Perhaps a live rendition of this suite would suit me better. Otherwise if you liked CTA you might follow my Robert Lamm roadmap below.

MP3 recommendations:

Chicago "II" First Record Highlights (3.25/4 stars) 1. In the Country (4 stars) Ballet for a Girl in Buchanan: (3 stars) 2. Make Me Smile (4 stars) 3. So Much to Say, So Much to Do (3 stars) 4. Anxiety's Moment (3 stars) 5. West Virginia Fantasies (3 stars) 6. Colour My World (3 stars) 7. To Be Free (3 stars) 8. Now More Than Ever (3 stars)

Chicago "II" Lamm-tastic Edition (3.8/5 stars) 1. Fancy Colours (4 stars) 2. 25 or 6 to 4 (4 stars) It Better End Soon: 3. 1st Movement (4 stars) 4. 2nd Movement (4 stars) 5. 3rd Movement (4 stars) 6. 4th Movement (4 stars) 7. Where Do We Go From Here? (3 stars)

sealchan | 3/5 |

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