Author Topic: The Chicago Discography  (Read 36969 times)

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Offline ZirconBlue

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Re: Chicago VIII (1975)
« Reply #140 on: August 21, 2013, 12:17:19 PM »
Also, cardinals are badass.


And the state bird of Illinois.


(. . . and Kentucky, and Indiana, and Ohio, and North Carolina, and Virginia.  And West Virginia.  I've lived in 5 states, and 4 of them had the cardinal as the state bird.)


I think I was born a little too late to want patches for a denim jacket.  I seem to remember my older brother having some of those.


I was born in 1971, and denim jackets with band patches were popular when I was in Middle/High School.

Offline Orbert

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Re: Chicago VIII (1975)
« Reply #141 on: August 21, 2013, 01:07:35 PM »
I always go through several edits with these write-ups, and at one point I mentioned that the cardinal is the state bird of Illinois.  Then I wondered if Nick Fasciano (who designed the cover) even knew that, or if he just liked the look.  After all, it is the state bird of several states, as you mentioned.  I love the green against the red, with the touches of blue and yellow for accent, all against the black background.  In the end, though, I cut all of that out.  I've made note of the cover art a few times, and I didn't really want it to become a thing.  It would be a good thing, except that I didn't start it from the first album, and I had no idea what the concept was for the second album.  What is that, polished steel?  Marble?

Yep, I'm nine years older than you, but I was pretty sure that denim jackets with band patches were still around at least into the 80's.

Offline Big Hath

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Re: Chicago VIII (1975)
« Reply #142 on: August 21, 2013, 02:04:56 PM »
yeah, I was born in '77, so I missed out on all the patch awesomeness.  The only patches I had were on the knees of my jeans after ripping holes in them by playing too rough.

For Chicago (II), yes, I think it is supposed to be a metal bar of some sort.  Silver or steel or something like that.
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Offline Orbert

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Re: Chicago VIII (1975)
« Reply #143 on: August 21, 2013, 02:14:46 PM »
That's too bad.  Nowadays, band T-shirts are as popular as ever, and that's cool, but your jacket was where you could show off all of your favorite bands.  And of course, the more patches you had, and the more awesome they were, the cooler you were.

And I never had one.  :'(

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Re: Chicago VIII (1975)
« Reply #144 on: August 22, 2013, 12:59:47 PM »
Orbert,

I've gotten the impression that you did a thread like this for ELP. Is that true? I'm having a horrible time tracking it down if you did. May I ask for some help in locating it?

Sorry for being off topic.

Offline Orbert

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Re: Chicago VIII (1975)
« Reply #145 on: August 22, 2013, 01:35:03 PM »
No problem.  So far I've done discographies for Yes, Genesis, and Emerson Lake & Palmer.


Yes

Genesis

Emerson Lake & Palmer

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Re: Chicago VIII (1975)
« Reply #146 on: August 22, 2013, 01:46:19 PM »
Oh-boy, oh-boy, oh-boy :panicattack:

Thank you!!

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Re: Chicago VIII (1975)
« Reply #147 on: August 24, 2013, 02:32:49 AM »
Thanks Orbert! I've worked my way through the ELP and the Yes threads and have added a few CD's to my wish list as a result. You might be surprised but I was instantly smitten with Tales From a Topographic Ocean. I'm going to attempt Genesis again and see where it leads me. A few years ago I tried really hard to get into pre-Abacab Genesis to improve my prog-cred and failed miserably. Wish me luck.

I'm still interested in your thoughts about the remaining Chicago albums up through at least X.

Offline Orbert

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Re: Chicago VIII (1975)
« Reply #148 on: August 24, 2013, 06:55:54 AM »
Good luck on getting into the early Genesis.  It's definitely different from their later stuff, and folks who started with the later, more popular version of Genesis don't always take to the earlier material.

I've been trying to work up the motivation to continue the Chicago discography.  I've been pretty busy lately, but that's not all of it.  I've been a staunch defender of the original nine studio albums, but upon re-listening, wow, things really did drop off towards the end.  I'll probably at least go through Chicago XI, the original nine.  After that, we'll have to see.

Offline Big Hath

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Re: Chicago VIII (1975)
« Reply #149 on: August 24, 2013, 10:21:05 AM »
I was hoping you could make it to at least 17.  Definitely wanted to see your thoughts on Hot Streets, 13, and XIV if you could stomach your way through them.  Although 13 is a bit of a sentimental favorite of mine, the other two are pretty much the dregs of the discography.
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Offline Orbert

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Re: Chicago VIII (1975)
« Reply #150 on: August 24, 2013, 11:59:12 AM »
Maybe I'll just have to make do with less frequent updates or something.  I figured the participation in this one would be somewhat less than the true prog bands I'd covered, but it's still a bit discouraging when I feel like I'm only doing it for three or four people.

That's not a complaint, by the way, just a reason.

Offline jammindude

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Re: Chicago VIII (1975)
« Reply #151 on: August 24, 2013, 12:14:18 PM »
I haven't been chiming in much...but I want to remind you that there are those of us who lurk.    I haven't had the time to listen anything past IV...because that's all on vinyl and I haven't been down to the mancave for anything but my J-Dude reviews lately.   But this thread *HAS* inspired me to listen to more early Chicago...and I actually bought IV from Amazon *BECAUSE OF THIS THREAD*.     And I've really been digging it, because I had never heard it before...ever...until I bought it for this thread.

So don't think that these threads don't make a difference, even if we don't respond every time.   I'm a music reviewer, and I LOVE music reviews.   So I am out here watching.    But even though I *LOVE* reading the review for Chicago VIII (and will refer back to it when/if I ever get it) I just don't have anything to add currently, because I've never heard it. 

I will try to check out X sometime this week.   It's my understanding that it was kindof the last of the good ones.  (I think people have mentioned that even XI (Kath's last) was really not that great.   But who knows....maybe if I end up loving the band enough, I'll become a completist.)

One thing I would like to see a review for (if you've heard it and/or like it) is that Stone of Sisyphus (??) album that they recorded and didn't release til years later.  It was supposed to be a "return to roots" album, and I'd be curious to see what a hard core Chicago fan thought of it.
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Offline Orbert

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Chicago VIII (1975)
« Reply #152 on: August 24, 2013, 12:33:22 PM »
Ah yes, the lurkers.  I know you're out there.  Okay, okay... I'll keep going.  This next one, though, is just gonna be a quickie.

Offline Orbert

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Chicago IX: Chicago's Greatest Hits (1975)
« Reply #153 on: August 24, 2013, 12:33:35 PM »
Chicago IX: Chicago's Greatest Hits (1975)



Click for the back cover, the "completed work"

25 or 6 to 4 
Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? 
Colour My World
Just You 'N' Me
Saturday in the Park 
Feelin' Stronger Every Day 
Make Me Smile
Wishing You Were Here 
Call on Me 
(I've Been) Searchin' So Long 
Beginnings 

----------

The second Chicago album (and I believe the last regular release) to have a band picture on the cover was of course done in a rather comical way.  I think they still wanted the logo to represent the band, but it's a Greatest Hits package, so what the heck.  This always felt something like a compromise to me, but it made me chuckle.

I've seen other reviews of this album calling it "the only one you need" and such.  Okay, if all you really want are their greatest hits, then here they are.  Since I already had all the albums which preceded this one, I never bought Chicago IX, but I had a friend who did, and she played it one time when I was at her house.  You know how there can be "radio edit" versions of songs?  You know how the "greatest hits" packages usually include those shorter versions?  Yeah.  Disappointing.

But... such packages are not for serious fans of the band in the first place.  They're meant for the casual fans who only know them from their radio hits anyway, and here they all are.  Or maybe for people who are looking for a sampler from the band.  So here they are, the greatest hits.  Note that there were also some hits which apparently were considered less great.  "Dialogue" isn't here, nor is "Questions 67 and 68".  Neither of the minor hits from Chicago III are here, and while "Old Days" made it pretty big, it was just released prior to this album, so maybe it was too new, or the list had already been finalized by time "Old Days" started climbing the charts.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2015, 10:57:19 AM by Orbert »

Offline The King in Crimson

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Re: Chicago VIII (1975)
« Reply #154 on: August 24, 2013, 12:42:20 PM »
Ah yes, the lurkers.  I know you're out there.  Okay, okay... I'll keep going.  This next one, though, is just gonna be a quickie.
Yeah, I picked up Chicago I and II because of this thread. I had a (really shit) greatest hits collection but that was it. This thread inspired me to get some of their actual albums so kudos to you. I'll likely get some more in the future, but right now my music funds are spent for... quite a while. Suffice to say, I've been happily lurking since the beginning and will continue to do so, even though I have nothing to add to the discussions. :)

Offline Orbert

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Chicago X (1976)
« Reply #155 on: August 26, 2013, 10:58:54 PM »
Chicago X (1976)



Click for full gatefold

Peter Cetera - Bass, Vocals
Terry Kath - Guitar, Vocals
Robert Lamm - Keyboards, Vocals
Lee Loughnane - Trumpet, Vocals
James Pankow - Trombone, Vocals
Walter Parazaider - Woodwinds, Vocals
Danny Seraphine - Drums, Vocals
Laudir de Oliveira - Percussion, Vocals

----------

Once or Twice (Kath)
You Are on My Mind (Pankow)
Skin Tight (Pankow)
If You Leave Me Now (Cetera)
Together Again (Loughnane)
Another Rainy Day in New York City (Lamm)
Mama Mama (Cetera)
Scrapbook (Lamm)
Gently I'll Wake You (Lamm)
You Get It Up (Lamm)
Hope for Love (Kath)

----------

The band continued to evolve, the songs continued to get shorter, and while the Chicago sound was continuing to push in different directions than before, it was overall heading in a more mainstream and less proggy direction.  Now, to be fair, the band never set out to be "prog"; they just wanted to rock out with horns.  But they weren't even doing that a lot of the time anymore.  The famous Chicago horns only appear on six of the 11 songs here, and there are guest musicians (mostly strings and French horns) all over the place.

The horns are the first thing you hear, however, on Terry Kath's rocker "Once or Twice".  A great, up-tempo song, it really cooks.  The downside of such a high-speed song is that you can have three verses and a double-length saxophone solo for the break, and it still comes in at only three minutes.  But it grabs you and starts the album off on a high note.

"You Are On My Mind" is a somewhat different song by James Pankow.  It has a nice horn break (of course), and some great trombone work at the end.  What's different is that James sings the lead vocals.  After each of the three regular singers tried it, and James felt that none of them really sounded right, producer J.W. Guercio suggested that Pankow try it himself, and he ended up singing the final version of the song.  It made it to #49 on the charts, and was even resurrected for the 2007 tour, complete with Pankow on lead vocals.

"Skin Tight" is the other Pankow song.  It's a somewhat funky, bluesy song with some sassy horn work.

"If You Leave Me Now" needs no introduction.  It was Chicago's first #1 hit, and while the rest of the band really liked the song, most felt that it was too different stylistically to put on a Chicago album.  Some were actively against it, and it almost wasn't included on the album.  Producer/manager J.W. Guercio pushed for it, however.  It is said that the seeds of Guercio's eventual dismissal after Chicago XI were planted here.  Full of lush strings and French horns, it brought a whole new audience to Chicago, officially launching the next phase of their career, for better or for worse.

After his lead vocal debut and first songwriting credit on Chicago VII, on different songs, trumpeter Lee Loughnane finally sings his own song, "Together Again".  The horns are back, and the break has some nice flute work by Walt Parazaider and synth work by Robert Lamm.

Another slight stylistic departure, Robert Lamm's "Another Rainy Day in New York City" features a Calypso rhythm and steel drums during the break.  It made it to #32 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart but went all the way to #2 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

Side Two opens with "Mama Mama", Peter Cetera's other contribution.  It too features strings and French horns instead of the Chicago horn section.  I actually like this song, certainly more than "If You Leave Me Now" and not just because the latter was overplayed and overproduced.  I'd already come to that conclusion before it was released as a single.

"Scrapbook" is a cool idea that I wish went on just a bit longer.  Each verse is a glimpse at a point in Chicago's history, from State Street in Chicago to their breakthrough shows in California and eventual world tours.  It goes into a jam featuring something we'd almost forgotten existed: the Terry Kath guitar solo with the horn section backing him up.  Then the music changes and you think it's going to go into another section, but instead it ends abruptly, leaving the listener intrigued but ultimately unsatisfied.

I love "Gently I'll Wake You".  It's a sappy, cheesy love song which I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to take seriously.  It's all mellow, then the chorus hits and the strings and horns hit you in the face as Robert roars "Gently I'll wake you!  I won't hardly shake you!"  It cracks me up.  I have no idea if it's supposed to be serious or satire, but I take it as satire and it's a riot.

"You Get It Up", another Lamm composition, is another one that I'm not sure you're supposed to take seriously.  I mean, the lyrics are pretty blatant.  The horn work is fun, though, and overall it rocks out, though it, like most songs on this album, just seems too short.

We started with an up-tempo Kath song, and finish with a mellow one, "Hope for Love".  It's a nice enough song, I guess, but I really don't care for Terry ballads.

----------

Eleven songs, all in the three-to-four-minute range.  That's right; all under four minutes, all over three.  I don't know if it was by design or what.  While most bands were enjoying the freedom of the 70's, stretching out a bit on albums, Chicago seemed to be going the other way.  Their first albums had some long tracks and multi-song suites; now they literally just cranked out short pop songs, and packed as many as they could onto their albums.

There's a great variety to this album, which is interesting, and some great moments.  Unfortunately, they're just too few and too far between.  Terry Kath and Robert Lamm in particular are said to have been increasingly dissatisfied with the way the band was being run, and it was being run with an iron fist by James William Guercio.  After he "allowed" them to get their jazz ya-yas out on Chicago VII, it was back to business as usual with Chicago VIII, and this album, its follow-up, takes the band even more definitely towards light, fluffy, pop music.

At least the gatefold covers were back, for now.  In fact, for the first time, the cover art continues from the front cover across to the back.  I always thought that it was cool when album art did that.  You could open it up and the picture continued around the spine.  Most Chicago albums up to now opened up, but this is the first time it wasn't just the same thing on the front and back.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2015, 10:59:13 AM by Orbert »

Offline Big Hath

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Re: Chicago X (1976)
« Reply #156 on: August 26, 2013, 11:22:56 PM »
decent album, somewhere in the middle of the pack for me.  Only three short Lamm songs (and two of them seemingly written as a joke) kind of tells you something though.

The artwork actually won the band a Grammy.

Regarding "If You Leave Me Now" barely making the album at the last minute, a few months after recording the album, Parazaider says he heard the song on the radio and said to himself "that's a catchy tune, where have I heard it before"?  Then the DJ comes in with "and that's the latest release from Chicago".  Apparently he didn't even remember the song!
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Offline Orbert

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Re: Chicago X (1976)
« Reply #157 on: August 27, 2013, 07:41:18 AM »
Yeah, that's a great story.  Since the horns don't play on it, he didn't really have a connection to the song.  Supposedly he thought it sounded like Paul McCartney or someone like that, then found out it was actually Chicago.

Four Lamm songs total, but I know what you mean.  It seems like maybe he wasn't even trying anymore, and I'm not sure if I blame him.

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Re: Chicago X (1976)
« Reply #158 on: August 27, 2013, 08:07:12 AM »
Ah, Chicago X, so much nostalgia. This was the go to album at the end of a party when just a few other adolescent couples where hanging out and pairing up for awkward teenaged exploration. Now, so many years later it just doesn't tickle the music fan in me...especially if you play Chicago Transit Authority right after listening to it. It makes one sad to think what could have been if they'd retained more of their AOR aesthetic.

Offline Orbert

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Re: Chicago X (1976)
« Reply #159 on: August 27, 2013, 08:34:04 AM »
It's amazing that this is the same band (plus a percussionist), same manager and producer, and only seven years later.  The first album also had 11 tracks and was twice as long.  Song length is obviously not the only measure of a song's "worth", but there's no question that they'd stripped things down, way down, by this point.

And because they'd scored their first #1 hit with this "formula", there was of course the temptation to keep doing it this way.  Look what happened to Yes with "Owner of a Lonely Heart" -- their first and only #1.  Genesis stripped down and started scoring major radio hits.  When you've been in the business for years and years, and you finally start making some money, it's hard to say No to that.

Offline Orbert

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Chicago XI (1977)
« Reply #160 on: August 29, 2013, 10:23:21 PM »
Chicago XI (1977)



Click for full gatefold

Peter Cetera - Bass, Vocals
Laudir de Oliveira - Percussion
Terry Kath - Guitar, Percussion, Vocals
Robert Lamm - Keyboards, Vocals
Lee Loughnane - Trumpet, Vocals
James Pankow - Trombone, Keyboards, Percussion, Vocals
Walter Parazaider - Woodwinds
Danny Seraphine - Drums, Percussion

----------

Mississippi Delta City Blues (Kath)
Baby, What a Big Surprise (Cetera)
Till the End of Time (Pankow)
Policeman (Lamm)
Take Me Back to Chicago (Seraphine, Wolinski)
Vote for Me (Lamm)
Takin' It on Uptown (Kath)
This Time (Loughnane)
The Inner Struggles of a Man (Frontiere)
Prelude (Little One) (Seraphine, Wolinski)
Little One (Seraphine, Wolinski)

----------

I never owned an LP copy of this album.  I stuck with Chicago through Chicago X, but my interests had moved on by then, and Chicago was not the powerhouse that they once were.  I had a few friends who had Chicago XI, both female, now that I think about it, and both of whom I'd actually introduced to Chicago.  I borrowed it from one of them; I don't remember which.  I think it was Laurie.

Back in the LP and cassette days, I used to find two albums that "went together" and put one on each side of a C-90 cassette.  Because I usually listened to albums straight through, it was easier to just play the tape than get out the records, and the records were spared from a lot of the abuse that I saw my friend's records go through.  Also, there were tape decks in cars, so I recorded most of my albums anyway.

So I borrowed Chicago XI from Laurie and put it on the other side of a tape with Chicago X.  I read the credits once, but didn't have them to study and memorize, and somehow I'd believed all these years that "Little One" and that whole suite were written by Terry Kath.  "Little One" is preceded by two orchestral pieces, and the parts all segue, just as with Terry's "Memories of Love" suite from the second album, Chicago.  And Terry of course sings "Little One".  But no, both "Little One" and its "Prelude" are by Danny Seraphine, along with his friend David "Hawk" Wolinski.  You may recall that Hawk was a guest on Chicago VII, playing keyboards on some of the jazzy instrumentals.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  The point is that I thought that Terry had written the suite which closes this album, and I think I even referred to that during my writeup of Chicago.  I thought that this album started and ended with Terry Kath songs, as did Chicago X.

The album does start, however, with a Terry Kath song, "Mississippi Delta City Blues" which had been around since the early days.  There's even a version of it on Chicago Live in Japan, recorded during the tour for Chicago V and not much different from the final version here.  It's a great opening tune, bluesy and dirty, with plenty of horns, and of course Terry's gritty guitar and vocals.

"Baby, What a Big Surprise" was Peter Cetera's inevitable follow-up to his hit "If You Leave Me Now" from the previous album.  This one reached #4 and further cemented Chicago's new-found reputation as an "Adult Contempory" group.  As much as I dislike the "Adult Contemporary" label because it's so generic sounding (much like the music itself), the term "Soft Rock" is an actual oxymoron and thus even worse.  Anyway, fans loved it, they loved Peter, and again the song was practically a Cetera solo piece, with J.W. Guercio on guitar and bass, lush orchestration (courtesy of Dominic Frontiere), and a host of guest background vocalists.  It is the only song on the album with Cetera on lead vocals, which was very unusual during his tenure with the band.

"Till the End of Time" is James Pankow's sole contribution this time around, also a rarity.  He sings it as well, doing a decent, if unremarkable, job capturing the schmaltzy 40's style.  The horns of course are great on this one.

Robert Lamm's excellent "Policeman" is next.  I love this song. 

Every day he wakes up, as his bare feet hit the floor
Grabs a cup of coffee, straps his magnum on once more
Feeds the cat he lives with since his wife walked out the door
In nine years, he'll retire with a pension


It's a character study in a song, chill and introspective, with some great trombone work towards the end.

"Take Me Back to Chicago" is the other Seraphine-Wolinski collaboration, sung by Robert Lamm.  It's about missing your hometown and the simpler times you enjoyed back when you lived there.  Chaka Khan adds some vocal spice to the outro.  Chaka of course was the lead singer for Rufus, the band for which Hawk Wolinski was the keyboard player.  It was released as a single and broke the Top 100, but ultimately only reached #63.

"Vote for Me" is another Lamm is-he-serious-or-isn't-he song.  It feels tongue-in-cheek, and Robert's disdain for the government is well known, but I think it's just a fun mock election platform song.

"Takin' It On Uptown" is Terry Kath's other song, and is believed to be essentially a solo piece, a preview of the solo album he was working on at the time, similar to Robert Lamm's "Skinny Boy" from Chicago VII.  There is a liner note saying "Keep your eyes open", apparently in reference to Terry's solo album which was never completed, as he died following the release of this album.

"This Time" is a Lee Loughnane song.  As with his other songs, it's not bad, but really, as with Pankow's "Till the End of Time", he should have had one of the regular lead singers sing it.

The album closes with the aforementioned three-track suite, the dark orchestral piece "The Inner Struggles of a Man", the lighter but brief "Prelude (Little One)" and finally the song "Little One", sung by Terry Kath.  It too cracked the Billboard Top 100, reaching #44.  As I mentioned, I thought for the longest time that Terry himself wrote it, and it's especially poignant because the song is written by a father to his child, and Terry had a baby daughter at the time.

Oh Little One, don't live in fear of the future
'Cause I will always be there


And less than a year later, he was gone.  I always thought it was so tragic and ironic that he would write those words.  Now I know that he didn't write them, but he did sing them, and as he did have a little one, I'm sure he meant every word.  It's a great, soulfull vocal performance by Terry.  And it was his last.

----------

During the recording of this album, the decision was made by the band to part ways with their longtime manager, producer, friend and mentor James William Guercio once the sessions were concluded.  It was at his insistence that "If You Leave Me Now" was included on Chicago X and "Baby, What a Big Surprise" was included here.  While these songs were huge commercial hits, some members of the band (in particular Robert Lamm and Terry Kath) felt that they were not representative of "the Chicago sound" and would ultimately lead the band in a different direction.  It turned out that they were right, but the damage had already been done, so to speak.

This would be their final album under J.W. Guercio, but more importantly, their last album with Terry Kath.  Shortly after the release of Chicago XI, Terry accidentally and fatally shot himself at a party.  The heart and soul of Chicago was gone.

Overall, this album is a step up from Chicago X, but at the same time, a bit less balanced.  Peter Cetera's "Baby, What a Big Surprise" doesn't stick out as much as the band may have thought, IMO, because both Lee Loughnane and James Pankow contributed songs which they sung, and Danny Seraphine contributed a songs few as well.  Robert Lamm and Terry Kath wrote and sang a few songs each, nothing unusual there, but Chicago has always been a collective.  They encouraged everyone to write songs, and apparently to attempt to sing them (or perhaps that was JWG's influence), so they couldn't very well complain when Peter Cetera's songs caught fire, and caught the public ears.  But it was ultimately the mediocre songs and vocal performances that hurt this album.

There are some high points and some low points, and some great variety overall.  I don't know if any of the songs are really bad, there's just too many mediocre ones.  At least most of them break the four-minute barrier and don't feel like they were intentional victims of trying to keep things short and commercial-sounding.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2015, 11:00:22 AM by Orbert »

Offline jammindude

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Re: Chicago XI (1977)
« Reply #161 on: August 29, 2013, 10:32:12 PM »
Chiming in to say thank you for continuing with this. 

I was actually expecting "X Part II", but you've made it sound like a slight improvement, and I'm going to have to check it out.   Maybe not in the immediate future...but I'm sure I'll bump this thread when it does happen.

Still fascinated by this thread.   Keep up the great reviews!   :tup
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Offline Big Hath

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Re: Chicago XI (1977)
« Reply #162 on: August 29, 2013, 11:15:20 PM »
agree with almost everything you said here, orbert - right down to thinking Kath wrote Little One!  For the longest time I thought he MUST have written due to his singing such seemingly personal lyrics.  Never bothered to look it up.

also agree on this being a slight step up from X.  I put them both in the 3rd tier of Chicago albums.  Mississippi Delta City Blues is an awesome song.  I always liked the switch between the feel of the verses and the choruses on Take Me Back.  And the background vocals/harmonies on Baby What A Big Surprise are phenomenal.
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Offline The Curious Orange

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Re: Chicago XI (1977)
« Reply #163 on: August 30, 2013, 02:12:39 AM »
Orbert - another lurker here! have enjoyed reading all your discographies so far, keep up the good work!
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Offline Orbert

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Re: Chicago XI (1977)
« Reply #164 on: August 30, 2013, 07:56:18 AM »
Thanks for the comments, guys!  I'm feeling a bit less whiny these days, and will more than likely go ahead and finish the discography.  I was feeling somewhat intimidated, having picked up Chicago XXX a few years back and... well, you do the math.

But if you do, you might reach the same wrong conclusion as I did.  Fewer than half of the remaining Chicago albums are "regular" studio albums.  There are a bunch of "greatest hits" and box sets, some special collections (Chicago Love Songs, etc.) two more live albums, two or three Christmas albums, and the Big Band album which they finally did.  I'll give them all at least a once-over; studio albums will get proper write-ups while live albums and collections not so much.

Offline Big Hath

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Re: Chicago XI (1977)
« Reply #165 on: August 30, 2013, 08:03:17 AM »
personally, I can't wait to see what you have to say about the next three studio albums.  ;)
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Offline Orbert

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Re: Chicago XI (1977)
« Reply #166 on: August 30, 2013, 08:20:05 AM »
You might be surprised.  I've been listening to Hot Streets and Chicago 13 all week, with a particular ear towards "finding the good" rather than the bad, and I've found quite a bit.

Offline Big Hath

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Re: Chicago XI (1977)
« Reply #167 on: August 30, 2013, 08:31:48 AM »
right on!  Can't say much for Hot Streets, but 13 is pretty cool in my view.
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Offline sirbradford117

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Re: Chicago XI (1977)
« Reply #168 on: August 30, 2013, 10:39:33 AM »
Thanks Orbert for continuing!  I'm a lurker too.

You might be surprised.  I've been listening to Hot Streets and Chicago 13 all week, with a particular ear towards "finding the good" rather than the bad, and I've found quite a bit.

You're absolutely right... I quite enjoyed those 2 albums the last time I listened to them!
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Offline Orbert

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Chicago: Hot Streets (1978)
« Reply #169 on: September 01, 2013, 11:13:33 PM »
Chicago: Hot Streets (1978)



Click for full gatefold

Peter Cetera - Bass, Vocals
Donnie Dacus - Guitar, Vocals
Laudir de Oliveira - Percussion
Robert Lamm - Keyboards, Vocals
Lee Loughnane - Trumpet, Vocals
James Pankow - Trombone
Walter Parazaider - Woodwinds
Danny Seraphine - Drums

----------

Alive Again (Pankow)
The Greatest Love on Earth (Seraphine, Wolinski)
Little Miss Lovin (Cetera)
Hot Streets (Lamm)
Take a Chance (Loughnane)
Gone Long Gone (Cetera)
Ain't It Time (Dacus, Seraphine, Schwebke)
Love Was New (Lamm)
No Tell Lover (Cetera, Loughnane, Seraphine)
Show Me the Way (Seraphine, Wolinski)

----------

The first thing you notice is that this album actually has a name and not a number.  Or maybe that it has a silly band picture on the cover.  Well, half of a band picture anyway; you get the rest of the band when you open up the jacket (or CD booklet, as the case may be).  This is obviously a different approach for Chicago, and it was an important album for them.  Unfortunately, the results were not an unqualified success.

They had planned to part ways with James William Guercio after Chicago XI was done.  They did that.  They felt that he had been leading the band in a direction that they weren't happy with, a direction that was not faithful to the original concept of Chicago.  They had hoped to get back to that.

They had not planned, obviously, on the death of founding member Terry Kath, and it's difficult to say which event had a greater impact on the Chicago sound, but most fans agree that it was the loss of Terry.  He was not just their guitarist and one of their lead vocalists, but also considered by most to be the heart and soul of the band.

They considered breaking up.  Already faced with the daunting concept of pressing forward without their longtime mentor, they suddenly faced a much greater tragedy, one which hit them much harder emotionally.  But eventually they decided that they still had music to make, and since they'd been together since college, it was really all they knew how to do anyway.  But first, they had to find another guitarist.

Their search led them to Donnie Dacus, who both sang and played guitar.  Rather than attempt to replace Terry with someone who sounded similar, they went in a different direction.  Donnie had a high voice, similar to Peter Cetera's, and his main guitar sound was a clean electric sound, not the gritty, bluesy sound that Terry Kath preferred.  The opening track, "Alive Again" is clearly a statement from the band.

Yesterday, I would not have believed
That tomorrow the sun would shine
Then one day, you came into my life
I am alive again


Okay, so technically it's a love song about finding someone when you were down and out, but there's no question that there's a double meaning here.  The song, and thus the album, opens with Donnie's guitars.  Plural.  Rhythmic picking, with power chords behind it.  And then the horns come in, announcing that Chicago is back.  They are alive again.  It's a great, upbeat song from James Pankow, and if there's a weakness to it, unfortunately, I would have to say that it's the guitar.  Not just because it isn't Terry; there was only one Terry.  But the sound really is thin and weak.  When the solo comes, the song practically loses all momentum as Donnie plays a mellow solo over the charging, upbeat rhythm.  It's an odd choice, especially if the idea was to show off the new guitarist and his skills, and after such a strong opening, it's nothing short of disappointing.  Otherwise, it's a great song and it reached #14 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart.

And then, as with the previous album, the rocking opener is followed immediately by a mellow song sung by Peter Cetera.  The latest from the now-regular team of Danny Seraphine and Hawk Wolinski is "The Greatest Love on Earth", a sappy song about long-distance love.  Not a horrible song, I suppose, but by having it second on the album, it certainly doesn't give the impression that they're trying to do anything different from the last few albums.  Nice horn work anyway.

"Little Miss Lovin'" is also sung by Peter Cetera, but that's to be expected, since he wrote it.  But who is that on background vocals?  Is that the Bee Gees?  Yes, it is.  This is Chicago getting back to their roots?  Nice horn work anyway.

The title track, "Hot Streets", is one of only two Robert Lamm songs on this album, but it's one of the better songs.  Walt Parazaider's flute solo in 7/4 is a highlight, and towards the end, the song suddenly shifts to a slow 5/4 for the outro guitar solo by Donnie Dacus.  It's another odd choice, and I'm not sure that I like the solo, but it's growing on me.

Lee Loughnane again contributes another not-bad song with "Take a Chance".  The credits don't indicate who sings lead vocals, but I'm assuming that this is Donnie Dacus, as it's the only voice that I don't recognize.

"Gone Long Gone" is one of Peter Cetera's country-flavored songs.  No horns, and it sounds like steel guitar, even though there's no steel guitar credited on the album.  Maybe it's Donnie with a slide.  I actually kinda like this song.  And yeah, the Cetera country-flavored song with no horns is actually old-school Chicago, so there is that.  This song was also released as a single, topping out at #73.

So what does a Donnie Dacus song sound like?  We don't know for sure, because he shares writing credits with Danny Seraphine and someone named Warner Schwebke, but "Ain't It Time" is a pretty heavy rocker.  I like the main riff, the refrain kicks some butt, and the horns are pretty hot.  The guitar work is pretty good, too, not as thin-sounding as elsewhere on the album.

"Love Was New" is something of a Chicago rarity; it's a Robert Lamm song that I just don't like.  I like the idea of it, and the music is nice enough, I suppose, but it's an awkward song in its execution.  And ironically, after all these high-pitched lead vocals, it actually sounds odd hearing Robert's baritone voice again.  It threw me for a second, hearing it again.  Robert's voice is perfect for "Hot Streets" and that type of song, but it has a weird quality to it here.  Somehow his Italian accent comes out, and I didn't even realize he had one.  The bonus track on the Rhino reissue of this album is an alternate version of this song with Donnie Dacus on lead vocals, so apparently I wasn't the only person who thought that Robert's voice wasn't right for this song.

"No Tell Lover" is a unique collaboration from Peter Cetera, Lee Loughnane, and Danny Seraphine.  With Robert writing fewer songs these days and Terry gone, the other writers in the band had to step up.  Another mellow song sung by Peter Cetera, this was also a single and went to #14, the same as "Alive Again".  It has some nice horn work, including a great break, and some synth strings by Blue Weaver, the keyboard player for the Bee Gees.

(The Bee Gees were in the studio next door recording their album Spirits Having Flown, which is why they and Blue Weaver appear on this album.  In return, the Chicago horns appeared on the Bee Gees album on a few songs, including their hit "Too Much Heaven".)

The closing track, the other song by Danny Seraphine and Hawk Wolinski, is a real oddball piece.  It starts with a weird synth patch that sounds like a calliope or something, and to me it somehow evokes a marching clown band, as from a circus.  The song itself has an odd cadence to it, and that same theme comes back at the end, sung by a male chorus processed through some kind of filter, so it really does sound like a marching clown band.  What a bizarre choice of a song, and a bizarre way to end such an important album.

----------

They called upon legendary producer Phil Ramone to produce this album.  That's him on the far left in the band picture (the larger version).  Phil had mixed some of Chicago's earlier albums, and had recently produced two of Billy Joel's biggest albums, The Stranger and 52nd Street, so it should have been a great match.  But the production here is very thin sounding.  The horns sound fine, but there's no bottom end.  Donnie Dacus' high voice meant that the three-part harmonies had a different balance, with two high voices and Robert Lamm providing the lower voice.  Before, Robert's voice was in the middle between Terry's deep baritone and Peter's high tenor.

But the biggest problem is the guitar sound.  Again I must emphasize, it's not just that "it's not Terry".  The guitar is just too low in the mix sometimes, even during the solos.  This worked with Terry Kath when it was a countermelody behind the vocals or he was soloing but the horns were also playing something, but when it's a regular guitar solo, and you've got a new guitarist who you're trying to show the world will be an able replacement, you at least want to hear him, don't you?  Overall, it seems like there's a hole somewhere.  Maybe it was intentional, maybe they didn't want to fill that hole somehow, out of respect for Terry's memory.  But I somehow don't think so.  The 70's were ending, punk and disco were all over the charts, and this is what Chicago sounded like with Phil Ramone's awesome super-slick production.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2015, 11:01:36 AM by Orbert »

Offline jammindude

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Re: Chicago: Hot Streets (1978)
« Reply #170 on: September 01, 2013, 11:38:59 PM »
Unofficially "Chicago 12".....great review. 

I am intrigued.    :corn
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Offline Orbert

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Re: Chicago: Hot Streets (1978)
« Reply #171 on: September 02, 2013, 01:23:14 PM »
Sidebar:  Chicago in Quadraphonic
(or what you kids today call "surround sound")

Something that would be appropriate to mention in this thread is that Columbia Records, Chicago's label for the first decade or more, was one of the pioneers in the Quadraphonic Audio movement of the late 60's, early 70's.  Quadraphonic was a predecessor to today's 5.1 or 7.1 "surround sound" audio technologies, but had a few important differences.

  • There is no "front" or "back" orientation to the music.  The four channels are commonly referred to as FL, FR, RL, RR (front left, front right, rear left, rear right), but that is for convenience only.  Each channel has equal "importance" to the other, just as Left and Right have equal importance in a stereo mix.
  • There is no subwoofer channel.  While 5.1 is actually six channels because of the separate subwoofer channel, and 7.1 is actually eight channels, Quadraphonic is four and only four channels.

With four matched speakers, one in each corner of the room, and remembering that in the 70's, you "panned hard", you could in an extreme case have the guitar in one corner, bass in another, drums in another, and keyboards in the other.  Vocals somewhere in the middle of the room, or maybe lead vocals along one wall and backgrounds along the others.  The idea was to get both separation and immersion.  Imagine what you could do with a horn section.

To the point:  All of Chicago's early studio albums were mixed for Quadraphonic Audio.

The vinyl copies are still out there.  So is a lot of Quadraphonic Audio equipment, some of which still works.

This page shows all of the known Quadraphonic Audio releases on Columbia Records.  It lists over 350 albums, including everything from The Chicago Transit Authority through Chicago XI, except for Chicago at Carnegie Hall.  That's right, all of the studio albums from the original band, including Chicago IX: Chicago's Greatest Hits.

But wait!  Couldn't you put a Quad mix on a Blu-ray or DVD, and just not use the center and subwoofer channels?

Funny you should ask.  A few years ago, Rhino (who has been releasing remastered Chicago for a while now) started doing exactly that.  This is a review of The Chicago Transit Authority in 4.0 on DVDThis is another.



I jumped on it when it first came out.  Yes, I have one, and it's freakin' awesome.  Would it have been even better lossless?  Maybe a little bit.  But this is pretty amazing as it is.  True Quad Audio, played on my home surround system.  Oh baby.

The assumption was that if it sold well enough, they would do more, although Rhino never actually said that.  So far, there's just the first album.  So get out there and buy one.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2015, 11:05:13 AM by Orbert »

Offline Big Hath

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Re: Chicago: Hot Streets (1978)
« Reply #172 on: September 02, 2013, 03:54:04 PM »
glad you brought that up!  They also released both Chicago (II) and V in DVD-Audio.  I actually have V, but never found the other two cheap enough to pull the trigger.

More comments to come later on Hot Streets.
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Offline Big Hath

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Re: Chicago: Hot Streets (1978)
« Reply #173 on: September 02, 2013, 11:11:48 PM »
ok, Hot Streets.  First off, dat cover!  It's funny, the CD pressing I have is from the mid-90's after Chicago Records acquired the back catalog and released some budget versions of a few of the albums.  They only reproduced the front of the vinyl cover on the CD "booklet" with nothing else except a track listing (very cheap).  So for the longest time I never saw what the back looked like with the rest of the band.

No Tell Lover is by far my favorite song on this album as evidenced by being in my top 50 songs.  Alive Again isn't terrible, same with Hot Streets, and Little Miss Lovin' (Cetera singing almost tongue-in-cheek in this lower register is somewhat of a precursor to P.C. Moblee it seems).

Alas, this is my least favorite Chicago album from the 70's.  Aside from No Tell Lover, the highs just don't make up for the rest of the mediocre to forgettable that I find here.
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Offline Orbert

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Chicago 13 (1979)
« Reply #174 on: September 04, 2013, 11:00:33 PM »
Chicago 13 (1979)



Peter Cetera - Bass, Vocals
Donnie Dacus - Guitar, Vocals
Laudir de Oliveira - Percussion
Robert Lamm - Keyboards, Vocals
Lee Loughnane - Trumpet, Vocals
James Pankow - Trombone
Walter Parazaider - Woodwinds
Danny Seraphine - Drums

----------

Street Player (Seraphine/Wolinski)  9:11
Mama Take (Cetera)  4:14
Must Have Been Crazy (Dacus)  3:26
Window Dreamin' (Parazaider/Loughnane)  4:11
Paradise Alley (Lamm)  3:39
Aloha Mama (Seraphine/Wolinski)  4:11
Reruns (Lamm)  4:29
Loser With A Broken Heart (Cetera)  4:43
Life Is What It Is (de Oliveira/Valle)  4:37
Run Away (Pankow)  4:18

----------

If Hot Streets sold poorly (which it did), then Chicago 13 did even worse.  This is unfortunate, because in some ways, it is a better album.  Phil Ramone was kept on as producer (technically both this album and Hot Streets were co-produced by Chicago and Phil Ramone) and the sound quality is much better.  It doesn't sound so thin and... well... weak, for lack of a better term.  The sound here is fuller, with better low end, though it still has too much reverb and sounds too slick for its own good.  It almost sounds like 80's production, which means that the album was ahead of its time, though that's not necessarily a good thing.

It still seemed that the band was struggling to find their "new sound".  Yes, the idea at one time was to get back to the "old sound" but those plans had to be modified when they lost Terry Kath.  Also, the music scene is ever-changing.  It was now the late 70's; disco was big, punk was on the scene, and rock and roll itself was changing.

The defining characteristic of the Chicago sound is their horn section.  If they could not literally return to the original sound, they could adapt their sound for the times.  The horns were in full force on Hot Streets, and they're in full force here as well, on all but two songs, and taking a number of great breaks.

And what is this?  A nine-minute track to open the album?  Before you get too excited, you should know that "Street Player" is no "Beginnings" or "Sing a Mean Tune Kid".  It is, however, about as adventurous as Chicago could be at the time.  The main song goes about four and a half minutes and features a trumpet solo by Maynard Ferguson.  Then it goes into a percussion break, with the horns coming in "a capella" and taking another break.  The bass, keyboards and guitar come in, and the jam continues.  Some would call it indulgent, but I think it's kinda cool, and I have to give them props for at least doing it.

"Mama Take" is next, making three albums in a row where the opening rocker is followed immediately by a mellow song with Peter Cetera on lead vocals.  To be fair, Peter does most of the lead vocals on this album anyway, and "Mama Take" isn't that mellow.  It has a good beat to it, and is actually a rare Chicago song with acoustic rhythm guitar and horns.  Even more rare in that it's a Peter Cetera song.

"Must Have Been Crazy" finally answers the question of what a Donnie Dacus song sounds like.  It sounds like Eagles.  Slide guitar, definite Southern rock feel, no horns.  This song was actually the advance single, for reasons that defy understanding.  It broke the Top 100, but only went as far as #83.

The horns are back on "Window Dreamin'" which makes sense as it was written by Walt Parazaider and Lee Loughnane.  The break is an old-school Chicago break with the guitar soloing over the horns.  Pretty good solo, too, with some guts to it.  Actually, this is a pretty good song overall, with lots of kick.

"Paradise Alley" is something of an odd song.  It's not bad, just a bit different; catchy, with a funky beat contrasted with a smooth, jazzy chorus reminiscent of a 50's nightclub.

Then they go full Cotton Club with "Aloha Mama", firmly in the style of the old jazz-blues clubs of the 30's.  (Think Cab Calloway and "Minnie the Moocher".)  I happen to think it's awesome, but online reviews lead me to believe that not everyone "got" it.  Someone even called it their attempt at ragtime.  Um, no.

Robert Lamm's "Reruns" is one of the highlights of the album.  An uptempo song with a good beat, great horns, an odd cadence, and he even sings this one.  I don't think Robert has ever sung a song that he didn't write, and a lot of his songs are sung by someone else.  This is his only lead vocal on the album.

Peter Cetera's other contribution is "Loser with a Broken Heart".  No horns, but the song isn't bad.  It's kinda catchy, really.

"Life Is What It Is" represents percussionist Laudir de Oliveira's sole writing contribution to the Chicago catalogue, but it's a good one.  A smooth, jazzy beat, horns, Latin percussion (of course), it reminds me of Earth, Wind & Fire.  That's a good thing, by the way.  Earth, Wind & Fire is a great band.  They too are from Chicago, and feature a horn section as an integrated part of their sound.  They tour together a lot, and have for the last 10 years or so.  Come to think of it, "Street Player" sounds a lot like Earth, Wind & Fire, too.

The album closes with "Runaway" by James Pankow.  It's not his best, but it's not bad.  It has the typical Pankow great melody and chord progression, and of course the horns.

----------

Chicago 13 has been called their "disco" album, which is not only unfair, but just plain wrong.  The opening track is the only thing even close to disco, and that's mostly just the tempo.  It's the classic disco tempo, the beat is maybe reminiscent of disco, but more Latin jazz to my ears, and Cetera's bass line dances around in something vaguely reminiscent of disco, but it too is more of a Latin funk or blues.  An edited version of "Street Player" was released as a single, but it only made the "Black Singles" chart (which I don't think even exists anymore) and only made it to #91.

The rest of the album is all over the place, in terms of styles and influences.  That probably hurt them more than helped.  Personally, I like an album with a lot of variety, and have no problem with funk, jazz, or blues mixing it up.  I want to hear the Chicago horns, and they're here.  And like it or not, Peter Cetera's high tenor is the kind of voice that was becoming more and more popular as the 70's ended and the 80's were just around the corner.  He sings most of the songs here, so between Peter and the horns, that would seem to be the "new" Chicago sound.

I don't think Chicago 13 is that bad.  There are some good songs and a lot of strong individual moments, but it's not a very cohesive work overall.  In the context of an entry in the Chicago catalogue, I think it's fine.  Not every album is going to reach #1.  At the time, however, I can see why it wasn't very popular.  With no single breaking the Top 40, and not a lot of promotion from the label, Chicago 13 peaked at #21, their lowest-charting album yet.  And it really wasn't that long since they had that string of four #1's in a row (Chicago V through Chicago VIII).  So of course people were already saying that Chicago was done at this point.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2015, 11:06:02 AM by Orbert »