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2 stars This is a review I did not want to write because I am here condemning my own childhood..

It sounds dramatic and almost like the end of the world, so I better explain myself. You see, I bought this album together with Everyone Plays Darts by Darts 30 years ago for the princely sum of $ 3. Yes, it was from a bargain bin and those albums was among a handful of albums I owned back then. I now have around five thousand albums. But those albums was the foundation of my record collection mania. I have long forgotten Darts although I recently bought a greatest hits compilation on double CD for the princely sum of $ 4. The less said, the better. We all have our dark secrets. That one is mine. What's yours ?

OK, back to this album. I played it to death. It is now 25 years since I last listened to it...... until I got it sent over from Norway one week ago as the final clean out of my parents garden shed. Chicago has been included in PA and I thought I did the community a service by listening to it and reviewing it. I did not remember a single tone of this album. Just that I once liked it. So I started on square one again.

The music here is a blend of pop music (Peter Cetera loves pop) and soft bossanova like jazz/fusion. Las Vegas springs to mind. There are some good guitar picking scattered around this album. The songs are not too bad, although some of them makes me cringe and question my own childhood. To my defence; I also loved Neil Young and Thin Lizzy back then.

The only redeeming factor on this album among cringe worthy pop songs is some nifty jazz passages on mostly the title track. Even The Bee Gees adds their voices to this album. Please pass me the sick bag, please. But the title track is the saviour here. Besides of that; this album is best avoided. Frankly; Chicago brings too many bad memories and I regard that band as a mine field. I am here referring to this band and not to Windy City. Handle with care, is my advice.

2 stars

Report this review (#253204)
Posted Friday, November 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars First band's album without their founder-guitarist and rock voice Terry Kath. Possibly, for the first time their sound is openly changed from brass-rock to brass-pop.

But looking from today, still not everything is so bad there on this album. Even if songs are softer, more oriented than before, there still are presented all rock guitar, jazzy drumming and even funky beat. Songs are melodic, have nice vocals and still not so simple arrangements.

Far from real rock music, this album still has it's own charm and interesting sounding. Comparing with Chicago's albums from late 80-s - early 90-s, this work is not bad at all! For sure not best entrance for newcomers and far from band's best early albums, I still think that this album is average listenable their album. Even if there are even Bee Gees participated as guests on one track.

Report this review (#263693)
Posted Sunday, January 31, 2010 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
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.

Report this review (#380017)
Posted Friday, January 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
Tom Ozric
2 stars CHICAGO's Hot Streets - aka '12' appeared in the (generally) dreaded year of 1978, and it's the first project after former guitarist Terry Kath's fatal accident, shows the band moving ever towards radio-friendly, commercial A.O.R. territory, although the band are firing on all cylinders - their playing is really tight, but the songs are generally shorter and simpler, something which had become a trend since Chicago X. Replacement guitarist Donnie Dacus is a decent player although he's not as versatile, flexible or as inventive as Kath. Nor does he have that great a voice - he borders on the 'teeny-bopper' side of things. Bassist Pete Cetera is becoming an increasingly dominant force at this point, racking up more credits and more lead vocals, and steering the band even further away from its jazzy/brassy inclinations. He also allowed The Bee Gees to contribute backing vocals, but thankfully his playing hasn't suffered. Most songs are not that great to be honest - the absolute rear-end-of-a-donkey award going to the track 'Little Miss Lovin''. I know that sounds harsh, but it just doesn't sit well with me at all. Best track is by far keyboardist Robert Lamm's 'Hot Streets' (easily a 4 star song), the only more complexly structured tune here opening with some funky verses, a wistful chorus, then launching into a 7/8 section with a playful flute solo from Walter Parazaider, back into another verse, then a 5/4 passage with a tasteful, almost spacey guitar solo. Cetera's bass throughout this song is quite impressive. Next best song would have to be 'Take a Chance' - a jazz-pop ditty full of 'feel- good' progressions, credited to trumpeter Lee Loughnane and an outsider. It's graced by Dacus' candy-floss vocals, and features a surprising outburst during the closing passage where the band cut loose, especially drummer Danny Seraphine - something possessed him to hit his china on the 'off' and it sounds great. There was a minor hit with the A.O.R. ballad 'No Tell Lover', quite a pleasant and tranquil tune. The remaining tracks range between rather pedestrian rockers (Alive Again, Gone Long Gone, Ain't It Time, Show Me The Way) and ballads (The Greatest Love On Earth, Love Was New). I'm afraid this one's just for the collector.
Report this review (#621759)
Posted Saturday, January 28, 2012 | Review Permalink
1 stars With "Hot Streets" Chicago didn't just drop the ball. Again. This time they lost it. Talk about an opportunity missed, the group had a chance to either reinvent itself or return to being the bold, innovative entity they'd started out as. They did neither. First, they'd jettisoned their overlord producer who'd gradually steered them away from their jazz/rock fusion foundation and, secondly, they'd tragically suffered a death in the immediate family that shook them to their core. In January of '78 guitarist Terry Kath accidentally shot himself and left a huge gap for the band to try to fill. What they did do was make a pop record. My thinking is that a more respectful tribute to Terry would've been to make their next album a wildly eclectic affair with lots of unconventional forays into uncharted fusion territories and perhaps bring a host of guest guitarists in to celebrate Kath's influence on modern guitar trends. They were a well-established group so they could've done this and their legion of fans would've understood the sentiment. Instead, they acted more like cautious high-schoolers who'd decided to now emulate the popular jocks and male cheerleaders, shunning their role of being dangerous rebels when their ringleader was suddenly transferred out of the district.

They replaced Terry with a journeyman axe-wielder who'd been working with the likes of Stephen Stills and Boz Scaggs, Donnie Dacus. It's hard to criticize them for that move because he was versatile enough to perform their catalogue of material passably, was able to sing on key and didn't pose a threat to the status quo. I'm fine with them hiring Donnie but the other things they did to try to be "hip" and look like dudes John Travolta would hang out with were a disgrace to their signature faceless legacy that had always let their music do all the talking. The cover shot of them cavorting around in loud shirts and gaudy britches is as goofy and laughable as watching Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd doing their "wild and crazy guys" bit on SNL. Change for the sake of change is rarely a good idea in any situation. Yet I would've been able to dismiss that crass trespass if the music had been so splendid as to make that discretion a moot point. Unfortunately, that's not the case. What Chicago did was to unashamedly woo the reigning Miss Commerciality with their intent being to wed her and co-parent a houseful of chart-topping offspring that would take care of them in their golden years. And, as we all know, those kinds of wide-eyed, rushed-into marriages rarely survive in the long run.

They showcase the "New and Improved" Chicago by opening with a moronic disco groove for "Alive Again," an action that doesn't bode well. You'd surmise that with the experienced Phil Ramone helping to produce the record it would at least sound pretty good but the overall fidelity is surprisingly thin, another bad omen. On one hand this song written by trombonist James Pankow wisely abandons the disco aura early on, smartly avoiding that lethal viper pit, but, on the other hand, it then falls into the equally-constricting rut of contemporary "light rock" mediocrity. It contains nary a hint of dynamics in the mix as all of the music blends into the bland background for the sole purpose of supporting bassist Peter Cetera's "solid gold" voice. It's a mystery to me how a tune so unremarkable could climb into the Top 20 on the singles chart but it did. (Payola, perhaps?) Drummer Danny Seraphine had penned some half-decent songs for the group in its recent past but "The Greatest Love on Earth" ain't one of them. It's as if the band had decided to compete with The Carpenters! Scary title aside, this tune has no redeeming qualities whatsoever (believe me, I looked hard) and is an odorous pile of mush to be skipped. Peter Cetera contributed the next cut, "Little Miss Lovin'," a guitar riff-based rocker that only goes to show how much they were missing Terry's grit. Kath may have been insanely over-the-top and extremely noisy at times but at least he was rarely boring. The presence of the Brothers Gibb in the harmonies and the trendy "New Wave" vibe they inject into the tune both fail to convince the listener that they were revealing anything resembling a fresh angle to their sound.

Keyboard man Robert Lamm tries to concoct a Doobie Brothers style of west coast R&B for the song "Hot Streets" but it's not their forte and it's not nearly strong enough to prop up the tune's weak melody. Still, for what it's worth, it marks an improvement over the first 3 tracks. Walter Parazaider's flute solo and the ever-reliable horn section are the best assets the number possesses while Dacus' guitar ride, aggressive as it may be, is a bit sloppy. Trumpeter Lee Loughnane's sappy "Take a Chance" is next. Something about this pseudo samba brings to mind pastel leisure suits and gaudy gold chains and it's not a welcome sight. I can't imagine anyone deeming this to be quality music under any circumstances. It's as cheesy as ballpark nachos. Donnie does his best to doctor it up but I sense that they were letting him give it a shot simply because he was a change of pace from Terry, not an upgrade by any means. Cetera's "Gone Long Gone" is an acoustic guitar-strummed rocker with thickly-layered vocals typical of that era. It's not awful but it sounds as if they were attempting to manufacture a hit single instead of expressing anything profound. Therefore it comes off as contrived and terribly average.

The low-altitude apex of the record comes via the Dacus/Seraphine composition, "Ain't It Time." It's yet another riff-heavy rocker but this one actually has some genuine punch and an engaging structure. It's far from greatness but at this point I'll take any ray of light, however dim, I can find. The cheap thrill doesn't linger, though, as Lamm's "Love Was New" follows. It's a glossy little number with some light jazz overtones but the progression is so predictable and conservative as to be indistinguishable from shopping mall muzak. Peter, Lee and Danny joined forces to pen the #14 hit "No Tell Lover" but this schlocky ballad sounds like a deliberate copy of many of their mid-70s chart toppers and has about the same effect on me. It's too formulaic, too safe and utterly demeaning to their proud history. Seraphine's "Show Me the Way" is the closer. This plodding song, despite its weird crowd-chant ending, confirms that they were, until further notice, to be quarantined in the "easy listening" section of the record store. A pity.

In wake of Kath's untimely and sad demise, the surviving members decided to act like the invigorating band that created several stimulating albums (II, III and VII in particular) had been interred with Terry's remains and, therefore, wouldn't be coming around anymore. They'd effectively squandered their fat chance to challenge and transcend themselves, preferring to venture forward walking carefully, smack dab down the middle of the road. And, by the way, their followers and the public at large weren't buying into their new slicker image, either. It was the first LP since their debut that didn't crack the top ten list and their return to the Roman numeral system for XIII proves that they realized they weren't going to sell any product on account of their good looks. Alas, their commercial attitude and inclination remained intact. I could no more recommend this album than I could one by The Chipmunks. One star.

Report this review (#648315)
Posted Tuesday, March 6, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars The album can arguably divide listeners among those who like the liveliness and friendliness of the record and those who complain about listening to non-ambitious music by seasoned musicians with more potential. After the original guitar player's death, we have a new replacement who shows himself in the good light with some delicious guitar licks but never overshadowing the original members.

Cetera has now become the most prolific singer contributing to radio friendliness.

The good hits are "No tell lover" or "The greatest love" that have the contemporary beat but still pretty good horns. "Little Miss Lovin'" is a surprising choice given the new guitar player - it rocks harder than usual.

The highlights for more ambitious listeners is the technical "Hot streets" where all players exceed their usual standard on the record. Also the drummer sets a great non-regular rhythm and fill-ins. But also "Take a chance" is pretty good - tasty guitar and percussions/drums pleasing.

Chicago still have something to offer at this point.

Report this review (#2481082)
Posted Sunday, November 29, 2020 | Review Permalink

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