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Chicago - Chicago VII CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.02 | 82 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars If you've followed the history of the band Chicago, very few would argue that their more ''accepted'' albums came in their earlier career when they were a rock band with heavy influence from jazz, particularly their first two records. As the years drudged on, Chicago began drifting into safer writing territories, poppier songs that aimed to hit the Billboard and condensed albums. That last stat is saying something from the only rock band in history to have their first three studio albums doubles.

Then CHICAGO VII comes along and something funny happens; not only does the first half indulge in jazz, but the jazz is more fusion than they have ever done. And it's mostly instrumental to boot it all. ''Aire'' adds to the plethora of memorable horn quotes from Chicago's catalogue, but the progsters would rejoice in the fact that the majority of the number is in 7/8 time. ''Italian From New York'' (written about guest Laudir de Oliviera who would later officially join the band) channels what Herbie Hancock was doing with bleeping synths and made a simple jazz track out of it. And the jazz aficionados can eat their hearts out to the Coltrane-influenced ''Devil's Sweet''.

The second chunk of the album (all of the second LP and some bits of the first) falls into safer, chart-happy avenues that Chicago had been reaching for since V. Either the weight of the jazz tracks makes me hate these pop-rock tracks even less, or it might be that there are actually some great pop songs here that rival the first two albums. ''Wishing You Were Here'' is not one of those pleasant surprises; that balmy, Caribbean overtone makes me sick, and the guesting of the Wilson brothers from the Beach Boys isn't helping. Somehow, Terry Kath took that same style of music in ''Byblos'' and made THAT track a little better; maybe it's just Terry Kath, I don't know.

There's still a lot of worth here. Pankow's ''(I've Been) Searching For So Long'' sounds on the surface like the lamest slow dance number since ''Colour My World''. I don't know what gravitates me towards this song, but I actually can enjoy this. It helps that it segues straight into a Santana inspired instrumental ''Monognucleosis''. ''Women Don't Want To Love Me'' has a great funk groove to keep the listener off their chairs.

The real winner of this record is trumpeter Lee Loughnane. Up until now, he's never had a songwriting credit for Chicago, and his ''Call On Me'' was a pretty interesting top 20 single. He even sings on the best poppier song, ''Song of the Evergreens''. It's Kath's writing again, so that explain why it's good, but that cascading to a climax effect (the band singing ''snow'' a bunch of times) usually works magnanimously.

This is really the forgotten great Chicago album, and I would rank this second overall in great Chicago albums only trailing the debut. Yes, there are a few schmaltzy pop tracks (thank you Cetera) that sort of create a buzzkill, but there are many other great pop tracks that more than balance them out. Furthermore, the opening romp of jazz pieces is essential listening for any jazz fan, and even prog fans might want to try to stick their nose in this one.

Sinusoid | 4/5 |


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