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CHICAGO 16

Chicago

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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Tom Ozric
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars CHICAGO 16 - 1982. Seems it was time for the band to re-invent itself within the commercially-minded biz of the 80's. And they did an admirable job of it ! Having heartily lapped up the band's back catalogue from their impressive debut, Chicago Transit Authority, through to 17, I can only say that the albums from XI onwards (yes, Chicago X is still fairly decent...) don't grab me a whole lot. But continuous listening to this album has finally paid dividends. For some strange reason, this album reminds me of a brassed-up version of ASIA's debut. This 16th album release by the band (17th, if you count the Live In Japan dbl LP) was where the band latched on to producer David Foster - well, maybe bassist Peter Cetera and his love of Pop music gelled perfectly with Foster's vision and production know-how and soon the band were to hit the charts once again with a vengeance. Helped by some of those precision musos from Toto - and there's the odd flashy solo from guitarist Steve Lukather (I've just learnt that Chris Pinnick takes the blistering solo toward the end of 'Follow Me'), the songs are generally A.O.R. / M.O.R. oriented but some of them are genuinely quite listenable and tightly performed as you'd expect. Obviously these songs would've sounded better live, stripped of all the studio gloss. I'm afraid that the drums sound quite poor here, not that they're played badly. Not necessarily 'prog', but tracks which I have found some redeeming qualities to them include the opening tune 'What You're Missing' - nice syncopation between drums and bass and a killer melody line at the chorus with great vox from Cetera, 'Bad Advice' has a nice 'swing' to it, the 'Get Away' section from 'Hard To Say I'm Sorry' is a brief energetic blast that's always a treat to hear - I never fail to notice some cool bass-lines here, and the wind players blowing a storm !!. 'Follow Me' works really well, possibly the 'heaviest' track Chicago have ever done, and Jimmy Pankow's jazzy tune 'What Can I Say' is similar to the softer output of the band's earlier days. 'Love Me Tomorrow' is a beautiful ballad featuring an almost Elizabethan string arrangement as a coda. Some of these songs display more complex chord and key changes which is always refreshing to hear. Pushing this album up to a 3 stars maybe overly generous, but it has grown on me like lichens to a tree.

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Send comments to Tom Ozric (BETA) | Report this review (#294219)
Posted Thursday, August 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Fostering outside help

In the early 1980's, Chicago was a band in turmoil. Unceremoniously dumped by their long term record label, the circumstances of their departure included an agreement for a second "Greatest hits" album to be released, that album adopting the "Chicago 15" numeric. Warner Brothers picked up the band on a new contract, and David Foster was brought in as producer. The second major departure from the band, and the first to come about by choice, occurred when percussionist Laudir de Oliveira, who had previously been promoted from session musician to band member, concluded that the band's chosen direction no longer required his contribution. On the plus side, multi-instrumentalist Bill Champlin was added to the line up. Guitarist Chris Pinnick, who had appeared as a guest on the previous studio album ("Chicago 14") was kept on for these recordings, although he himself says he was never a full member of the band.

David Foster quickly took control of things, bringing in members of Toto and other non-band members (including himself) to share the song-writing duties and to contribute to the actual recordings too. It would seem the band were quite happy with this, as releases immediately prior to this had indicated that there was a collective exhaustion, especially on the song-writing front. Foster also used the most modern recording techniques available to freshen up the band's sound. The overall result was a notable turn around in the band's fortunes, the album spawning only their second number one US hit single with "Hard to Say I'm Sorry", written by Foster with Peter Cetera and Robert Lamm. The song also gave the band a rare top 10 appearance in the UK singles chart.

"Chicago 16" is an album which restored the band's credibility in commercial terms at least. The tracks here are all short pop based numbers of two basic varieties. We have the upbeat AOR songs with strong rhythms and infectious choruses, and we have the Chicago ballads. The brass section is still here, but they are lined up as backing musicians alongside the guitars and synths which dominate proceedings.

In retrospect, songs such as "Chains" and "Waiting for you to decide" are no better or worse than the material on the albums which flopped so badly prior to this one. It is the inclusion of "Hard to say I'm sorry" which gave the album its commercial success. This sickly ballad captured the mood of the time, the multi-tracked vocals, orchestration and familiar sounding lead guitar solo combining to deliver a paint-by numbers success. To be fair, the closing section of the track (titled "Get away") picks things up well, the horns getting a chance to deliver a pleasing blast from the past. Unfortunately though, it is all too brief.

The new record company must have been delighted with the immediate return on their investment, while Columbia (CBS) were left to pick up the crumbs from the knock on sales of the "Greatest hits 2" collection. Seen in hindsight though, this is largely a case of more of the same, tarted up by a talented producer to attain success way beyond what it actually warrants.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#382995)
Posted Wednesday, January 19, 2011 | Review Permalink

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