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Chicago Chicago [Aka: Chicago  II] album cover
4.18 | 248 ratings | 17 reviews | 39% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1970

Songs / Tracks Listing

LP 1 (34:45)
1. Movin' In (4:06)
2. The Road (3:10)
3. Poem For The People (5:31)
4. In The Country (6:34)
5. Wake Up Sunshine (2:29)
6. Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon (12:55)
- a) Make Me Smile (3:16)
- b) So Much To Say, So Much To Give (1:12)
- c) Anxiety's Moment (1:01)
- d) West Virginia Fantasies (1:34)
- e) Colour My World (3:01)
- f) To Be Free (1:15)
- g) Now More Than Ever (1:26)

LP 2 (32:25)
7. Fancy Colours (5:10)
8. 25 Or 6 To 4 (4:50)
9. Memories Of Love (9:12)
- a) Prelude (1:10)
- b) A.M. Mourning (2:05)
- c) P.M. Mourning (1:58)
- d) Memories Of Love (3:59)
10. It Better End Soon (10:24)
- a) 1st Movement (2:33)
- b) 2nd Movement (3:41)
- c) 3rd Movement (3:19)
- d) 4th Movement (0:51)
11. Where Do We Go From Here (2:49)

Total time 67:10

Bonus tracks on Rhino 2002 remaster:
12. Make Me Smile (Single Version) (2:58)
13. 25 Or 6 To 4 (Single Version) (2:51)

Line-up / Musicians

- Terry Kath / electric & acoustic guitars, lead (1,4,6,9,10) & backing vocals
- Robert Lamm / piano, Hammond organ, Hohner Pianet, lead (3,5,6) & backing vocals
- Lee Loughnane / trumpet, flugelhorn, backing vocals
- James Pankow / trombone, brass arrangements
- Walter Parazaider / saxophones, flute, clarinet, backing vocals
- Peter Cetera / bass, lead (2-5,7,8,11) & backing vocals
- Daniel Seraphine / drums, percussion

- Peter Matz / orchestration (9a), arrangements (9a,b & c)

Releases information

ArtWork: Nick Fasciano with John Berg (design)

2 LP Columbia KGP 24 (US/Canada), CBS 66233 (UK)

2xCD CBS/Sony ‎- 476616 2 (1987, Europe) Remastered by Joe Gastwirt
CD Rhino Records - R2 76172 (2002, US) Remastered by David Donnelly w/ 2 bonus tracks

Thanks to clarke2001 for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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CHICAGO Chicago [Aka: Chicago II] ratings distribution

(248 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(39%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(37%)
Good, but non-essential (19%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

CHICAGO Chicago [Aka: Chicago II] reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ClemofNazareth
5 stars While the band gets a rep for being a jazz/rock fusion group, one listen to this album shows that isn't quite right, at least not as far as their early recordings are concerned. The brass section is of course what tends to give people the impression this is jazz-rock, but the guitar, keyboards and especially the lyrics tell a different story.

Chicago seem to have been a complicated group of individuals right from the start. Peter Cetera, while cast as the bass player, was clearly one of the more commercially ambitious members and his vocals tend to be more memorable than those of keyboardist Robert Lamm or guitarist Terry Kath. That said, the left-leaning and political Lamm’s warm and even tenor on “Fancy Colours" and "25 or 6 to 4" are a big part of Chicago lore and are instantly recognizable by millions of music fans from at least three generations. His “Poem for the People” and “It Better End Soon” were less well-known and not released as singles, but they reveal a tense political side to the band that reflects the time and circumstances they lived in; the lyrics and guitar work also skirt the line between rock and contemporary American folk in my opinion, along the lines of Harry Nilsson, Warren Zevon and Tom Waits despite the horn trappings. Terry Kath was huge with experimentation on guitar, while Walter Parazaider gave more of an impression of being a virtuoso perfectionist on woodwinds. They were (and are) all consummate musicians, but the collaboration in retrospect seems rather unlikely and unusual (which, this being art, is of course probably why it worked out so well).

The lengthy "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon" gets most of the attention on this record, and of course it yielded the band their first hit single with “Make me Smile”. But for me “Colour my World” is the highlight of the record, despite its being a somewhat uncharacteristic piano and flute-driven acoustic piece with none of the trademark brass that made the band’s reputation. It's kind of like KISS’s “Beth”, Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind”, or Styx’ “Babe” in that respect.

The number of signature Chicago songs on this album are a testament to its prominent place in their discography: “Fancy Colours”, “25 or 6 to 4”, “Make me Smile”, “Movin In”, “Now More than Ever”, “Poem for the People”, “Where Do We Go From Here” and the acerbic anti-war anthem “It Better End Soon” are all classic Chicago and virtually timeless. I bought the 2-disc vinyl version somewhere around 1977 and these songs were still being played constantly on the radio even then; I hear most of them on FM radio regularly even today while traversing across America on road trips, a testament to both the staying power and the broad reach of Chicago’s music, and of this album in particular

For younger and newer Chicago fans I think there might be a tendency to disregard the folksier and multi-part sections of this record in favor of the well-known hit singles. That would be a huge mistake, and you will miss out on a real treat by doing so. Wrap your head around 1970 and all it meant while checking out “It Better End Soon”; and spend some time with a loved-one grooving to "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon" – both are well worth the trip.

Defining a musical masterpiece is so subjective that the exercise becomes irrelevant almost immediately. In the case of this album though, I can easily say that I can't think of a thing the band could have done to make it better, and in that light Chicago II must reasonably be considered a masterpiece. If you don't have this one in your collection, you should.


Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars In their second album,it looks Chicago knows better ,what they want. If their debut was raw and often not too balanced mix of blues-rock, soloing heavy guitar and big-band arrangements, the second one is much more polished one. They still using same components, but with other proportions: no jammimg raw few minutes guitar solos there any more! Songs are better structurised and all are based on pop-rock oriented platform.

The music still is fresh and interesting, and as in debut are more mix of styles than melted product. Melodies are all around, and almost all Chicago greatest hits are coming from this album. Brass section make great jazzy atmosphere and still existing guitar sounds are very pleasant and bring some rock feeling in quite sweet mix.

I believe, that everyone's opinion about this album is based on personal taste. Album still great in compositions ,vocal and arrangements are of the high level. If you like more jazzy orchestrated part of Chicago sound, you will find there all that jazz plus some classic pieces and orchestration. But there is less "rock" in Chicago's second album jazz-rock.

Anyway, really very good album, I think they both with debut are just two Chicago classics.

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars When the rightful CTA learned that some hippies usurped their names, they went tits-up and phoned their lawyers and in no time the hippies had changed their names, shortening it to just their hometown's name. Sooo their self-titled second album is just known as Chicago, and not as Chicago 2, although it became that way for those weaker on maths. With an unchanged line-up and their now famous logo in its final form, the septet headed out to record yet another double album, still under Guercio's directions. This album sees the advent of James Pankow becoming the equal of Robert Lamm as songwriter, while Kath remains the third gun, but we also see Cetera and Parazaider popping here or there. Two singles from this album were also sent up the charts.

The group is now more experienced than on their debut album, and if the first and third side are made of unrelated songs, the second make up a giant Pankow-penned suite called Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon, while the fourth side makes another (and separate) suite. While the first side of the album has some typical Chicago or If-type of songs, none seem to stand out, especially surprising from Kath who pens two out of five. You can't win them all!

Directly as the first notes from the almost 13-mins Buchannon suite strikes in Make Me Smile, you just know that the Chicago from the first album is back, with plenty of energy, drama and Kath's guitar, but it's the succession of those short tracks So Much To Say, Anxiety's Moments, WV Fantasies, Now More Than Ever and the awesome To Be Free that makes this suite going even if the two longer movement Make Me Smile and Colour My World (after a Bach arpeggio) went up the charts. We're looking at Pankow's best works along with the upcoming Elegy.

The second disc starts on the slow-starting but carnival-esque Fancy Colours, which could've easily raced up the charts as well if it wasn't for that ending, only to lean on the fantastic 25 Or 6 To 4 (that one did ;o))) before a short (around 9 minutes) Kath-undeclared and unnamed mini-suite takes over, where Kath experiments with a string section directed by Peter Matz. This sounds a bit like Deep Purple's April suite on their third "Bosch" album, but a bit out of the usual Chicago scope, but nevertheless interesting. The fourth-side suite It Better End Soon is a much more urgent business, tense and melodic, but so dramatic lyrics depicting the wars and violence. The Lamm-suite is intelligently shared with Kath and Parazaider. Closing up the album, and probably not linked to the suite is Cetera's Where Do We Go From Here? An intelligent question, but a tune that indicates a different tone for the band, an AOR/MOR sound that prefigures If You Leave Me Now. Yuck!!!!

Although Chicago were a septet, there are no other group who had released so much music after their second album that they'd had done as much as four album's worth and it wasn't finished. As if the remastered album boasting the 2 disc on 1 Cd wasn't enough, they even found the space to place the single edits of two album hits (both seriously shortened/edited), but for me it's not really the kind of bonus track I appreciate. But it won't make a dent in this reviewer's idea that this second Chicago album just bettered the debut album.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars Hard to believe that this band's first three recordings were all double albums.Talk about ambitious.Their debut was almost flawless as far as i'm concerned, very adventerous, fresh and raw. This their second recording is much tamer, polished and adult contemporary sounding. Ok that last comment is maybe a stretch but it just sounds too vanilla to me, especially the first five tracks. My favourite CHICAGO song is on here though, "25 Or 6 To Four" a great tune about being on acid.

"Movin' In" opens with horns blasting before it settles with vocals. I hate those backing vocals and really I don't like this track at all. Not a good start. "The Road" does little to impress either. Horns and drums standout before the vocals come in. When they arrive i'm saying yikes inside. "Poem For The People" opens with piano then horns followed by drums. Vocals after a minute. The tempo changes throughout. Some tasteful guitar too. Not a fan. "In The Country" is a little better. Some prominant bass and I like the guitar after 3 minutes. Some passion here at least. "Wake Up Sunshine" is fairly wimpy in just about every way. Not a fan. The next seven songs are part of the "Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon" suite. We finally get a great song in "Make Me Smile", a well known song from the band. Incredible tune.The lyrics, vocals and intensity are fantastic ! Also part of this suite is another hit called "Colour My World". A ballad with flute. I'm surprised they spelled "colour" the Canadian way (haha). "To Be Free" features some good drumwork early. Kind of a bouncy tune with horns. I like it. "Now More Than Ever" ends the suite with a reprise of "Make Me Smile". "Fancy Colours" opens with what sounds like wind chimes. Vocals before a minute with horns. Flute later.

"25 Or 6 To Four" is a song I heard one of the band members talk about on our Toronto classic rock station Q107 years ago. He relates this story when they were all on acid when this guy comes in the room and asks what time it was. One of them say "25 or 6 to four" and they all just started killing themselves laughing. Been there many times in my youth. It doesn't take much sometimes to trigger uncontrollable laughter over and over again. Besides this interview the lyrics are pretty clear about this "trip" they were on. What a song though ! Very powerful with great vocals. A great rock tune. Love the guitar 2 minutes in. The next three tracks are orchestral in nature. "Memories Of Love" is mellow with vocals, not a fan. The next suite is "It Better End Soon" which includes the last five tracks. The "1st Movement" is much better than the last tune. It reminds me of the first album. It has some balls. The "2nd Movement" is excellent as well. I like the flute early and drumming late. The "3rd Movement" puts the focus on the vocals but it does get pretty intense. Good tune. More great music on the "4th Movement" before it ends not so well with "Where Do We Go from Here".

Like most double albums this is a mixed bag. No way could I give this 4 stars. If someone askes if i'm a CHICAGO fan I say "No, i'm a CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY fan.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars It's good to see Chicago in the Prog-archives because they were a great band for a lot longer time before turning commercial than a lot of other bands were. This particular album was one of the first albums that I grew up on, and I loved it. I still do. But, the ironic thing is, even though this band became a radio friendly giant as time went on, this was the album that influenced me to explore music deeper. It helped coax me away from the radio and into listening to albums. This album, back in the 70s, was what influenced me to dive deeply into progressive rock, even though I didn't even realize what progressive rock was. The "Ballet for a Girl in Bucchanan" suite was such a attraction for me and also influenced me to want to listen to longer compositions, because I loved the way two hits from this Suite (Make me Smile and Colour My World) were mixed up into this much larger song. Yes this album is a huge milestone in inspiring me to not just listen to better music, but to also explore writing music. Even though I don't consider Chicago one of my favorite bands, even though I love their earlier music, I do consider it the band that introduced me to the bands that I do consider my favorites, like King Crimson, Porcupine Tree, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

So how do I go from enjoying Chicago and loving King Crimson? Well they are obviously two bands on complete opposite sides of the prog spectrum. But are they really? My favorite tracks on Chicago II are the ones that are longer, have more brass, are more experimental and have more dissonance. There are three things in common here with King Crimson and most of the bands I consider my favorites and those things are longer songs, experimentation and dissonance. The very first track on this album is "Movin' In" and there is a short instrumental break on here were the brass section just goes total free form and the music just becomes what a lot of people might consider very harsh sounding before it breaks from this dissonance and flows back into melodic without even slowing down or changing rhythm. I love that part of the song. I think "Fancy Colours" is a beautiful and very emotional song even though it's quite short and has a somewhat annoying ending, but it's still one of my favorites. Of course "25 or 6 to 4" is a classic and has that killer guitar solo. The "Memories of Love" suite is an all-time favorite even now. This is a very slow but dramatic song, somewhat minimalistic at times which several times rises to several great emotional climaxes in many part of the suite. This one is full of dissonant parts where the flutes, brass, and the other instruments clash and fight with one another yet they always seem to find a resolve. The more I listen to this track, the more I hear and the more I consider this a masterpiece of prog. Simply beautiful, and just like most prog masterpieces, you don't appreciate it for what it is on the first few listens, you must hear it several times and let it sink into your brain and your soul to really see what an amazing piece of work this composition is. "It Better End Soon" is a long suite also which showcases the bands talent and the long instrumental passages here seem to fit right in with the political message that is in the lyrics. Definately not just a Chicago classic, but a jazz/progressive classic also. The entire album is tied together and wrapped up in the short Peter Cetera song "Where Do We Go From Here" which even though it's short after such a long suite, does not at all seem out of place. It is the perfect ending for an amazing album.

I have to consider this a masterpiece of progressive rock, not just because of it's importance to me, but it also influenced many other bands that were around at that time. But no one knew how to do jazz/rock like Chicago. It's time to consider this a staple of progressive rock.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Well, believe it or not, Chicago┤s second release was another double LP (and so would be their third!). This is what I call a prolific band! And their sound here is still miles away from the syrup pop they┤d ended up famous for. I was quite impressed by their debut already, and this one was heading to a similar direction, although the general playing and production was a bit better. There are some very elaborated moments too (like the two long suites that take most of side two and four of the original vinyl.

Their mix of psychodelic rock, rhythm & blues, soul, funk, jazz, pop and classical music is awesome! They were quite talented musicians, fine singers (their hamornies are a highlight too) and quite ambitious writers (at least at this point). There are some pretty heavy experimentation and they even used a string section on some parts. Still the music was accessible most of the time, something that surely helped Chicago to become a hugely popular act. Two of their biggest hits (25 Or 6 To 4 and Make Me Smile) were from this record (even though the singles were edited versions. Both included in the remasterered version as bonus tracks).

Although not really a jazz rock group per se, Chicago was at that point very progressive since it took so many different musical elements and merged them together to make a sound of their own. Their bold arrangements - specially the great brass/woodwind parts - are surprisingly inventive, well done and work very well inside the ┤song┤ format as much as on the more elaborated suites. In fact, they worked better on the shorter stuff. But that┤s a matter of taste.

Conclusion: another winner from a band I only knew from their pop hits until recently. If you like the aforementioned styles this is a must have. A great find and some very good (prog) music. Four stars, no doubt!

Review by Chicapah
4 stars As a prog-headed tadpole, when I set out on my own and moved into an efficiency apartment adjacent to the campus of North Texas State University late in the summer of '70, this was one of the first albums I bought for my new pad. The college had (and still has) a well-deserved reputation for being the finest jazz school in all of the southwestern United States and every kind of music from classical to heavy rock & roll could be heard emanating from every house and bungalow for blocks constantly. It was a music-lover's heaven. I can't imagine a better place to abide in at the tender, legal age of 21 than the pleasant burg of Denton. The songs on this album will always summon warm nostalgia and memories for me because of its being one of the more popular LPs that blossomed in that particular space and place in time. Plus, it's just a damn good record.

The band known as Chicago was a bright beacon of hope for every scrawny nerd who'd been shut out of the popular high school cliques for being in the marching band. The Joes in this group were as faceless as those outcasts were themselves and yet they stood atop the rock charts just as often as the cool guitar gods did. Around an institution like NTSU, a virtual Mecca for woodwind and brass instrumentalists, Chicago proved that those of their ilk could rock as hard as the hot dogs, producing inventive sounds both respectful of their big band heritage and as progressive as Yes or ELP. For once the only thing that mattered was the music, not what they looked like, and every horn-toting, 4-eyed geek in town could walk with their head held a little higher because in this case substance had found a way to beat media-fueled perception and hype. These guys may have been everymen but they were still special.

While Chicago Transit Authority's debut was no doubt a triumph, it merely reflected their nightclub and early concert act to a large extent. On "Chicago" we got to hear what they could do now that they were granted a little more time in the studio and allowed to concentrate on their writing skills, starting with James Pankow's R&B/Gospel- tinged "Moving In" featuring Terry Kath's husky, soulful voice. Like most tunes on this album, though, just when you think they're going to play it safe they surprise you. In this case they detour into a big band swing-fest where saxophonist Walter Parazaider delivers a delightfully wild solo in particular. Kath's "The Road" is next, a jazzy Laura Nyro-ish ditty with interesting accents abounding and a brash I'm-only-in-town-for-a-night-so-let's- dispose-with-the-formalities-and-get-naked lyrical content. Believe me, in the "love the one you're with" era that preceded the fun-killing advent of really nasty STDs, that sentiment wasn't as reckless as it would seem today. Keyboardist Robert Lamm's "Poem for the People" has a nice piano and horn section intro before it turns into a prime example of Caucasian soul. This number has great jazz moments peppered throughout, including Terry's subtle but flashy guitar lines.

Kath's "In The Country" contains a palpable Sly Stone vibe and continues their habit of not being what you think it'll be as it evolves. Chicago was always game to throw in a few twists and turns along the way. The first dip in the road comes in the form of Lamm's "Wake Up Sunshine," a perky pop song that'd be right at home in an orange juice commercial. To their credit, however, they tag on a proggy ending that's totally unexpected. The suite that follows is hard to over-praise. Pankow's epic "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon" is as relevant today as it was over four decades ago. It's got class out the wazoo, beginning with the exquisite and very unlike-anything-else-at-the-time "Make Me Smile" wherein the tangible sense of exuberance expressed in Terry's vocal is amazingly uplifting. "So Much to Say" is an ominous change of pace that leads to the Beatle- like "Anxiety's Moment" and the excellent interplay between the horns, organ and guitar found inside "West Virginia Fantasies." This trio of short pieces flow together like a river. I'll give you that there's no love song in the history of mankind mushier than "Color My World" but there's no argument that it fits perfectly in the middle of this opus and Walter's flute work is superb. "To Be Free" serves as a welcome segue out of that eternal wedding combo must-play, driven by Daniel Seraphine's speed-demon drumming and they close out spectacularly with "Now More than Ever," a glorious reprise of the first segment. The climactic finale is a true classic.

Robert's "Fancy Colours" is jazz rock/fusion at its best. The beginning sets up a mystical aura with bassist Peter Cetera's sustained note creating a taut tension until they release and break into a carefree wah-wah-fueled waltz decorated with fancy flute runs provided by Parazaider. They close the number with energetic drums from Seraphine and blaring, hockey goal-worthy horn blasts that bring to mind Aaron Copland's bold brashness. Lamm's "25 or 6 to 4" is a reworking of an age-old descending blues riff with a catchy chorus tacked on and Kath's frantic guitar slicing & dicing from beginning to end. It's since become a staple of oldies radio but, to tell the truth, I prefer the kick-ass remake they included on album #18.

The tragic loss of Terry in '78 was a critical blow to their future as proggers. He wasn't just an axe-wielder. The versatility and scope of his writing acumen becomes obvious when you consider that he and some fellow named Peter Matz penned the very involved but also quite beautiful, classically-influenced, nearly ten-minute, four-part composition included on this album that starts with "Prelude" and finishes with "Memories of Love." It may not be everyone's tea cup but you have to concede that it's extremely ambitious even if the last cut is way too Rod McKuen new-age poetic for my taste. (Your leading lady will adore it, though. Shows off your "sensitive" side. She'll warm right up.)

The almost side-long "It Better End Soon" is a four-movement plea for peace, harmony and political sanity and one in which many of the band members contributed to the finished product. It opens as an aggressive rocker with a dynamic structure and Kath's singing grows more and more exasperated with humanity's constant failings as it moves along. Walter gets to blow out an extended but admirable breathy flute ride in the middle and they build up steadily to the emotional finale that contains a stirring horn flourish. Smooth- throated Cetera gets to be the caboose on this train, bringing up the rear with his well- written but ultimately unimpressionable "Where Do We Go From Here?" You might say they chose to ease out of this one with a whimper rather than with a bang.

"Chicago," despite being a usually-jinxed sophomore outing, is the apex of their huge catalogue. If they'd trimmed it down to a single disc it might've been a masterpiece of prog but less-is-more wasn't the trend in 1970 and the sky was the limit. As it is there's a touch of fluff to bear with as you make your way through this recording but the benefits vastly outweigh the detriments. And one can't ignore the fact that it managed to be well-received on both sides of the pond, reaching #4 in the USA and #6 in the UK. There's a palpable progressive mind-set that permeates the album and it deserves to be revered by those like me who often indulge in this variety-filled genre. This was their greatest achievement. 4 stars.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Chicago? That band mostly known for cheesy love ballads, with horns? With that "The ladies love Cetera" guy? Them? Prog?

Well if you go way back to their first few albums, sure they had those cheesy ballads, but listen deeper, and you will hear the lush jazz phrasing, especially in the horn sections, and occasional true prog passages.

The first side of this double album stays in the pop realm, albeit with the above mentioned horn sections. It isn't until side 2, and the seven part Ballad for a Girl in Buchannon that you hear the band really go prog. Sure, two of the parts were hits as singles, Make Me Smile and Colour My World (a better song than the sappy one I remember - maybe it was tainted by being the song every kid taking piano lessons in the early seventies had to learn), bit it also contained the Zappa-like West Virginia Fantasies.

The four part Memories of Love has a light classical feel, and It Better End Soon is a jazz fusion jam (think Traffic with better horns).

Yeah, there's some cheese here, but this album sparks a lot of memories for me,

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Chicago, my kind of band

After the release of their fine d├ębut album, Chicago Transit Authority found themselves threatened with legal action by the actual Illinois transport organisation of that name. Quite how the people who ran the buses and trains of Chicago felt threatened by the band was unclear, but the decision was taken to abbreviate the band name to simply Chicago. This being the first album by the band under that name, it was originally given an eponymous moniker, but with the passage of time it has become known as "Chicago II" (indeed the spine of my LP version has that notation).

The seven man line up which recorded the d├ębut remain unchanged for this album. In a brave statement by both band and record label, once again a double album was put together; I struggle to think of another band whose first two albums were double LPs.

"Chicago (II)", is widely regarded as the album which brought the band to the attention of the world. While they also enjoyed singles success with songs from the first album, much of that success actually occurred retrospectively, after this release. Ironically, the confused timetable of the singles releases led to the band being accused of selling out on account of their older material! Further singles can be found here, including the iconic "25 or 6 to 4". The song title is generally seen as a time reference, songwriter Robert Lamm sitting up until after 3:30am trying to write it, hence 25 or (twenty) six minutes to four. Some have also tried to construe a drugs reference from the title, but this is completely misinformed.

The album lists a total of 23 track titles, but these include three suites entitled "Ballet for a girl in Buchannon" (written to follow a classical style by James Pankow), "It better end soon" (in four movements plus a coda) and the fans named "Memories of love" (as it tends to be referred to, the LP does not officially gather the tracks together) in four parts.

The four tracks which made up the original first side of the LP are among the tightest on the album. While there are occasional burst of brass improvisation, generally the melodies are strong with "Poem for the people" in particular highlighting the softer path the band would follow in later years. Apart from the brief "Wake up sunshine", "Ballet for a girl in Buchannon" occupies the entire second side of the double LP. Despite the composite intentions of the composer, this 13 minute piece actually produced two of the band's most successful singles ("Make me smile" and "Colour my world"). While the individual sections can indeed be appreciated for what they are, the suite as a whole is superbly arranged and performed, ultimately achieving more than the sum of the parts.

The third side opens with a couple of lighter pop rock songs, the aforementioned "25 or 6 to 4" being an absolute classic of its kind. Anyone unfamiliar with this milestone track really should do themselves a favour without further delay. Note also that the album track has a superb lead guitar solo missing from the single edit. The latter part of the side sees Terry Kath and conductor Peter Matz combine to put together their version of a mini-suite. The three short opening instrumentals serve as an introduction to the ballad "Memories of love". This piece may well have inspired Argent's similarly structured "Pure love" on their "All together now" album.

Side four is occupied entirely by the politically inspired "It better end soon" primarily composed by Robert Lamm, although the CD sleeve notes advise that Peter Cetera's closing "Where do we go from here" is an integral part. Apart from the Cetera song, which points towards the style he would later perfect, the music here is generally the hardest on the album, venturing from heavy guitar rock to Edwin Starr ("War") style protest.

Overall, "Chicago" is another major statement by the band. Personally, I prefer the first album over this one, but both are magnificent albums by any standard, especially when we remember how long ago they were recorded.

The CD remaster includes two bonus tracks, both of which are simply single edits of tracks on the album.

Review by Sinusoid
3 stars Needs more colours

Hot off the heels of their debut double smash, Chicago decides to try and duplicate what they had going by thrusting another double album onto the public, yet shortening the track lengths. That doesn't mean they gave up on doing long songs; three suites appear albeit broken into four to seven pieces. The blistering mad jazz-rock on their debut is more open to pop on CHICAGO (II), but that isn't necessarily why this album is weaker than CTA.

The first four tracks generally go like this: I listen, I get bored, I remember nothing. ''Movin' In'' is particularly terrible as an intro with the backup singing being bland, and the piece just sounding dull. Compare that to the maelstrom of fire that was ''Introduction'' in the debut; ''Movin' In'' sounds like a joke. I will admit that parts of ''Poem for the People'' and ''In the Country'' peer out, but nothing close to standout tracks ''25 or 6 to 4'' and the sprightly proggy ''Fancy Colours''.

But it is the suites that really hold the interest of the listener. The ''Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon'' marks the first of them, although it sounds like seven slightly different parts. ''Make Me Smile'' kicks off the ''ballet'' with a punch coming straight from the debut album with the brass presence being the haymaker to your ears. ''West Virginia Fantasies'' is an oft forgotten little number that carries intensity throughout its minute in length. The pieces ends where it began with ''Now More Than Ever'', never losing momentum except for the prom dance number ''Colour My World''.

The next interesting suite is the ''Memories of Love'' thing; it's intersting because it's Chicago with an orchestra, or more like an orchestra piece on a Chicago album. Chicago caught a Moody cold it seems like, although the orchestra use here isn't quite up to the level the Moodies had. But what follows is surely the best point on the album, the great powerful jam session in ''It Better End Soon''. This is what Chicago is all about; sporadic jamming with the interjectory solo once in a while (Paradizer plays a mean flute). Kath's underrated singing ability is fully displayed here; listen to the third part an try not to be moved by vocals.

Chicago shook and distilled pop into their highly buoyant jazz flavoured rock, but the songwriting seems to have slackened. Take out the first side, the classical piece and the last number (a Cetera schlock-fest) and I wouldn't hesitate in the slightest to see a masterpiece in this. Instead, I find myself in a minority in saying that CHICAGO (II) is weaker than CTA; then again, CTA is a gargantuan monster in jazz-rock.

Review by stefro
5 stars Considered by many to be the absolute highlight of Chicago's career, 'Chicago II' was, like its predecessor, a lengthy double-sided release that again mixed elements of jazz, pop, rock 'n' roll and psychedelia to impressive effect. Although the double-album format has, of course, seen mixed results over the years - some albums proved overblown and indulgent; others featured a dearth of quality material filling up the gaps - Chicago's were anything but, always a group with more than enough quality material to make the concept work. Both their 1969 debut 'Chicago Transit Authority' and this follow-up feature well over an hour of material with rarely a dull moment to be had, both albums showcasing Chicago at their most experimental. 'Chicago II' may well start in fairly mainstream territory with the upbeat 'Movin' In', yet the album is most notable for the three multi-part song suites - James Pankow's eight-minute 'Ballet For A Girl In Buchanon', the rather beautiful 'Memories Of Love' by Terry Kath and non-member Peter Matz and the strange, neo-classical strains of 'It Better End Soon' courtesy of Robert Lamm and Walter Parazaider - that take up almost half the running time. More interesting, however, is the addition of '25 On 6 To 4', a charging jazz-rock anthem that quickly became a fan favourite. Quoted by some as being 'deliberately mysterious', '25 On 6 To 4'describes in hazy fashion the effects of what seems to be a particularly memorable LSD trip, though the actual meaning of the lyrics has been the subject of great debate over the years. Whatever the view, '25 On 6 To 4' is an armour-plated Chicago classic and one of the group's rockiest songs, the placing of the song alongside the elegiac and delicate 'Memories Of Love' showcasing just what an eclectic album 'Chicago II' is. Whether it's a superior album to its predecessor is actually a moot point; both albums represent the very best of early Chicago. A technically-assured, complex and delightfully experimental blend of styles, this is progressive music in the truest sense of the word. A fantastic group, Chicago really were one of the finest of all American rock 'n' roll groups, this album a prime example. STEFAN TURNER, ANGEL, 2012
Review by GruvanDahlman
5 stars Though best known for their slick jazz infused pop/rock later into their career, the first three albums (in particular) shows off a band hell bent on progressing music, beyond the realms and boundaries of common perception. The fusion of jazz and rock may not have been invented by Chicago but they did take it way past most of their contemporaries on this, their second album, fuzing brass rock, jazz rock or whatever you want to call it and adding not so small a dose of progressive elements. All that combined produced an album of extreme value and importance. I have called it THE jazz rock album of all time and I think i am in my right to do so. Simply because I am right.

I will not go into the album track by track but I will say this, the music on this album fuses together as with any great progressive album. This makes the experience somewhat otherworldly. It is like listening to an opera or any classical piece, whether it is made by Mozart or the prog greats. It is an amazing accomplishment.

The music in itself is a mix of jazz, rock, classical, brass, hard rock, prog and then some. Chicago produced an album of hard hitting, precise though not sterile, vibrant, progressive music which possibly left them gasping for air afterwards. They never sounded like this again. Never would the mighty Chicago produce anything as grand as this again. Every track oozes progressive jazz rock and the songs are in themselves gems. Combined the album is a crown worthy of royalty, littered with glistening jewels.

If you are searching for a progressive jazz rock album, look no further. This is all you need. Amazingly enough, considering their coming history. Chicago II is without a doubt worth every single star I give them.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Though there are definite signs of the band moving toward a more pop-oriented audience, the internal resistance is on full display with the inclusion of many experimental instrumental pieces and sections--the greatest of which is, of course, the side-long "rock symphony," "It Better End Soon." To be able to keep convincing their label company--which was the market-leaders, Columbia, and who had a big budget for experimentalist artists and albums--to release another double album--especially in light of all of the instrumental material they had--and three multi-movement suites!!!--is nothing short of remarkable. Though not a fan of Side One, I have always loved the "Make Me Smile" suite that is (and, to me, always will be) Side Two. And then, of course, there is the classic, "25 or 6 to 4" which is, IMHO, one of the greatest pop-rock songs ever despite harboring one of the greatest extended guitar solos of all time. And I love the classical "Memories of Love" suite that follows. As for Side Four's rock symphony--which I love--it actually makes for great background music for parties--in the same way that Sly & The Family Stone, War, and The Isley Brothers do. All in all, this album is a crowning achievement of the full expression of the ultimate potential of a rock band. Would that all bands were as broadly curious and intrepidly courageous.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Perhaps the progressive jazz-rock peak of the band. Releasing the second double-album out of series of three allowed them to expand the sound, extend epic compositions and bring diversity. The album starts with a jazzy rocker with amazing saxophone solo, then trumpet and trombone. Together wit ... (read more)

Report this review (#2480315) | Posted by sgtpepper | Thursday, November 26, 2020 | Review Permanlink

5 stars It starts with "Movin In" , pretty much a straight forward rock song with a jamming bridge. "The "Road" is a hell of a song, has a really cool pattern on drums and jazzy chords. Track 3 "Poem For The People" is my personal favorite song on the album..Its just a perfect song all the way through. The ... (read more)

Report this review (#383822) | Posted by ProgEpics | Thursday, January 20, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Fairest album in history Chicago definitely < determination >. It very work eclectic album. Jazz, Blues, Rock, Classical... My favourite track : Ballet for Girl in Buchanon it has been based on classic compositions Bach's, Stravinsky's. Beautiful classic, extracting tears: Memories of Love. P ... (read more)

Report this review (#254758) | Posted by ZBY147 | Monday, December 7, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Chicago - Chicago (3.13 stars) Original Release: 1/26/1970 Songs: Movin' In (3 stars) This introductory song is like the song "Introduction" on Chicago Transfer Authority (CTA). Musically it seems less intense than the former and in that light forebodes for me that character of what was ... (read more)

Report this review (#254004) | Posted by sealchan | Wednesday, December 2, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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