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Chicago - Chicago VI CD (album) cover

CHICAGO VI

Chicago

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

2.56 | 76 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Rocky Mountain highs, and lows

Following the commercial success of "Chicago V", in the US at least, Chicago continued their pursuit of mass popularity with this their second single LP release. By this time, much of the rest of the world, and especially the United Kingdom, had lost interest in the band. Their home nation however continued their loyal support sending the album to the top of the Billboard chart. Two further singles were gleaned from the album ("Feelin' stronger every day" and "Just you'n'me"), both of which made the US top 10.

Apart from the complete absence of any suites or multi-part numbers, the most telling aspect of the track list is the sub- five minute running time of all ten tracks, making this the band's shortest album to date. While the songwriting credits are slightly more diverse than on "V", Robert Lamm still contributes half of the tracks here.

The core line up remains firmly intact with three guest musicians being brought in to add additional percussion and pedal steel. Included in these is Laudir de Oliveira who would also be listed as a guest on the following album before being promoted to full band membership in 1975. Producer James William Guercio took charge of the recordings, which were undertaken at his ranch in Colorado. The transition from recording in familiar surroundings in New York to being firmly directed by the studio owner was sometimes hard for the (still) young members of the band to handle, this being the first time they had really been asked to give up artistic control over their product. The physical challenges of recording some 8,000 feet above sea level also brought its own challenges, particularly for the brass section.

Robert Lamm's opening "Critic's choice" is a piano and voice only appeal to the music press to give the band a break. James Pankow's "Just you'n'me" firmly points to the Peter Cetera ("if you leave me now") era to come, although to its credit the track does feature some good brass. While these two tracks would have made for good openers to one of the band's early albums, here they are among the album's highs. The following "Darlin' dear" is a quite dreadful mess, with the band members seemingly doing their own thing behind some average swamp rock. Terry Kath's "Jenny" finds him doing his best to sound like David Clayton Thomas (BS&T), but the songs is prosaic at best.

James Pankow's other contribution, "What's the world coming to" is a Motownesque mix of The Temptations and Stevie Wonder. It largely works, but it simply was not what Chicago were all about. The slightly more complex arrangement for the downbeat "Something in This City Changes People" does make this track rather more interesting, but at under 4 minutes, it is all too fleeting. "Hollywood" sits well back to back with "Something...", the two tracks making for a decent middle section for the set. Peter Cetera's contribution "In terms of two" once again points towards "If you leave me now", although the track is more whimsical, Cetera's voice and the harmonica accompaniment bizarrely sounding a lot like Lindisfarne.

The funky, semi-whispered "Rediscovery" misses the mark completely in my book, superfluous instructions such as "guitar" simply making this directionless attempt at a style alien to the band all the more cringe-worthy. The album closes with the other single released from it, a Cetera/Pankow composition entitled "Feelin' stronger every day". Here the muted brass backing and schmaltzy multi-tracked vocals are clearly aimed at the singles market, as is the repeated final chorus, and in the US at least it worked.

In all, a decidedly weaker album from the band. The attempts at diversification largely misfire, and the lack of anything substantial from their proven field of excellence combines to make this an album to hear a couple of times and file away.

The CD remaster from 2002 includes 2 bonus tracks. The first of these is a Terry Kath demo of "Beyond our sorrows" featuring just Kath's vocals and piano backing. While Kath puts a bucket load of emotion into this 7 minute dirge, it seems the rest of the band were not as impressed. The second bonus is a cover of Al Green's "Tired of being alone", featuring a guest appearance by the song's composer. Green's use of brass on his own recordings was clearly an influence on Chicago, and here the combination is nothing short of explosive. This rendition alone make the CD release of album worthwhile. The performance is taken from a TV appearance by the band in 1973.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |

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