Author Topic: The Chicago Discography  (Read 34668 times)

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Offline ZirconBlue

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Re: Chicago 13 (1979)
« Reply #175 on: September 05, 2013, 07:52:54 AM »
Your write-up makes it sound like an album I'd like.  I'll have to check this one out.

Offline Podaar

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Re: Chicago 13 (1979)
« Reply #176 on: September 05, 2013, 08:02:41 AM »
I'm listening to it while reading. I must give all these an honest attempt.

Thanks Orbert

Offline Podaar

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Re: Chicago 13 (1979)
« Reply #177 on: September 05, 2013, 08:46:23 AM »
Like most of later Chicago it is really toe tapping, sing-a-long sort of rock which I really enjoy listening to but unlike their earlier albums I have no desire to purchase the music for my own collection.

When reading the write-ups and listening to the music I also enjoy pulling up the list of music that was released during the same year to remind myself of the context. 1979 was a very interesting year in music!

Online Big Hath

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Re: Chicago 13 (1979)
« Reply #178 on: September 05, 2013, 11:02:46 AM »
First off, I have always considered this to be my Chicago guilty pleasure album.  I’ve said this somewhere here before, but when I was first getting into Chicago, I was very intrigued by and fell in love with the band’s imagery, specifically the logo and their use of it on the various album covers.  And this album cover was and still is my favorite from their discography.  I absolutely love that they turned the logo into a high-rise (if I’m not mistaken, it is supposed to be a stylized version of the Marina City complex merged into one building).  I picked up the album very early on in my Chicago discovery phase (early ‘90s) due to me liking the cover so much.  And likely because of that, I listened to it a lot and found a great deal to like about the music.

Orbert, glad you had some good things to say about the actual songs as well.  I’m of the belief that this album fairs much better when listened to “out of context”, so to speak.  When you listen to it as it came out or with the thought that it came out in ’79, you definitely pick up on the slick production, the disco beats, the questionable lyrical content, etc.  Sure, this album represents a band that is struggling a bit with relevancy, but it also seems to be a band that had a lot of fun recording these songs.  Take P.C. Moblee for instance.  What the heck was that?  Cetera used a very nasally, twangy, closed vocal register on “Window Dreamin’” and “Aloha Mama” and decided to credit the vocals to “P.C. Moblee” who appeared “courtesy of the Peter Cetera Vocal Company”.  There are also a lot of interesting things happening musically all over the album.  “Mama Take”, “Reruns”, and “Life Is What It Is” are very underrated Chicago songs.

And one note on Maynard Ferguson – you can sure tell when he is playing on “Street Player”.  My goodness, his sound doesn’t mesh at all with the other horns.  They had over a decade to refine their approach together, but even from the beginning they were a very complimentary group, always playing as a tight section.
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Online Orbert

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Re: Chicago 13 (1979)
« Reply #179 on: September 05, 2013, 11:37:49 AM »
ZirconBlue, definitely check this one out.

Podaar, this album is full of catchy tunes!  I've have a few of them stuck in my head all week.  I'm adding a few of them to my Chicago playlist on my iPod (which previously only had "original" Chicago songs).

Yep, that's a mutant Marina City in downtown Chicago on the cover.  The clincher is the lighted parking level 1/3 of the way up.



Chicago 13 is probably one of my favorite Chicago covers, too.

Ha ha, I was going to mention P.C. Moblee, but forgot.  It was getting late.  (I thought the writeups for the "later" Chicago albums would be easier and faster, but they're actually taking longer because there are so many songs.)  P.C. Moblee is of course just Peter Cetera singing in a different register.

Yeah, Maynard Ferguson sticks out, doesn't he?  For the albums I'm not as familiar with, I listen to them once or twice before looking at the credits, to allow myself to judge the music without preconceptions as much as possible.  But that blaring, screaming trumpet on "Street Player" stuck out, and I thought "Whoa, Lee sure is going for it!"  Then I saw that it wasn't Lee at all, and it made more sense.

Also, I forgot to mention Airto on percussion.  Both Airto and Maynard Ferguson were popular at the time, and I guess Phil Ramone thought it would be a cool gimmick to get them on this album.  The problem is that Chicago already had a full-time percussionist and a full-time trumpeter, so there's no way it could be seen as anything but a gimmick.  Sure, call them "guest stars" on the album; we all know what's really going on.

Final note (for now): Some of those online reviews made a big deal about "Street Player" being a "cover" song, noting that it was the title track from a Rufus album released the previous year.  Danny Seraphine and Hawk Wolinski had been writing together since Chicago VII, and Hawk was the keyboard player for Rufus.  So Rufus recorded the song and Chicago did as well.  I have no problem with that.  Just because the Rufus version came out first doesn't make the Chicago version a cover.  It was co-written by a member of Chicago.  Once again, it can be very difficult to underestimate the intelligence of the general public.

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Chicago XIV (1980)
« Reply #180 on: September 07, 2013, 02:52:14 PM »
Chicago XIV (1980)



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

Additional Personnel

Chris Pinnick - Guitar
Mark Goldenberg - Guitar
David "Hawk" Wolinski - Keyboards
Ian Underwood - Programming

----------

Manipulation (Lamm)  3:45
Upon Arrival (Lamm, Cetera)  3:48
Song for You (Cetera)  3:41
Where Did the Lovin' Go (Cetera)  4:06
Birthday Boy (Seraphine, Wolinski)  4:55
Hold On (Cetera)  4:15
Overnight Cafe (Cetera)  4:19
Thunder and Lightning (Lamm, Seraphine, Cetera)  3:32
I'd Rather Be Rich (Lamm)  3:08
The American Dream (Pankow)  3:19

----------

After the disappointing but not really surprising Hot Streets, and the even more disappointing follow-up Chicago 13, Chicago decided that Phil Ramone, despite having great credentials, was not the man to produce their albums.  Another highly respected producer, Tom Dowd (Cream, Eric Clapton, Toto) was brought in to produce Chicago XIV, and to be honest, I think he did even worse.  That's subjective, obviously, but "slick" 80's production just doesn't feel right for Chicago, and it doesn't sound right either.  Chicago has a big sound, guitar, horns, keyboards, percussion.  Say what you will about James William Guercio and his puppetmaster control over the band, but he knew how to make them sound good, damned good.

They also decided to fire guitarist Donnie Dacus, whose performances on the two Ramone-produced albums was okay, but not particularly exciting.  I think he did better on Chicago 13, but you know how it is.  When a band is going through a rough time and ends up making an album they're not really happy with, they sometimes fire the new guy, just because.

They decided to go with a couple of session guitarists, Chris Pinnick and Mark Goldenberg.  I don't have full album credits, so I don't know who plays on which songs, but the guitar work here is a definite step up, and my understanding is that most of it is Chris Pinnick.  Hawk Wolinski, something of a "recurring guest" musician plays some keyboards, presumably the synths, as it is well known that Robert Lamm prefers to stick to piano and organ.  Ian Underwood is credited for "Programming", and I wonder if it's the same Ian Underwood that played with Frank Zappa and others.  I can't find any definitive information, but it's not exactly a common name.

The album starts off strongly with "Manipulation", one of two Robert Lamm compositions, and a great uptempo rocker.  The first thing we hear is the drums laying down the beat, then the guitars and keyboards come in, then the horns.  It can't be an accident that they decided to open the album once again with an old-school Chicago rocker.

Then, once again, we downshift into a mellow rocker sung by Peter Cetera.  How many albums in a row is this now?  Start with a rocker, then follow up immediately with a mellow one.  It doesn't matter.  "Upon Arrival" is actually a kinda pretty song, and is a rare co-composition by Robert and Peter.

"Song for You" takes us all the way to acoustic guitar and no drums.  Another song that's very nice, well performed, and to be honest, a bit repetitive and boring as well.

"Where Did the Lovin' Go" is yet another Cetera song, light and devoid of substance, and he still refuses to put question marks on titles which are clearly questions.

"Birthday Boy".  Okay really now, this is getting silly.  With only Peter and Robert doing lead vocals, and Robert only ever singing his own songs (and not always then), it's simple math that Peter would end up singing most of the songs.  But this is four ballads in a row, after that great opening rocker, and honestly, it really is starting to sound like Chicago is just Peter's backup band.  Again, it's not a bad song, just nothing to get excited about.  Also, it starts with a barrage of cheesy synth brass which probably sounded really cool in 1980, but when you've (still) got the best horn section in rock and roll, doing power ballads with synth brass is nothing short of criminal.

Side Two starts off with a rocker.  Anyone notice a pattern?  And it's another rarity, a Cetera-penned rocker, with horns, that I really like.  "Hold On" is possibly my favorite song from the album.  It's also kinda funny, because Peter sings the lead vocals with his P.C. Moblee voice (think "Hideaway" from Chicago VIII) and the backgrounds with his high nasly voice (think "Wishin' You Were Here" from Chicago VII).  Great song, though.  The horns kick, the guitar kicks, Peter wails.

And then we again downshift with the laid back "Overnight Cafe".  Another Cetera song, this one has a kind of reggae or ska beat to it.  A chill song about hanging out in some dive late at night and thinking about her, whoever she may be.  It's kinda cool.  Good song.

"Thunder and Lightning" was the one single from the album, reaching #56 on the Pop Singles chart, so not really a hit, though I do remember hearing it on the radio.  It's a good song, upbeat with some great harmonies.  And it's the only Lamm/Seraphine/Cetera collaboration in the Chicago catalogue.

"I'd Rather Be Rich" -- written and sung by Robert Lamm -- might at first seem like one of his "is he serious or isn't he?" songs, in the vein of "Vote for Me" (from Chicago XI).  But when you listen closely, you realize that it's no joke; it's a condemnation of money and yuppie culture and perhaps even Republican culture.  People with money are the ones with the real power.

Money get you justice
Money sets you free
Money makes it possible
To be or not to be


For the second album in a row, James Pankow only contributes one song, and it closes the album.  "The American Dream" has his typical great melody and progression, and of course a killer horn chart.  A strong way to end the album.

----------

There were three outtakes from this album: "Doin' Business" and "Soldier of Fortune" by Robert Lamm, and "Live It Up" by James Pankow.  I haven't heard them, but I'll be honest, when you practically fill the album with Peter Cetera ballads and cut two songs from Chicago's most prolific and successful writer and one from the guy who wrote fewer songs but ones which were almost always great, something's wrong.

On the other hand, the 70's were over, and musically they really had been for a while.  Chicago's awesome fusion of rock, pop, and jazz had no place on the airwaves in 1980, which was full of punk, disco, and new wave.  Meanwhile, you've got this guy who sings the high stuff like nobody's business and you play a couple of his songs and the girls literally rip their panties off and jump on you, and it's tough to argue with that.  So Chicago was basically Peter Cetera and Chicago, and Robert was allowed a few songs (but not too many) on each album and James still wrote awesome horn charts and got to contribute a song here and there, and this is how Chicago entered the 80's.

Despite going back to the Roman numeral title (I forgot to mention that Chicago 13 was their first album with an Arabic numeral title), the album failed to win back any old-school Chicago fans, and apparently didn't win any new ones either.  It topped out at #71, one of Chicago's poorest charting albums ever.

Chicago was still contracted to Columbia Records for one more album, and their "new" contract (post-Guercio) gave them a lump sum of one million dollars per album, plus a piece of the sales.  There were no sales, and Columbia was losing money.  It didn't help that they wouldn't promote the new Chicago albums, but whatever, with Chicago XIV, Columbia had had enough.  They bought out the contract, starting putting together another "Greatest Hits" package to fulfill the contract, and let them go.  Was this the end of Chicago?  Or did that really happen already and somebody forgot to tell them?
« Last Edit: July 17, 2015, 11:10:21 AM by Orbert »

Online Big Hath

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Re: Chicago XIV (1980)
« Reply #181 on: September 07, 2013, 07:26:31 PM »
another pretty meh album.  Although I do enjoy most of 13, the three album run from Hot Streets, 13, and XIV was a band trying to stay relevant and basically grinding themselves to a halt in the process.  Creatively they limped into the '80s and honestly they could have easily called it quits after this album.  Between the three albums, you could probably piece together one pretty good album - only three songs from these albums made my top 50 list.  On the contract side, they had signed a pretty big deal around the time of 13, and well, that didn't last long.  Columbia was tired of lagging sales, and I'm sure the band was tired of label pressures.

So, to sum up, the Hot Streets/13/XIV run (and resulting drop from Columbia) is one of my primary defenses of what happened in 1982.  I honestly believe there was no Chicago at this point, at least one that would in any way resemble the band that created CTA, Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon, the multi-part suites, etc.  They had to reinvent themselves.

It should be noted that David Foster was considered as producer for XIV before they went with Dowd.
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Offline jammindude

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Re: Chicago XIV (1980)
« Reply #182 on: September 07, 2013, 08:13:54 PM »
Still loving these write ups...   
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Online Orbert

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Re: Chicago XIV (1980)
« Reply #183 on: September 07, 2013, 09:58:27 PM »
jammindude, thanks for chiming in.  I know you probably feel kinda lame posting just to say that you're still reading, but I appreciate it.  It's good to know that people are reading these, even if there's not much to say, if anything, especially if you've never heard the album in question.

Big Hath, I agree with all of that.  In a sense, Chicago did end after Chicago XI.  I don't think the band realized how much of a difference it would make to not have JWG on the other side of the glass; they were just tired of his iron fist.  And obviously it would have been much easier had they not also lost Terry at the same time.  They probably could have weathered either change singularly, but both at once really threw them into turmoil.

This was not the same band that made "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon" or even "Dialogue".  It wasn't too different from "Old Days", with the guitars, Peter's vocals, and the horns.  But even that song was five years old at this point, a lifetime in the music biz.  An album of tunes like "Hold On" or "Manipulation" or even "Thunder and Lightning" would have been fine to me and probably most old-school Chicago fans, but it wouldn't have sold.

The problem wasn't really that they were out of gas, although it did seem like it.  I'm sure they were actually tired and burning out.  No, the biggest problem is that the music scene, and the music biz, had changed to the point where even if they did create another "Make Me Smile" or "Saturday in the Park", no one would've bought that, either.  The 70's were over.  Very few bands made the transition from successful 70's band to successful 80's band.  With six of the original seven members still on board, they just couldn't figure out how to write music which both played to their strengths and was relevant.  Maybe it wasn't even possible.

Offline Jaq

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Re: Chicago XIV (1980)
« Reply #184 on: September 07, 2013, 10:49:10 PM »
Surviving a change from decade to decade-and I've always believed that musical decades aren't necessarily the same as the years in question-for bands is generally a tricky thing. The 70s to the 80s was a trickier transition than most of them, because by about 1978-1979 or so, most of what had worked in the rest of the decade had stopped working, and the decade that was coming saw bands being forced to have a personal image in addition to a musical one.

Chicago was pretty well doomed to have to change, one made harder for them because they didn't HAVE the visual image to work with a lot of bands did, since their logo was their image. As much as I loved the first few Chicago albums, they were artifacts of a time when rock and roll simply didn't have any rules, because it wasn't very old, and radio was more forgiving. By the late 70s, radio was already beginning its march towards playlists and demographics, and I agree with the notion that even a Saturday In The Park couldn't have been a hit in 1980. The bands that survived that period where I see the 80s music scene really starting-I pinpoint it at around late 1978 or so-were the ones that succeeded in re-inventing themselves. (As a call back to other Orbert discography threads, the one band I can think of that best did it was Genesis, since they actually wound up becoming MORE successful than their 70s incarnation.) Having listened to these albums on Spotify as the thread has gone on, I simply think they're not very good, and the band needed to re-invent itself...because they kind of got lost as the 70s ended. That happened to a LOT of bands that simply didn't know how to make music that would appeal to the current audience, but it really crushed Chicago.
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Online Orbert

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Re: Chicago XIV (1980)
« Reply #185 on: September 08, 2013, 11:57:43 AM »
Yeah, not having a single lead singer or front man, which IMO was originally one of their strengths, ended up working against them later on.  Especially with the 80's and the advent of music videos.  Bands needed to have an image, specifically a face that people could associte with them.  A front man in the traditional sense.

I think that's why Phil Ramone and Tom Dowd pushed for Peter Cetera to become the lead singer of Chicago.  And since Peter was writing more, it made sense for him to effectively become the image associated with the band.  Now, given all of that, it's actually amazing (and somewhat tragic) that this is when Columbia decided to stop promoting Chicago.  Ramone and Dowd had actually done their jobs; they'd come up with a Chicago sound for the 80's, but without promotion, album sales will suck, and Columbia used those same lousy album sales to justify their decision to cut Chicago.

I'm personally not a huge fan of Peter's ballads because they all sound pretty much the same to me.  And as has been pointed out in other threads, they all seem to have the same theme: failed relationships.  I'm sure most old-school Chicago fans felt the same way.  But Terry wasn't coming back, Robert and James weren't writing as much (for reasons I've never really understood), and there's no denying that Peter's songs were popular.  If Columbia had actually picked a few of those songs from Chicago XIV and promoted them, the singles and the album would probably have done much better.

Offline Jaq

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Re: Chicago XIV (1980)
« Reply #186 on: September 08, 2013, 01:34:49 PM »
That is something, on a slightly off topic note, that music video put an end to. In the 60s and 70s, it was far more common for a band to have more than one lead vocalist, even bands with people who only sang and didn't play anything. Every member of Kiss sang lead, for example. Tons of bands had at least two people who could sing. But using the example I gave in the previous sentence-while Kiss continued to have two lead singers, after I Love It Loud's video all of Kiss's singles were sung by Paul Stanley. Bands were forced to develop an image focused on having one singer be the frontman, even IF they actually didn't. Night Ranger was actually an oddity in that they had two singers, one of them the drummer, and never were turned into the one singer image band.

That's a long ramble to say that Peter Cetera would have been pushed as the front man regardless, but that's the truth. If the Eagles had stayed together, they would have been pushed as Don Henley's band.  :lol
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Online Orbert

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Re: Chicago XIV (1980)
« Reply #187 on: September 08, 2013, 03:24:52 PM »
They weren't?




 :P

Offline Jaq

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Re: Chicago XIV (1980)
« Reply #188 on: September 09, 2013, 07:23:12 AM »
His songs would have been the videos and singles, though. You wouldn't have known Glenn Frey existed  :lol
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Re: Chicago XIV (1980)
« Reply #189 on: September 09, 2013, 10:48:35 AM »
True.

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Chicago: Greatest Hits, Volume II (1981)
« Reply #190 on: September 09, 2013, 11:39:25 AM »
Chicago: Greatest Hits, Volume II (1981)




Baby, What A Big Surprise
Dialogue (Parts I & II)
No Tell Lover
Alive Again
Old Days
If You Leave Me Now
Questions 67 and 68
Happy Man
Gone Long Gone
Take Me Back To Chicago

----------

Originally, I wasn't going to cover this album, being that it is a compilation album and thus all the songs on it have been discussed already.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I almost had to include it, for a number of reasons:
  • Chicago albums are numbered, and the question "Where is Chicago XV?" might come up.  This is the 15th album.
  • It was technically their last album for Columbia, and somehow it seemed wrong to just skip it without mention (and take a few parting shots as well).
  • Some people do buy "greatest hits" packages to check out bands, and I had to warn them that this one is a piece of crap.
As mentioned upthread, Columbia Records was home to Chicago for their first 12 studio albums, two live albums, and first "greatest hits" package.  They were at one time Columbia's biggest-selling act, with three albums on the charts at the same time and tens of millions of albums sold.  A lot of this, however, was due to James William Guercio, who was a big wig at Columbia as well as Chicago's manager and producer.  They were treated very well by the label, and their albums were always promoted well.  When Chicago cut their ties with JWG, Columbia had no particular loyalty to them.  That is, no more and no less than any band that continued to make money for them.

Hot Streets, their first post-JWG album, didn't do particularly badly, though it wasn't really up to previous sales.  Chicago 13 fared even worse, though it can be argued that that was because it didn't get much promotion.  Chicago XIV was pretty much a flop.  It broke the Top 100, making #71, but was easily their worst-charting album yet.  It received almost no promotion at all, which certainly contributed to the poor sales.  I'm sure someone at Columbia would say that there was no point in promoting an album that they didn't think would do well anyway.  Okay, but by not promoting, you're basically guaranteeing that it will tank, and doesn't their contract include a lump sum of one million dollars per album, regardless?  Don't you want to see some of that money back?  It's called protecting your investment.

In any event, Columbia Records used the poor sales and high overhead as an excuse to cut Chicago from their lineup.  The contract called for one more Chicago album, so they threw together one of the poorest excuses for a "greatest hits" album ever created and shipped it out.

At first glance, it would appear to include all the hits from the later material, Chicago VIII (which was too new to be included on the first package) and onward, with a few overlooked hits from earlier albums included as well.  It actually looks like a nice companion package to the first one.

IT IS NOT.

"Dialogue (Parts I & II)" quite simply is a lie.  Only "Part II" is actually included.  That's right, the actual dialogue, the whole point of the piece, is missing.  You get four minutes of "We can make it happen" and some nice horn breaks, but not the whole song.

"No Tell Lover" is the single edit, so it's missing just under half a minute.

"Alive Again" is the single edit, so it's missing just over half a minute.

"Questions 67 & 68" is the single edit, so it's missing almost a minute and a half (over 1/3 of the song, including both instrumental breaks).

"Take Me Back to Chicago" is the single edit, so it's missing over two minutes, nearly half of the song.


The point is, I realize that "greatest hits" packages often use the single edit of songs, so this wasn't really unusual at the time.  But including only "Part II" of "Dialogue" is just plain stupid.  Either there was no quality control, they just didn't care, or both.  Also, the album itself has no liner notes and no original artwork on the cover (okay, the collage of signs with the word "Chicago" from all around the Chicago area is kinda cool, but hardly up to Chicago standards), so this supports the idea that it was literally thrown together and pushed out the door, just as the band itself had been.

And in these days of being able to download singles from albums, there's just no point to even bothering with this album.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2015, 11:11:18 AM by Orbert »

Offline jammindude

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Re: Chicago: Greatest Hits, Volume II (1981)
« Reply #191 on: September 09, 2013, 03:21:11 PM »
See...and I honestly love even seeing your negative reviews.   Hearing the thoughts of a fan about a band that they are a fan of...and getting that level of "fandom" from someone who cares.   I love seeing that, and reading their thoughts.

Good write up (considering what you had to work with)  ;D
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Re: Chicago: Greatest Hits, Volume II (1981)
« Reply #192 on: September 09, 2013, 04:29:05 PM »
Ha ha, thanks!  Yeah, this one was so bad, it was almost fun to write.  Fun, yet sad.

I honestly don't understand what was going on with the label.  Yes, they had this ridiculous contract to work with, but given that, you don't spend less on promotion, you spend more.  You actually choose intelligent singles to release, and you bombard your radio affiliates with them.  Columbia apparently did none of that, then complained that there were no sales.  True, Hot Streets, Chicago 13, and Chicago XIV were kinda weak overall, but each of them had at least a few strong songs on them that could have been promoted as singles.  Even if people heard them, bought the album, and discovered that they were kinda weak overall, you've still made a sale.  This was pre-Internet, all word-of-mouth and reputation.  People would have bought a new Chicago album if they heard about it and there was a good song on the radio.

I did not personally witness it, but I'm sure that there were people in record stores everywhere saying "Hey, a new Chicago album?  I didn't even know they were still around."

And as we'll see in with Chicago 16, they turned things around and made a pretty impressive comeback, so the Up Yours award goes to Columbia Records for their crappy treatment of one of their legacy rock and roll acts.

Offline Podaar

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Re: Chicago: Greatest Hits, Volume II (1981)
« Reply #193 on: September 09, 2013, 04:36:29 PM »
I'm still enjoying reading and listening along...although, I believe I'll just skip this one.  :)

Offline Dr. DTVT

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Re: Chicago: Greatest Hits, Volume II (1981)
« Reply #194 on: September 09, 2013, 06:21:59 PM »
While my familiarity with Chicago is essentially nil, I read these threads because a) You write well, b) you write honestly about your thoughts, and c) it's not just watching a discography unfold, but in a small way, your life.
     

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Re: Chicago: Greatest Hits, Volume II (1981)
« Reply #195 on: September 09, 2013, 06:52:39 PM »
Podaar:  Yeah, really it's for the best.

Dr. DTVT:  Wow, thanks!  I do try to make them entertaining or at least interesting.  And since this is music I've grown up with and loved (and sometimes less-than-loved) all my life, I guess it will tend to come across rather personally and reveal something about my life.  As I've said, I find it interesting to study how music has changed over the years, specifically certain bands I've followed for a long time.  And because of my age, I'm in the position to relate personal experience and first-hand knowledge and impressions of the times to what I'm writing about.  I started off (the Yes and Genesis threads) trying to give objective overviews of the albums and songs, and provide my personal remarks separately, but that's harder to do.  This way's more fun.

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Re: Chicago: Greatest Hits, Volume II (1981)
« Reply #196 on: September 10, 2013, 11:06:56 AM »
yeah, it's a shame what happened to this release.  I had 8 of these 10 songs in my top 50.  I remember buying the cassette version of this and when it got to Dialogue, I remember thinking "that's not how I remember that song!"
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Chicago 16 (1982)
« Reply #197 on: September 10, 2013, 03:05:04 PM »
Chicago 16 (1982)




Peter Cetera - Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Bill Champlin – Keyboards, Guitars, Vocals
Robert Lamm - Keyboards, Percussion, Vocals
Lee Loughnane - Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Cornet, Percussion, Vocals
James Pankow - Trombone, Percussion, Background Vocals
Walter Parazaider - Saxophones, Flute, Clarinet
Danny Seraphine - Drums, Percussion

Additional Personnel

David Foster – Keyboards
Chris Pinnick – Guitar
Steve Lukather – Guitar
Michael Landau – Guitar
David Paich – Synthesizer
Steve Porcaro – Synthesizer Programming

----------

What You're Missing (Gruska, Williams) – 4:10
Waiting for You to Decide (Foster, Lukather, Paich) – 4:06
Bad Advice (Cetera, Foster, Pankow) – 2:58
Chains (Cetera, Thomas) – 3:22
Hard to Say I'm Sorry/Get Away (Cetera, Foster, Lamm) – 5:08
Follow Me (Foster, Pankow) – 4:53
Sonny Think Twice (Champlin, Seraphine) – 4:01
What Can I Say (Foster, Pankow) – 3:49
Rescue You (Cetera, Foster) – 3:57
Love Me Tomorrow (Cetera, Foster) – 5:06

----------

Chicago took the money Columbia Records paid them to buy out their contract and used it to finance their next album while they shopped for a new label.  They also continued their search for a new regular guitarist.

They pretty much hit the jackpot with Bill Champlin.  A guitarist, keyboardist, singer and songwriter, Champlin was actually contacted by Chicago shortly after Terry Kath's death, suggesting that he audition for the band.  He declined.  Champlin already had a long and successful career as a songwriter (two Grammies) and studio musician and vocalist (numerous other awards), and a solo career.  But in 1981, he found himself collaborating with Peter Cetera on a project not related to Chicago, and the drummer for that project was Danny Seraphine.  Seraphine and Champlin wrote some songs together, and Seraphine invited Champlin to appear on the next Chicago album.  Seraphine meanwhile lobbied to get Champlin into the group as a permanent member.  Not only did they need a guitarist, but 80's Chicago was becoming more synth-heavy, and Champlin played keyboards as well.  And finally, he was a baritone; this meant that he could sing Terry's parts and the classic Chicago three-part harmony would be back.

Champlin himself was still hesitant.  He knew he would have to sing "Colour My World" every night, and he really didn't like that song.  Kenny Loggins, a personal friend of his, even called him to try to talk him out of it.  ("What are you doing? Those guys are over!")  But as they say in the music biz, a gig's a gig, and Bill Champlin eventually took the job, becoming the newest member of Chicago.  Champlin had recently worked with producer David Foster on his latest solo project, and thought that Foster would be a good choice for Chicago.  He could not have been more correct.

David Foster is credited with pretty much singlehandedly inventing the "Adult Contemporary" genre, and his work with Chicago is held up as the model.  He was actually considered to produce Chicago XIV, and he finally gets his chance here.  The "slick" 80's production of Phil Ramone and Tom Dowd was toned down a bit, the horns were pushed somewhat to the side (but not to the back, as some complain) in favor of synthesizers and strings, and outside writers and musicians (including himself in both roles) were brought in.  The result was a sound that was somehow fresh, bright, warm, stripped down and full all at the same time.


The opening track, "What You're Missing" was written by Jay Gruska and Joseph Williams, two guys I've never heard of.  Whatever, it's a good opening song.  A short synth flourish to let you know what's in store, then the rhythm section comes in (heavy drum beat, not-too-clean guitar), then the horns.  Yes, the horns are still here.  Actually, throughout this album, it's impressive how well the horns sit side-by-side with the synths, guitars, and sometimes even strings.  There's actually more going on, musically, than on most previous Chicago albums, yet the sound is clear and feels remarkably unclutterred, even open.

"Waiting for You to Decide" is our first deja vu moment.  It starts off in the same key and with the same beat as "Wake Up Sunshine" from Chicago.  You hear that beat and when the unison horns come in the first two notes are even the same, but no, it's a different song.  Not a bad song, either.  And for the first time in several albums, it's two upbeat tunes in a row!

Make that three.  "Bad Advice" starts with the horns blasting, the drums thumping, and Peter doing some funky pickin'.  Yeah, you forgot he even played bass, didn't you?  It's a kind of swaggering, shuffling tune.  And it's another Cetera tune, upbeat and with horns, that I actually like.  The times, they are a-changin'.  Maybe it's because Peter doesn't sing this one; that's new guy Bill Champlin on lead vocals.

Would you believe four in a row?  Okay fine, I'll drop the act.  Everybody knows "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" and "Love Me Tomorrow" because they were the big hits.  They're mellow and sappy and the girls love them but guess what?  They are easily the mellowest songs on the album.  All of the other songs are at least upbeat, if not outright rocking.  "Chains" starts off with a backbeat and synth (eighth note chords, Oberheim or Roland, kinda cheesy but cool at the time) and you think it's gonna suck, and it kinda does, but at least it rocks, and is pretty short.  It's another Cetera song, co-written with someone named Ian Thomas.

"Hard to Say I'm Sorry/Get Away" was the biggie, the one that brought Chicago back from the depths.  Hitting #1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts, and even #4 in the U.K. (the first Chicago song since the mid 70's to chart in the U.K.), it was a monster by all accounts.  Obviously two songs spliced together, "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" is the mellow one that gets the girls all hot and bothered, then "Get Away" is the short tag where the band can't help itself and cuts loose for a minute.  One of my favorite horn breaks, just because of its intensity, it's over too soon, but it's still great.

"Follow Me" is another one that somehow combines guitars, horns, and synths without sounding cluttered, it even has an old school Chicago horn break with a change or three.  Primary writing credit goes to David Foster, but James Pankow is there too, and he doesn't let us down.

"Sonny Think Twice" was the Champlin/Seraphine song that served as his introduction to the band.  The synth bass is kinda weird, but hey, it was the 80's.  Nice horn chart, a catchy chorus, and nice vocal harmonies.

"What Can I Say" starts off and you think I lied to you, because this is obviously a mellow song, but then the rhythm section comes in and it's an uptempo tune after all.  So then you think, "What, another song with a question title but no question mark?"  Sorry, I can't help you there.  But this song gives us our next deja vu moment.  The horn accents on 2 and 3½ behind the lead vocals sound familiar, but there are only so many tricks James can use before he starts repeating himself.  Then the trombone solo comes in and the first four notes are the intro to "Just You 'n' Me" from Chicago VI and you go "What?" but then it continues and he's just restating the melody, a perfectly normal motif for such a solo, and you realize that musically he's winking at you because we all see what he did there.  Those earlier horn accents were also the same as on "Just You 'n' Me".  There's no way that that was a coincidence.

"Rescue You" is yet another rocker, and you have to remember that by "rocker" I mean by 80's standards.  It's not Iron Maiden or even later Triumph.  I mean guitars, drums, backbeat.  Nice guitar work, great vocals, but points off for synth brass when the real thing is available.  This is one of the only tracks on the album with no horns.

I totally forgot how "Love Me Tomorrow" starts, with the guitar and drum strikes.  It fools you; you think it's gonna be an actual rocker, then it all starts and the keyboards come in and okay, yeah, it's this song after all.  It made #22 on the Billboard Hot 100 but went all the way to #8 on the Adult Contemporary chart.  It ends with an extended break by the strings, which is kinda weird, but also kinda cool, so I'll allow it.  Honestly, it sounds really good; I would guess real strings, but there are no strings credited, meanwhile synths and synth programming, so maybe they're synth after all.

----------

I have to admit, I kinda like this album.  I want to hate it, because of what they did to "my" band, but I can't.  It's really good.

Robert Lamm, you might notice, is mostly absent here.  According to Wiki, he was unavailable for most of this album, dealing with "personal issues".  I've tried to find more information, but there's not a lot.  I do know that he's been married four times, and one of his three divorces was in 1981, so maybe he was dealing with that during this time.  In any event, he only has a single co-writing credit, no lead vocals, and it's hard to tell because of the production, but I don't hear him on any background vocals, either.

Also, longtime percussionist Loudir Soures de Oliveira is gone.  Clearly the whole Latin percussion thing, which I kinda liked and thought worked well with the horns and "big sound", had no place in 80's music.  Actually, I didn't even realize it until researching this album, so maybe it was just time.

Meanwhile, half of Toto plays on this album and has writing credits on one of the songs.  Also, Chris Pinnick, guitarist from Chicago XIV, is back.  Producer David Foster has keyboard credits and co-writing credits on seven of the 10 songs.  Why?  They have a guitarist now, they have... okay, with Robert taking personal leave, we do see that Peter and James both stepped up a bit in the writing department, so maybe the Foster co-writing is more of the "I helped arrange it in the studio so I get co-writing credit" situation.  I don't know.

But with all the reason whys I "should" hate, or at least dislike Chicago 16, in the end, it's the music that matters.  And the music is good.  The writing is mostly good and often very strong, and the production is phenomenal.  I get to hear my beloved Chicago horns (a lot more than I thought I would, given the singles from this period), the songs don't suck, so all is well again.

Chicago ended up signing with Full Moon Records, a division of Warner Bros., beginning the next phase of their history.  Chicago 16 went to #9, their highest charting album since Chicago XI, and eventually went multi-platinum.  They were back.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2015, 02:59:55 PM by Orbert »

Offline jammindude

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Re: Chicago 16 (1982)
« Reply #198 on: September 10, 2013, 03:34:22 PM »
Sweet!!  My first exposure to Chicago was actually "Hard To Say I'm Sorry"...I had the 45rpm, and I always liked it. 

I'm going to be curious about the review for XVII because I think it has the only (or at least one of the very few) Cetera sung hit single songs that isn't a sappy ballad in "Stay the Night" which I also really like. 
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Online Big Hath

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Re: Chicago 16 (1982)
« Reply #199 on: September 10, 2013, 11:50:21 PM »
So glad you liked this one!  I'm telling you, once you get past the ballads (assuming you don't care for them - I like them) there is some really great stuff on 16 (and 17).  The songwriting is solid and the production is out of this world.  "Follow You" and  "Sonny Think Twice" made my top 50 list along with "Love Me. . ." and "Hard To Say. . ."  But the other songs are good as well.

I'll bet Foster attained many of those writing credits in-studio.  When they were looking at him for XIV, Seraphine called Champlin to ask about Foster and Champlin tells him "You'll probably end up rewriting a lot, but I think Foster would be great for you guys."  So I imagine they did a whole lot of re-writing with Foster heavily involved.

Champlin was perfect for Chicago.  Multi-instrumentalist, song-writer, great voice.

I'll bet Warner Bros was loving every minute of the success this album found.  They took something Columbia had right under their noses and made it work.  I wasn't old enough to pay attention at the time, but I'm sure they promoted the heck out of it.

This (Champlin, Foster, etc) was exactly what Chicago needed to reinvent themselves for the 80s.  Here is Parazaider with a story about what happened after this album was released:

"I had a kid come up to me and say, 'I have your first record, would you mind signing it?' This was somewhere in North Carolina. We were going on-stage, and I told her I would sign it after the show. And what she had was the Chicago l6 album. She had no idea about the others that came before it. The reality hit, we had gained another generation."
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Re: Chicago 16 (1982)
« Reply #200 on: September 11, 2013, 08:39:14 AM »
It's not that I don't like the ballads; it's that it was around Chicago X and Chicago XI that I was starting to lose interest in the band anyway.  Hot Streets didn't exactly turn me around, though I thought it was okay.  But I was in junior high, still exploring all kinds of music, and I basically moved on.

After a few years of not hearing anything from Chicago, they were back, but it seemed like all we got were Peter Cetera's wimpy ballads.  And it was songs like "If You Leave Me Now" and "Baby, What a Big Surprise" that had helped turned me away from Chicago in the first place.  At the time, I wasn't thinking about how the change was necessary to fit the times or any of that, I just knew that they'd changed, the focus was now on Peter and the new "Adult Contemporary" sound, and... well fuck that.  This wasn't the Chicago I grew up with, and nothing I heard on the radio inspired me to buy their new albums and pursue them any further.

After high school, I lost touch with Michelle and Laurie, who probably bought those albums, so I never gave them proper listens.  I went on a mad downloading spree about five years ago, filling out discographies of every band I had ever had any interest in (getting high-speed Internet at home and knowledge of various sources of high-quality music is a dangerous thing), but I gave some of the "new" Chicago a quick listen, and still wasn't impressed.

Listening more closely and critically now, it's clear that David Foster did a great job with them, and there's no two ways about it: he saved the band, brought them back, made them relevant again.  But to do that, he did have to reinvent them.  Okay, so you can't just let the horn section take off for a while.  The break in a rock song must be a guitar solo.  That's a rule.  Also, if you do have horns, keep them to a minimum.  They are old school; this is the age of synthesizers.  Foster found a way to blend them, something which I really didn't think would work (and doesn't quite work sometimes).

I miss Terry, but he's not coming back.  I miss Robert, but for understandable reasons, he's lost interest in the band he helped build, because it's not his band anymore.  His fire is all but out.  I miss the horns.  They're still there, but largely marginalized, to the point where I rejoice if I even get to hear them.  That's just how it is.  But again, I'll give Foster credit for at least getting them in there as much as he does, which is far more than I thought, given what I heard on the radio.

Ha ha, I read that same story about Walt and the teenaged girl with Chicago 16.  Yep, they gained a new generation.  But honestly, they'd lost a large part of the old generation, possibly most of it, so they didn't have much choice.  Their concerts are a different story; people are there with their kids and grandkids; it's insane.  More on that later, though.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2013, 10:41:12 AM by Orbert »

Offline ZirconBlue

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Re: Chicago 16 (1982)
« Reply #201 on: September 11, 2013, 09:13:03 AM »
In my college marching band, we had to learn a new show for every home game.  One show we did was a Chicago show.  There was only one "modern" (in 1991) song in the show, one of the Cetera ballads. I can't remember which one, though, because it ended up getting cut before we learned any drill for it.  So, our Chicago show ended up consisting of entirely of pre-80s Chicago music.

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Re: Chicago 16 (1982)
« Reply #202 on: September 11, 2013, 10:38:35 AM »
That would be sweet!  In high school, we did "25 or 6 to 4", which was cool, and tried to do "Make Me Smile" (semi-long version with the horn fanfare at the top) but it proved too much for our limited talents.  I didn't march in college.

Online Big Hath

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Re: Chicago 16 (1982)
« Reply #203 on: September 11, 2013, 01:04:15 PM »
kind of a thread jump, but the discussion in the Yes thread reminded me of trying to find Chicago albums back when I was getting into them.  In the early-90s about the only Chicago albums you could find in stock at my local stores were CTA, Chicago (II), 17, and maybe 16 and V (plus the myriad greatest hit packages).  There was a music store in the mall called Camelot Music that had a book of in-print music you could have them order for you.  This book was huge as it listed pretty much every current and back catalog album that was in print at the time, in all the different versions (cassette, vinyl, CD, etc).  I remember going through picking out albums to buy and of course you had to pay full list price - no sales or discounts on these special orders.  Then you had to wait however many weeks it took to process and deliver the order back to the store.  But those were some exciting times when I finally received the call that my music had arrived.
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Online Orbert

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Re: Chicago 16 (1982)
« Reply #204 on: September 11, 2013, 02:00:36 PM »
Yep, The Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago, and Chicago V seemed to be the ones you could always find from the original band, which made sense because they were the biggest sellers.  And then whatever the most recent one or two were and the countless "greatest hits" packages.

I used to haunt Camelot, Recordland, and the various indies regularly, hoping to catch something out of the ordinary, then I realized that that just wasn't gonna happen.  They only have so much shelf space, and it makes sense that the stock only the ones with the best chance of selling; that is, the known big sellers or current hot ones.  But I could never bring myself to special order anything.  If it involved paying up front and then waiting, that just wasn't going to happen.  Even if it was just ordering something, the wait would almost kill me, and then I'd pay full price anyway, which would finish me off.

Those were the days.

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Re: Chicago 16 (1982)
« Reply #205 on: September 11, 2013, 02:44:47 PM »
Meanwhile, at Columbia Records...


Suit #1: So we finally got rid of Chicago. Sad. They used to be great.

Suit #2: Yeah. Well, at least they're doing better now, over at Warner Brothers.

Suit #1: What?

Suit #2: Their new song is Number One. The album went Top Ten.  They're hot again.

Suit #1: WHAT!?

Suit #2: I'm sorry, did you suddenly go deaf?

Suit #1: No, I mean what are we doing about it?

Suit #2: What, like try to sabotage them, or...?

Suit #1: No, you moron.  TO CASH IN ON THEM!

Suit #2: Dude, they're not ours anymore.

Suit #1: BUT WE STILL OWN THEIR BACK CATALOGUE!

Suit #2: Another "Greatest Hits" thing?

Suit #1: Another "Greatest Hits" thing!

Suit #2: But we just did one two years ago.  Like, one album ago.

Suit #1: So what?

Suit #2: We can still make money on their back catalogue?

Suit #1: We can still make money on their back catalogue!

Suit #2: But what do we even call it?

Suit #1: Hmm... what was their biggest selling song?

Suit #2: "If You Leave Me Now"





If You Leave Me Now
Saturday in the Park
Feelin' Stronger Every Day
(I've Been) Searchin' So Long
25 or 6 to 4
Baby, What a Big Surprise
Wishing You Were Here
No Tell Lover
Another Rainy Day in New York City
Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?
Song for You 

----------

Another "greatest hits" thing.  A cash-in by Columbia to capitalize on the recent success of Chicago 16.  People recognize the name, pick it up, look at the back, recognize a bunch of titles, maybe buy it.

Edited versions of "No Tell Lover" and "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" (not only is the piano solo cut, but the entire amazing horn fanfare and trumpet solo are cut, leaving only two measures of intro before the song starts).

Because Columbia still owned all of these songs, this is an official release, but it has never been considered canon and was not given a number in the sequence.  It therefore does not deserve a proper writeup, nor does it necessitate a change in the thread title.  It is, however, open to discussion and mockery.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2015, 11:20:14 AM by Orbert »

Online Big Hath

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Re: Chicago 16 (1982)
« Reply #206 on: September 11, 2013, 02:57:59 PM »
so yeah, I have this one on cassette.  One of my first Chicago purchases actually.  I didn't know "Does Anybody Know . . ." had that awesome intro and fanfare until a year or two after I heard this version.  I will say that this compilation is the reason I like "Baby, What a Big Surprise", "Wishing You Were Here", "No Tell Lover" and "Another Rainy Day in New York City" as much as I do.

Aside from Feelin' Stronger and 25 or 6 to 4 , this was a pretty mellow compilation.  Probably trying to play off the success of the ballads on 16.

I hope you have another one of these planned for Take Me Back To Chcago, this was hilarious.
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Re: Chicago 16 (1982)
« Reply #207 on: September 11, 2013, 03:54:35 PM »
I have to ask, why did you buy it?  Did you know at the time that it was just another "greatest hits" thing and just not care?  I do understand people buying such packages to get a sample of the band, and hopefully an idea which "real" album to get next.  And if they included the full versions of songs, they would actually be handy "mix tapes" from a favorite band, so a cassette would be perfect.  But I'm a cynic, so when I saw this one day in the CD racks at Best Buy, I laughed.  It just screamed "cash grab!" to me.

Aside from Feelin' Stronger and 25 or 6 to 4 , this was a pretty mellow compilation.  Probably trying to play off the success of the ballads on 16.

That's what I figured.  Since Peter's ballads were hot, load up a disc with 'em and sell a few.  "Feelin' Stronger Every Day" is sung by Peter and the first part is pretty mellow.  And come to think of it, Peter sings "25 or 6 to 4", which pretty much everyone knows, so it made sense to throw that one on as well to fill things up.

I hope you have another one of these planned for Take Me Back To Chcago, this was hilarious.

I hadn't thought that far ahead, actually.  I was just looking at the Wikipedia entry for Chicago 16 and it has links to the previous and next albums, and it said this one was next, then Chicago 17.  I need another day or two to listen to Chicago 17, so I figured I whip this up just to hold people over.  I'm glad you liked it. :)

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Re: Chicago 16 (1982)
« Reply #208 on: September 11, 2013, 09:18:55 PM »
I have to ask, why did you buy it?

First off, I was really new to the band and had no idea what this was to be honest.  I think I maybe had some clue this was a compilation, but I probably didn't care since I was more of a "greatest hits" guy back then anyway.

Second, I am a collector/completist by nature.  So basically I was looking to get everything I could find.
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Online Orbert

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Re: Chicago 16 (1982)
« Reply #209 on: September 11, 2013, 10:07:39 PM »
Wow, I consider myself a completist as well, but as a rule, I don't buy compilations if I already have everything on it.  The only exception would be if any alternate version(s) on it are somehow different or longer, not just a radio edit.  I hate radio edits.  But if it's a longer cut, or has a slightly different mix, or something like that, I allow myself to buy it (sometimes).

But in your case, it was one of your first Chicago purchases, so I guess that's okay.   :P