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Chicago - Chicago [Aka: Chicago  II] CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.14 | 197 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Chicago, my kind of band

After the release of their fine début 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 début 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.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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