Header
Chicago - Chicago X CD (album) cover

CHICAGO X

Chicago

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

2.84 | 36 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Being a fan of Chicago has been at times an extremely rewarding attraction and at other times an incredibly frustrating one. After hearing them initially in '69 when they opened up a Jimi Hendrix concert I attended they quickly became one of my favorite bands and I almost wore the grooves out of their first three double LPs because they were so progressive-minded and innovative. I developed a real sense of kinship with them. But, like all extended family members can, they began to test my patience. My Chicago cousins started to delve into realms they were unsuited for, moves I found perplexing and, on occasion, downright idiotic. Instead of continuing to develop their unique ability to fuse rock with jazz they foolishly wandered into other genres because they liked them, not because they were talented at working in them. It happens. I get it. But it's one thing to admire, say, The Rolling Stones, quite another to incorporate their sound into yours without coming off as a cheap imitation. I attribute the uneven nature of albums V and VI to that tendency. The courageous return they made to their fusion foundations on VII was cause for exuberant celebration but just one year later they plunged to rock bottom with the dull, lifeless VIII, leaving me scratching my head in confusion. So in 1976 they were at a crucial fork in the road and I wondered which path they'd take. Finally, after 15 months of waiting (and not being appeased by a greatest hits package in the interim), I got my answer in the form of number X. Unfortunately it didn't bode well as to where their future endeavors would be headed.

They begin with guitarist Terry Kath's "Once or Twice," a tune that can't be categorized as being anything other than full-frontal rock & roll with no apologies offered. While not all that memorable the enthusiasm they exude at least makes it appear that all eight members were on the same page once again after looking like F-Troop rejects on the mess that was VIII. Trombonist James Pankow's "You Are On My Mind" fosters hope for better things. It's a jazzy little number with a subtle Latin feel and a funky middle section that provides a healthy amount of contrast. Both Pankow's vocal debut on the track and his ever-reliable trombone make a good impression. His "Skin Tight" is next, a slice of contemporary funk with a big band attitude where the bright horns and Kath's spunky guitar really stand out. At this point I felt pretty optimistic about the direction they were going in but that bubble of anticipation burst as soon as Peter Cetera's schmaltzy "If You Leave Me Now" commenced to play. I realize this wasn't the first time they'd waded into the pop ballad pool but it was the first time they'd so blatantly bathed in it. What I'm saying is that inside songs like "Wishing You Were Here" and "Color My World" there were still ingredients that identified it as being a product of Chicago but this tepid tune could've been done by Barry Manilow and no one would've known the difference. I've read that they had serious misgivings about it and that it was their overbearing producer James Guercio who insisted they include this saccharine cup cake on the record but, in the end, they have to take responsibility for giving in to his demands. Despite the fact that the song became their first #1 hit single the damage it did to their already fading reputation as rebels was devastating. From that moment on they ceased to be viewed as serious jazz/rock fusion explorers.

Trumpeter Lee Loughnane's "Together Again" follows, a lukewarm specimen of "lite rock" that drifts in and out of flowerland without ever finding a place to stake its claim. Lee tries his hand at singing lead but his voice is unremarkably pedestrian and the tune's drawn-out ending is uneventful. Dipping their toes into Caribbean waves on keyboard man Robert Lamm's "Another Rainy Day in New York" is a welcome change of pace but the results are mundane at best because they generate zilch in the excitement department. Cetera contributes "Mama Mama," a song propelled by a halfhearted R&B groove blended with pop sensibilities that water down a tune that had the potential to transcend the norm if they'd taken a more aggressive tact. A hard funk/rock beat generates a spark under Lamm's "Scrapbook," providing a brief respite from the mediocre. The track's rowdy horns and Terry's playful guitar solo give the number character while the nostalgic lyrics of "Jimi was so kind to us/had us on the tour/we got some education/like we never got before" strike a chord. Robert's "Gently I'll Wake You" is hard to label. It starts out as a low-key, piano bar sing-along kinda deal but then it escalates into something bigger. It does show they were trying to push themselves a bit yet the composition isn't strong enough to make a lasting impression. The apex of the album is Lamm's "You Get it Up," a sexy, motivating, mostly instrumental piece that features a group-sung chorus and contains more oomph than anything else on the record. It sounds like they were giving their egos a night off and letting themselves have fun recording it. Kath's heartbreak song, "Hope for Love," is the closer, a simple tune they unwisely over-produce and, in the process, drain it of any emotional impact it might've had before it evaporates into nothing, just like my hopes did for the band to reinvigorate themselves.

In some circles X was viewed as a success. It went to #3 on the album charts, won three Grammys and gave them the elusive Top 40 topper their record company had dreamed of them delivering to them for seven years. Guercio was proven right but his commercial tactic only serves to remind me of the scripture that warns of gaining the whole world at the expense of losing one's very soul. Chicago would go on to become one of the most enduring and affable acts on the planet but in June of '76 with the release of this, their eighth studio project; they officially forfeited their "coolness." The signs were there on VIII but this confirmed their willful decision to never rock the boat again and just go with the popular flow. They had become, sadly, satisfied with being average musically but profitable financially. The establishment they once railed against had devoured them. 2.2 stars.

Chicapah | 2/5 |

MEMBERS LOGIN ZONE

As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Share this CHICAGO review

>

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | GeoIP Services by MaxMind | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — the ultimate jazz music virtual community | MetalMusicArchives.com — the ultimate metal music virtual community


Server processing time: 0.03 seconds