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Chicago - Chicago 18 CD (album) cover

CHICAGO 18

Chicago

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

2.57 | 41 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Ex-Cetera

Having achieved their biggest commercial success ever with the album "Chicago 17", Chicago were shaken to the core by the subsequent departure of Peter Cetera. If the death of original band member Terry Kath had previously caused the band to question their future the loss of Cetera, who wanted to pursue a solo career, was even more of a blow at a time when their star was rising high. This time though, there was no question of the band folding, and in 1985 bassist and singer Jason Scheff was added to the line up as a replacement for Cetera. Scheff was the son of bassist Jerry Scheff, who had at one time toured with Elvis Presley. Aged just 23, he got the job primarily because of the similarity of his voice and its key with that of Cetera.

David Foster was once again retained as producer, but this would be his final album for Chicago. Song-writing duties were split between the band members and professional song-writers such as Steve Kipner, Bobby Caldwell and Randy Goodrum.

The opening "Niagara falls" is one of the songs written by outsiders (Kipner and Caldwell). The blaring synths and lead vocals by new boy Scheff give the track a very un-Chicago like feel. This is pure 80's AOR, think Starship, REO Speedwagon or Foreigner. The album moves between such upbeat pop rock and smooth ballads. Robert Lamm's "Forever" is an example of the latter, but even here the synth now has that very dated 80's sound. The second half of the track actually develops quite nicely, with a decent brass interlude being a feature.

Undoubtedly the most interesting track here is the re-recording of the wonderful "25 or 6 to 4", a song which originally appeared on Chicago's second album. Originally written by Robert Lamm, this recording is co-credited to him and James Pankow. The version here is slowed down and dramatised through a heavy drum beat, a new lead guitar solo and additional horn bursts. Overall, the new recording reminded me of what Far Corporation did with Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to heaven". It is very much a case of love it or hate it, but overall, while this version is by no means an improvement on the original, it is of some merit.

Jason Scheff sings on all of the songs released as singles from the album, including the top 10 hit "Will you still love me?" That song is very much in the mould of the band's recent hits, but still managed to secure a US top 10 placing. Interestingly though the album flopped commercially.

As a rule, the brass section is ruthlessly sidelined, reduced to occasional bursts of backing fills. The track "Nothin's gonna stop us now" though (not the Starship song of that name), opens with an unlisted half minute or so of unaccompanied horns playing a piece called "Free flight". Momentarily, old fans will be stirred by the sound, but all too soon we drift back into another of the pop rock numbers. As if to emphasise the pop credentials of the album one last time, the closing "One more day" even includes a children's chorus.

It was perhaps understandable that Chicago would react to the loss of Peter Cetera by making a very safe album. It goes without saying that there is very little of interest in prog terms here. The longer tracks only run to 5 or 6 minutes, and do so simply because they are slower ballads. While the brass section add welcome titbits from time to time, there is little in the way of overt instrumentation at all. This then brings us to the strength of the songs and in particular the melodies. On that front, the album is pleasantly harmless.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |

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