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Chicago - Chicago 19 CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

2.48 | 27 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Ditching the drummer

Having recorded three albums produced by David Foster, Chicago decided it was once again time for a change. Foster had been a major reason for the band's renewed success in terms of both singles and chart appearances, although "Chicago 18" had not sold nearly as many copies as its immediate predecessors. Foster's rigid hands on approach though was probably the major reason for the split, the band wanting to diversify their sound even further. Producers Ron Nevison and Chas Sanford came in as replacements (Nevison produces four tracks, Sandford six). New boy Jason Scheff recruited his former band mate Dawayne Bailey to the line up to add further lead guitar.

Significantly, the band further removed themselves from song-writing duties, relying on hired hands such as Diane Warren and Albert Hammond to provide the material. This can be seen as a clear effort to secure further commercial (i.e. singles) success, and to turn away even further from their roots. For this album, Bill Champlin stepped up as lead singer on the songs selected as singles, the brass section being once again relegated to minor or non-existent supporting roles. In terms of the music, there are no surprises here, the album is very much a case of "Chicago 18, part 2".

The opening "Heart in pieces" is a Starship like pop rock song with a heavy back beat and a catchy but uninspired hook. Totally predictably, this upbeat opener is followed by a ballad, Diane Warren and Albert Hammond's "I don't wanna live without your love" being a classy song of course. The presentation here is actually high quality too with a nice anthemic chorus, but Chicago it just ain't. Dawayne Bailey is immediately afforded centre stage on lead guitar, the brass section offering only a token input. Robert Lamm's "I stand up" does offer the brass section an opportunity to come to the fore a bit more, but the prosaic funky nature of the song and the switch to lead guitar for the main solo wastes the opportunity.

Jason Scheff does a fine impersonation of Peter Cetera on the multi-tracked ballad "We can last forever", but the public were not duped and the song failed to break into the Billboard top 50. "Come in from the night" is another bland AOR number, with strong hints of Journey. Diane Warren's second composition here is "Look away" which took Chicago back to the top of the US singles chart for a final time. Bill Champlin makes a decent job of the vocals, but his unfamiliar voice and the lack of horns throughout make this one of the least Chicago like songs ever.

"What kind of man would I be" sung by Jason Scheff was not released as a single from this album. It was however slightly remixed for the "Greatest Hits" collection which followed this release ("Chicago 20") and then put out in single format. It would prove to be the last single by the band to make the top 10 in the US. The song itself is safe and chart focused. Bill Champlain's "Runaround" continues the alternating upbeat followed by ballad structure of the album.

"You're not alone" written by Jim Scott is very Foreigner like, the repeated chorus being well composed pop. The album closes with its longest track, "Victorious" running to around 6 minutes. While slightly more interesting in terms of arrangement, the song is a bit of a dirge.

The overwhelming focus on commercialism throughout this album render it of little interest to prog fans, and indeed to traditional fans of Chicago. I have to confess though that seen for what it is, this is a very enjoyable album. The strong melodies, well composed songs, and proficient musicianship may seem a little wasted, the phrase "underachieving" comes to mind, but in terms of pure entertainment "Chicago 19" is well worth a listen.

This would be founding member drummer Danny Seraphine's last album with the band. He was fired during a UK tour, the other band members citing a lack of commitment to the tour from him. Seraphine believed the real reason was that the newer members of the band resented the amount of say he had within the band.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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