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Chicago - Hot Streets CD (album) cover

HOT STREETS

Chicago

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

2.12 | 53 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars A spirit having flown

"Hot streets" represents a new beginning for Chicago is several different ways. For the first time, the band give an album a proper title, rather than simply calling it "Chicago" with an incremental number. This is also the first album to feature a picture of the band on the front (and back) cover. These though are the least of the changes. The band's increasingly acrimonious relationship with their long time manager James William Guercio came to an end in late 1977 or early 1978 after the release of Chicago 11 ("Hot streets" is "Chicago 12"). Very shortly afterwards, founding member Terry Kath accidentally killed himself in a shooting incident. Kath was in some ways the leader of the band, especially on stage where he was master of ceremonies.

The rest of the band were initially inclined to call it a day, but with the help of family, friends and fans, the decision was taken to carry on. Protracted auditions led to the recruiting of guitarist/vocalist Donnie Dacus, who had previously worked with US West Coast artists such as Chris Hillman and Crosby Stills and Nash.

In another break from their traditional modus operandi, Chicago recorded the album in Maimi and Los Angeles, instead of Colorado. The Miami sessions were notable in that they led to Chicago and the Bee Gees (who were recording "Spirits having flown" in an adjacent studio) contributing to each other's albums, reflecting perhaps Chicago's now complete metamorphosis into a mainstream act. Phil Ramone, who had worked with the band previously, co-produces "Hot streets" with the band themselves.

The James Pankow composed "Alive again" which opens the album was released in advance as a successful single, its apparently unfortunate title perhaps being intended as a reference to the band collectively although the song is actually a straightforward love song. The track signals that is not to be an album of mourning, but a positive approach to a new beginning. The upbeat rhythm is complemented by bursts of horns and a voice-box processed lead guitar. While Dacus is immediately afforded a joint lead vocal credit, it is primarily Cetera's voice we hear.

The Seraphine/Walinski composed "The greatest love on Earth" was released as a single B-side (to "Gone long gone"), but this time we have a slushy ballad along the lines of "If you leave me now". "Little Miss Lovin'" restores the good time feel, the Bee Gees adding the high vocals on the chorus. It is all a million miles from prog, but harmless enough. Perhaps surprisingly given the funky implications of its name, the title track is generally regarded as the album's high point. This Robert Lamm composition sees him taking lead vocal for the first time on the album. The song bears comparison with tracks on the early albums such as "Does anybody really know what time it is" and "Saturday in the park". Here, the brass and woodwind take a rare move to centre stage while Bacus also slips in a decent lead guitar solo.

"Take a chance" veers towards smooth soul and TSOP, while Cetera's "Gone long gone" is pure pop with more than a hint of Beach Boys. "Ain't it time" bears Donnie Dacus' first writing credit for the band, working alongside Seraphine and Walinski. The song is a rather nondescript slow funk number with plenty of energy but prosaic melody and lyrics. For those with a love of all things obscure, the song reminds me of "Long gone" by the band Snafu. "Love was new" is Robert Lamm's second track on the album. Once again, he takes on lead vocal duties himself. A version was also recorded with Donnie Dacus providing lead vocal, and this can be heard as a bonus track on the Rhino remaster released in 2003. The song itself is a soft shuffle with a pleasant if unremarkable melody. Dacus's rendition is slightly more spirited with more of a pop feel.

"No tell lover" has the feel of an older Chicago song, the brass arrangement being particularly pleasing. At the end of the day though, it is little more than another revamping of "If you leave me now". The album closes with "Show me the way", another Chicago original, not a cover of similarly titled songs. Once again, this is a decent but hardly new piece of pop.

In all, an album which must have taken a lot of courage to make. While one has to admire the band for their ability to face adversity square in the eye and move on, when assessed purely on its merits this is a pretty ordinary effort. We should not overplay the absence of Terry Kath in this respect, the band were headed in this direction anyway. "Hot streets" would though signal the gradual decline of the band as a commercially successful force.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |

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