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Chicago - Chicago 16 CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

2.46 | 55 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Fostering outside help

In the early 1980's, Chicago was a band in turmoil. Unceremoniously dumped by their long term record label, the circumstances of their departure included an agreement for a second "Greatest hits" album to be released, that album adopting the "Chicago 15" numeric. Warner Brothers picked up the band on a new contract, and David Foster was brought in as producer. The second major departure from the band, and the first to come about by choice, occurred when percussionist Laudir de Oliveira, who had previously been promoted from session musician to band member, concluded that the band's chosen direction no longer required his contribution. On the plus side, multi-instrumentalist Bill Champlin was added to the line up. Guitarist Chris Pinnick, who had appeared as a guest on the previous studio album ("Chicago 14") was kept on for these recordings, although he himself says he was never a full member of the band.

David Foster quickly took control of things, bringing in members of Toto and other non-band members (including himself) to share the song-writing duties and to contribute to the actual recordings too. It would seem the band were quite happy with this, as releases immediately prior to this had indicated that there was a collective exhaustion, especially on the song-writing front. Foster also used the most modern recording techniques available to freshen up the band's sound. The overall result was a notable turn around in the band's fortunes, the album spawning only their second number one US hit single with "Hard to Say I'm Sorry", written by Foster with Peter Cetera and Robert Lamm. The song also gave the band a rare top 10 appearance in the UK singles chart.

"Chicago 16" is an album which restored the band's credibility in commercial terms at least. The tracks here are all short pop based numbers of two basic varieties. We have the upbeat AOR songs with strong rhythms and infectious choruses, and we have the Chicago ballads. The brass section is still here, but they are lined up as backing musicians alongside the guitars and synths which dominate proceedings.

In retrospect, songs such as "Chains" and "Waiting for you to decide" are no better or worse than the material on the albums which flopped so badly prior to this one. It is the inclusion of "Hard to say I'm sorry" which gave the album its commercial success. This sickly ballad captured the mood of the time, the multi-tracked vocals, orchestration and familiar sounding lead guitar solo combining to deliver a paint-by numbers success. To be fair, the closing section of the track (titled "Get away") picks things up well, the horns getting a chance to deliver a pleasing blast from the past. Unfortunately though, it is all too brief.

The new record company must have been delighted with the immediate return on their investment, while Columbia (CBS) were left to pick up the crumbs from the knock on sales of the "Greatest hits 2" collection. Seen in hindsight though, this is largely a case of more of the same, tarted up by a talented producer to attain success way beyond what it actually warrants.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |


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