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Chicago - Chicago 13 CD (album) cover

CHICAGO 13

Chicago

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

1.73 | 25 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Get down Rufus

In an apparent acknowledgement that that there had been at least one too many changes on 'Hot streets' (AKA 'Chicago 12'), 'Chicago 13' appeared with the band's traditional logo displayed predominantly on the front cover, and not one band member in sight. The line up remains intact from that which recorded 'Hot streets' although this would be newbie Donnie Dacus last album with the band.

If 'Hot streets' had seen the band continuing largely on adrenaline, '13' found the full impact of the tragic loss of Terry Kath hitting home hard. Recordings took place primarily in Montreal, Canada, with Phil Ramone again at hand to assist with production. Once again, all the band members contribute to the song-writing, which leads to a diversity both in terms of style and quality.

It is fair to say that 'Chicago 13' (note the numeric rather than Roman numerals) is widely regarded by critics and fans to be as difficult as the Apollo mission which bore that number. A significant amount of the derision can be laid at the feet of the 9+ minute opening track 'Street player'. While the lengthy nature of the track may raise hopes of a return to the band's golden age, the song is in fact a pop/dance/R&B based number, with a heavy emphasis on the percussion. I actually find the track to be rather good in its own way, but it is easy to see why it might have caught a waiting audience somewhat unawares. Significantly, the track had already been recorded as the title track of an album by the funk band Rufus (Featuring Chaka Khan) before Chicago recorded their own version.

After the shock of 'Street player', we have a succession of at best ordinary songs which are generally much more in line with the band's style if not proven ability. Tracks such as the Parazaider/Loughnane composed 'Window dreamin'' and Robert Lamm's 'Paradise alley' are poor relations of songs on even some of the more recent Chicago albums, let alone their classic early works. 'Aloha mama' is equally low, but it does at least boast a nice horn arrangement, something sadly lacking through most of the album. Both 'Aloha mama' and 'Window dreamin'' credit lead vocals to P.C. Moblee, a thinly disguised reference to Peter Cetera singing in a lower voice.

Once of the few brighter spots is Robert Lamm's 'Reruns', which has a more traditional Chicago feel to it. Peter Cetera tries to rekindle the 'If you leave me now' ballad success with 'Loser with a broken heart', but significantly singles success would prove elusive when it came to extracting songs from the album. The closing 'Run away' is another of the better tracks, being a simple mid-paced pop song with a decent arrangement.

In all, a poor album in the Chicago discography. In fairness, the loss of Terry Kath took a much greater toll here than it did on 'Hot streets', and to that extent we can forgive the band for being distracted. There are a couple of tracks which will be of some interest to Chicago fans, but in truth there is little here of relevance to this fine band's place in history.

The Rhino remaster of the album released in 2003 contains two bonus tracks. 'Closer to you' was written by Donnie Dacus with his former employer Stephen Stills and Warner Schwebke, and had previously been recorded by Stills. This version was recorded by Chicago during the 'Hot streets' sessions, and released as a single B-side. Dacus does a decent job on vocals, but the song is not a good fit for the Chicago style. If the opening track 'Street player' had not been a step too far already, here we have a 'Dance mix' of the track taken from the 12' single version. Think 'Saturday night fever' Bee Gees and you pretty much have it.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |

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