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Chicago - Chicago XIV CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

1.89 | 46 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars The horns are in the pub

Following the release of the disappointing and critically panned 'Chicago 13', Donnie Dacus agreed with the rest of the band that he should move on. He had been faced with the futile challenge of trying to replace Terry Kath, but Kath's place in the band had gone far beyond simply that of vocalist/guitarist writer. Up until his death he had also been a long time friend of the other band members. Guitarist Chris Pinnick was brought in on guitar (but not vocals) although his role in Chicago was not initially as an equal member, but as a session contributor. He did though appear on stage with the band when they played live. The role of producer was also tinkered with again, with Phil Ramone being replaced by Tom Dowd.

The resultant album, Chicago's first for the 1980's, was a complete flop commercially. Quite why this is, is not immediately apparent, although there are no hit singles in the set. The opening 'Manipulation' appears to have plenty of the right ingredients, with brassy horns supporting an upbeat slice of commercial jazz rock. Thereafter though, there is certainly a feel of a band going through the motions. The songs are invariably 3-5 minute pop rock composition. The brass section seem to have spent most of the sessions in the pub, their contributions generally being limited to the odd backing toot. The best place to hear them here is on 'Thunder and lightning' but even here they are mercilessly faded in full flow!

Peter Cetera and Robert Lamm share most of the song-writing duties, with other band members either suffering writers block or offering material presumably considered inadequate.

Looking at the album some 30 years after its release, it is not nearly as bad as history might suggest, indeed there are plenty of positives here. Any vestiges of prog and indeed jazz rock may be gone, but seen as a collection of AOR songs, much of the material holds up well. Cetera's contribution is particularly strong, with songs such as the rocking 'Hold on' and 'Birthday boy', the latter with its slightly more adventurous arrangement, certainly standing well alongside tracks from the band's recent albums.

For me though, one track in particular, 'Song for you' is an absolute masterpiece. In essence it is another Cetera ballad, but the wonderful melody and modest lyrics are supported by a delightfully understated instrumental arrangement, including intriguingly subtle synthesiser. This really is a Chicago song which has flown under the radar for too long.

Perhaps it is the fact that this album does not sound much like Chicago which was its undoing. Whatever the reasons, it will forever be regarded a a real turkey in their discography. This would be the album which terminated the band's long term relationship with Columbia (CBS) records, the label choosing to drop them after its release, even paying them to go!

The Rhino reissue contains three bonus tracks from the same sessions. All three are no better or worse than those which made it onto the album. Note though that the song 'Soldier of fortune' is not the one of the same name recorded by Deep Purple a few years earlier.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |


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