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Chicago - Night & Day - Big Band CD (album) cover



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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Music from the good old days

Having had their 1994 album "Stone of Sisyphus" ("Chicago 22") rejected by their record label, Chicago turned their attention to touring rather than recording. No new original material would be released until 2006, but in 1995 they did return to the studio. Rather than continue to pursue commercial success, the band brought in producer Bruce Fairbairn to oversee their recording of a set of Big Band and Swing classics. As will be immediately apparent, this signalled a return in part to the sound which had distinguished the band on their early albums.

Before work on the album commenced on what would become album number 23 (although unusually the number did not appear anywhere in the album title), guitarist Dawayne Bailey decided to move on, his place being taken on a temporary basis by Bruce Gaitsch. The lead guitar role would not be filled permanently until after the release of the album when current guitarist Keith Howland was added to the line up. Joe Perry of Aerosmith also helps out on one track here, "Blues in the night".

I have to admit up front that this is certainly not a prog album, and indeed makes no claims to be so. The opening blast of big band brass though is so welcome and reassuring that we know right off this will be a good album. Sure enough "Chicago", the eponymous song made famous by Frank Sinatra which starts things off, features the brass front and centre alongside the vocals, and it is wonderful.

"Caravan" is less familiar but equally exciting, with a lead guitar and big band duel at its core. "Dream a little dream of me", probably best known as a Mamas and Papas song but its been around far longer than that, seems like a strange choice. This piano based schmoozer features prominent female vocals giving it a very un-Chicago like sound. "Goody goody" restores things to a big band style. The song has a good vocal arrangement but for me it is not among the best of the material here.

Glen Miller's signature tune "Moonlight serenade" becomes a fine brass, guitar and vocal piece, the three blending superbly to give the song an edge which was not apparent on Miller's fine interpretation. Cole Porter's great crooner "Night and day", which gives the album its name, is reasonably faithful to the standard, the song's wonderful atmosphere coming across superbly here thanks mainly to a great vocal performance. The track includes some extraneous tribal chants.

"Blues in the night" from the 1940's film of the same name, is a fine strutting blues featuring a great bluesy lead guitar solo and a top notch brass arrangement. "Sing sing sing" is a swing standard from the 1930 made famous by Benny Goodman. Chicago's version captivates the fun of the track well. Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated lady" was originally written as an instrumental, the words of Mitchell Parish being added later. Chicago's interpretation includes the lyrics, the track being a soft smoocher.

The closest we get to an instrumental is Glen Miller's "In the mood", which for the first part is a superb big band brass number. Vocals are added to the latter half, but are in my view unnecessary. "Don't get around much anymore" is another Duke Ellington instrumental which had lyrics added later; once again Chicago play the vocal version. The album closes with Duke Ellington's signature tune "Take the 'A' train". Once again this is a vocal version, although there is plenty of space for the band to exercise their instrumental prowess one last time.

Having endured enforced sabbaticals for much of the previous albums, Chicago's brass section must have wondered what had hit them when it came to recording this album. All of a sudden they become flavour of the month again, being called upon virtually from beginning to end. From a fan's perspective, while it may be disappointing to find that this is an album of standards with no new material as such, that is more than compensated for by the sheer wonder of hearing the band doing what they do best one more time. If you like the real Chicago, this is an essential album.

Report this review (#394595)
Posted Saturday, February 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Chicago's "Night and Day: Big Band" is definitely a hidden gem! This album had the lowest chart success of any studio or live album that the band produced. Chicago was looking for a new direction after the rejection of their "Stone of Sisyphus" album by their record company. The result was this wonderful album that took many standards from a bygone era and incorporated Chicago's styling and famed horn section. After years of Chicago being led by Peter Cetera and producer David Foster, and then some more years trying to duplicate that success with different players, it's very rewarding to hear the instrument prowess of this once mighty band to be front and center again.

For a review on a prog site, there would be none as "NIght and Day" does not have any prog at all. As a very enjoyable album that sank more from it's lack of management backing as opposed to its material. I give Night and Day Big Band a very strong 4.

Report this review (#628816)
Posted Wednesday, February 8, 2012 | Review Permalink

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