Author Topic: The Chicago Discography  (Read 34631 times)

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Online Orbert

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Re: The Chicago Discography
« Reply #420 on: June 11, 2018, 07:20:12 AM »
I've always felt that to truly understand a band, and if you have the means and opportunity, you listen to the catalog in chronological order.  With some bands, a "mix tape" might be a better choice, but then you're always getting someone else's idea of what a sampler of their music should be.

Also, road trips to me are the best time to listen to entire albums all the way through.  I don't get much listening time these days, but my car is my listening room.

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Re: The Chicago Discography
« Reply #421 on: June 12, 2018, 08:15:41 AM »
Chicago: VI Decades Live



Four CDs plus a DVD.  Also, a nice photo booklet with lots of notes.  The first two CDs are the complete performance at the Isle of Wight Festival, August 28, 1970.  CDs 3 and 4 are live recordings taken over the years, chronologically, from 1969 to 2014, spanning six decades, hence the name of the box set.  The DVD contains a complete concert broadcast from the German television show "Rockpalast".  It was recorded February 12, 1977 during the tour of Chicago X ("the chocolate album").  It also contains a bonus video of the band playing "What's This World Coming To?" live in the studio.

First, the concert DVD.  Not only because I personally watched it first before listening to the CDs, but because for me this is the gold mine.

Anyway You Want
Saturday In The Park
Skin Tight
Just You 'N' Me
Hope For Love
You Are On My Mind
Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?
Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon
Beginnings
Scrapbook
A Hit By Varese
Call On Me
Takin' It On Uptown
If You Leave Me Now
Once Or Twice
(I've Been) Searchin' So Long
25 Or 6 To 4
Got To Get You Into My Life
I'm A Man
What's This World Comin' To (bonus track)

I was pleasantly surprised that they still ventured off into extended jams sometimes, something I'd assumed (for some reason) that they'd stopped doing by the time they had enough hits to just play an entire show of hits.  No.  They still played concerts of songs that they wanted to play, songs that showed off their versatility and musicianship.  I'm reminded now of that part of the CNN documentary where Lamm is reminiscing on a conversation he had with Terry about maybe playing a "greatest hits tour".  Other bands do it, why not Chicago?  Terry scoffed and called him a "fucking sellout".  So obviously they never did that while Terry was around, which I find reassuring.

It starts off innocently enough, with "Anyway You Want", the opener from Chicago VIII and kept around for this tour as well.  Then of course into a hit, "Saturday in the Park" to get the crowd really going.  "Skin Tight" from the current album gets an interesting response.  It's not well-known, but it does have a killer horn break.  It's one of my personal faves from Chicago X despite the cheesy, blatant lyrics.  Then another hit, which Lamm introduces as his favorite Jimmy Pankow song, "Just You 'N' Me".

I know that Terry was in many ways the heart and soul of the band, and some of his songs are my favorites, but "Hope For Love" is the weepy, sappy side of Terry that I just never got into.  All the momentum drops out at this point.  But it's Terry's first real moment, so there you go.  "You Are On My Mind", another from Chicago X, follows, and again it's IMO one of the better songs from that album.  Also, we get the first extended jam of the evening at the end.

"Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" is awesome, as always, then the first set concludes with the "Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon".  It's awesome how they kept changing things, adding little bits here and there, but never distracting and never deviating from the original structure.  It's mostly a handful of times that make you go "hey, that was cool".  I mean, even at this point, they'd been playing this piece for six or seven years.  You can't just keep playing it the same way every night for that long (and of course they had no idea that they'd still be playing it another 40 years later).

"Beginnings" opens the second set, with the coda section rearranged a bit, which they seemed to do every couple of tours.  "Scrapbook" from the new album follows, again one of the stronger tunes.  It's short, but packs a lot, including some great horn work, into three minutes.

Then it's time to get weird.  The opener from Chicago V, my personal favorite, "A Hit By Varese" is only slightly psycho on the album, but here, they go for it.  This is the avant-garde jazz side of the band that I've missed, and I was thrilled to find that they were still at it as recently as this tour.  When I saw them on the next tour, Terry's last, I don't remember them playing it.  Anyway, most of the song proceeds as on the album, but the jam at the end somehow goes off into another dimension, and hangs out there for a while.  I'm trying to remember now if they bring it back, or just leave you out there.  A truly mind-blowing performance of a song that's a little weird to start with.  I literally had to take a break for a while after this song was over.

"Call On Me" brings things back to normal.  Loughnane's first composition was a hit, and features a great horn break.  An early version of "Takin' It On Uptown" (eventually released on Chicago XI) follows.  They had to play "If You Leave Me Now" sometime, so here it is.  I'd always thought that it was French horns on the record, but the Chicago horns sound amazing here.  Lee pulls out a flugelhorn for that rich, mellow sound, and the inversions are deceptive.  Pretty sure the trombone is on top.  Pankow is a genious at arranging three horns to sound like six.

"Once Or Twice", the other Terry Kath song from Chicago X, is next.  I like this one.  The "chocolate album" opens and closes with Kath songs, and this is the opener, a barn-burner at such a high tempo that even with three verses and a double-verse saxophone solo, it's over and done in three minutes.

"(I've Been) Searchin' So Long" starts the big medley, going into "Mongonucleosis", the drums/percussion jam, and eventually "25 Or 6 To 4".  The first encore is The Beatles' "Got To Get You Into My Life", which is said to be what gave Robert Lamm the idea of forming a pop band with horns.  They finish with "I'm A Man", another cover, but for some reason the song which they've done as the final encore for many, many years. A good song, though never really a fave, and a bit odd to do two covers for the encore, but thus ends the concert.

"What's This World Comin' To" is, as mentioned above, a live studio performance of a song from Chicago VI.  I'm honestly not sure why they included it here, but they probably just found it somewhere, it's a video, so they put it on the DVD.  It's a slightly more "live" version of the song than on the album, but still very tight of course, and overall a great performance of one of my favorite songs from Chicago VI, so certainly a worthwhile addition.

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Okay, this is taking long than I thought it would.  Silly me.  I'll be back later to go over the CDs.

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Re: The Chicago Discography
« Reply #422 on: June 12, 2018, 08:56:03 AM »
Oh i need to buy that.
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Online Orbert

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Re: The Chicago Discography
« Reply #423 on: June 12, 2018, 12:38:20 PM »
Chicago: VI Decades Live (continued)

Disc 1 - Isle of Wight Festival 8/28/70
  1. Introduction
  2. South California Purples
  3. Beginnings
  4. In The Country
  5. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? (Free Form Intro)
  6. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?
  7. Mother

Disc 2 - Isle of Wight Festival 8/28/70 (conclusion)
  1. It Better End Soon
  2. Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon
  3. 25 Or 6 To 4
  4. I'm A Man

There are live recordings which put you there, in that venue, in the audience, and you are listening to it live just as it happened and it's amazing.  Then there are live recordings which sound pretty good, and there are things about the performance that are great, but also a number of times where it kinda strikes you how it's tighter on the studio version and you kinda miss that.  Or the mix is okay but not great.  Or technical difficulties cause issues that are really no one's fault, but they affect the recording and thus your enjoyment of the recording anyway.

Despite being very aware of the significance of this live recording, and the significance of Chicago even playing The Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 (it's a British festival featuring British acts, at least at that time), I found this concert a bit disappointing.  It's certainly interesting to hear earlier live versions of songs I know so well from Chicago at Carnegie Hall.  And Terry Kath's guitar solos were always ad-libbed, every one of them, every night, so yeah, it's yet another version of "25 or 6 to 4" but I'll always stick around to hear the solo.  That kind of thing.  But there's a weird kind of vibe to the performance that's hard to nail down.  It's almost like, we're pop stars now, and this is live, and when you play live things can get loose and funky and kinda crazy, so they intentionally play things a bit looser and funkier and crazier.  The band never did learn the words to "I'm a Man", so they make up words that sound kinda like the real lyrics sometimes, but otherwise just babble and mumble their way through the song.  That's how they do this song.  It's like that on the studio version and every live version I've ever heard.  But it's okay because it's only rock and roll and who gives a shit?

I love Terry Kath's enthusiasm and course his guitar playing, but I found myself wishing he'd reined it in a bit with the "oh yeah"s.  YMMV.

Don't get me wrong.  This is a good recording, and well worth listening to.  I just feel like I won't be going back to it very often.  I'm sure there are folks for whom this concert was the holy grail, not the live DVD.

Disc: 3
  1. Poem For The People (Paris, France 12/8/69)
  2. 25 Or 6 To 4 (Paris, France 12/8/69)
  3. Liberation (Paris, France 12/8/69)
  4. Goodbye (The John F. Kennedy Center for The Performing Arts, Washington D.C. 9/16/71)
  5. Now That You've Gone (Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, Australia, 6/26/72)
  6. A Hit By Varèse (Chicago Stadium, Chicago, IL 8/13/73)
  7. If You Leave Me Now (Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA 12/1/77)
  8. Takin' It On Uptown (Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA 12/1/77)

Disc: 4
  1. Hot Streets (Greek Theater, Los Angeles, CA 8/11/78)
  2. Little One (Greek Theater, Los Angeles, CA 8/11/78)
  3. Forever (Pensacola Civic Center, Pensacola, FL 3/21/87)
  4. Medley: In The Midnight Hour, Knock On Wood, I'm A Man, Get Away (Pensacola Civic Center, Pensacola,
  5. You're Not Alone (Starplex Amphitheatre, Dallas, TX 5/30/92)
  6. The Pull (Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas, NV 3/20/94)
  7. In The Mood (Caesar's Palace, Atlantic City, NJ 7/28/94)
  8. Don't Get Around Much Anymore (Caesar's Palace, Atlantic City, NJ 7/28/94)
  9. Look Away (Acoustic) [A&E Network, Live by Request 9/5/02]
  10. America (WHYY, The Grand, Wilmington, DE 5/7/14)

The other two discs vary in quality from pretty good soundboard recordings to pretty bad bootleg quality audience recordings.  The performances themselves are fine.  Chicago eventually got over the "live ego" thing and learned how to just put on a good live show despite being huge pop stars.

Here's the thing.  I can usually listen to less-than-perfect live recordings.  I've suffered through some genuinely crappy quality bootlegs when the performances were good enough to keep my attention.  After a few songs, my ears seem to adjust, and the sound quality doesn't bother me and I can just listen to the music.  But here, since it's only one or two songs from all different recordings in widely varying quality, your ears never get a chance to adjust.  At least mine don't.  By time I've adjusted, the song is over and the next one sounds different because it's from a different time and place.

The early version of "Poem for the People" is interesting, with the original piano intro (played on that horrible Hohner Pianet that Lamm had) and without Terry's countermelodies throughout as on the studio version.  "25 or 6 to 4" and "Liberation" are always a treat because of Terry's solos.  "Goodbye" is fine.  Most Chicago tunes, because of the tightly arranged horns and vocals, don't leave much room for improv, so it often just comes down to the solos or if they do something different with the arrangement.  Of the three horn players, Lee Loughnane always seemed the weakest soloist to me.  He'll occasionally stumble upon some cool licks, but his 7/4 solo in "Goodbye" has always felt awkward and this one's no exception.  "Now That You've Gone" isn't a great mix, but I like the song so it's okay.  Unfortunately, this is another great song that's great because of its arrangement, so it's basically the same as the studio version, only not as tight and not as cleanly recorded.

"A Hit By Varèse" is probably the worst offender of the bunch.  Such a great tune, but it sounds like it was recorded on a portable tape recorder somewhere about 1/4 mile from the stage.  Abyssmal sound quality, and worst of all, they cut off the amazing avant-garde jam at the end.  They catch most of it, but it trails off.  "If You Leave Me Now" sounds just like the album, which is both good and bad (Sorry, I just don't like the song), while "Uptown" is extra-funky.  This is from the same tour as the DVD concert, so the song still had not yet reached its final form, but it's still very good, just extra loose in that Kath way that you either like or you don't.  I go back and forth.

Disc 4 is all post-Kath material, and in my case, that unfortunately means I'll visit this one even less often than the others.  I like the horns on "Hot Streets".  "Little One" (with both orchestral prequels, just not listed here) to me is mostly pointless without Terry singing it.  I sort of latched onto "Forever" from the later catalog because Lamm writes and sings fewer and fewer songs, and he was always my favorite.  But this song is a bit of a snoozer for me.

The blues medley (ha, apparently the track info ran up against Amazon's length limit, and I'm too lazy to dig it up from the book) is interesting.  I'm glad the band took some chances, did some different things.  I'm just not a fan of "In The Midnight Hour", and I've never heard of "Knock On Wood" though it's obviously another blues classic.  Then they work into yet another version of "I'm a Man" and finally "Get Away" which is the highlight for me.  Also known as the seemingly out-of-place coda from "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" (from Chicago XIII) they play it twice, just because it was originally so short that even though it totally cooks, you feel a bit cheated when it ends so soon.  So they play it twice.

"You're Not Alone" from Chicago 19 is a Bill Champlain song that I could honestly take or leave.  "The Pull" is a bit better, as it has some actual emotion to it.  The two big band songs aren't too bad, but having played in a jazz/swing band and played the original charts, these "poppified" versions feel a bit weak to me.

"Look Away" isn't bad, an acoustic version of a mellow song, and a nice closer to the set.  Except that they instead leap forward 12 years and include a live version of "America", presumably because it was released as a single and there's no official live version anywhere else.  Nice vocal harmonies.  Sorry, another pretty weak song IMO.  I get what they were going for here, and I'm glad Chicago still doesn't shy away from the political, but other than that... snooze. 

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And there you have it.  To be honest, I can see myself pulling out the concert DVD once in a while because it's freaking amazing.  And I'll get around to ripping the CDs because I'm a completist and this is Chicago we're talking about, but I'll end up hitting the Skip button a lot, and eventually I'll just remove a lot of them from my iPod, because there's no point to keeping anything on there that I literally skip every time.

The price continues to come down on this set, and it's currently less than $50 on Amazon.  For me, it's all about the live concert DVD, though $50 for a concert vid is pretty steep.  The Isle of Wight CDs will probably get some play as well, at least on my iPod, but I was mostly curious about the other two live CDs, and what's here didn't really surprise me that much, other than the widely varying sound quality.  I have to assume that this is the best quality they could find as they dug around for material, and this is the best they could make it sound after cleaning it all up.  And if that's true, then that's really a shame because Chicago live is really pretty amazing.  I saw the original band back in the 70's, and a later lineup in the 90's, and both were great shows.  Chicago has always played hundreds of gigs per year, even long after they could have retired and sat back.  But this is what they do.

Offline ytserush

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Re: The Chicago Discography
« Reply #424 on: June 13, 2018, 07:33:41 PM »
My fascination with Chicago ends around 1980. I pretty much love everything they did to that point. Never checked out much after that other than what got airplay and I wasn't all that impressed with it.

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Re: The Chicago Discography
« Reply #425 on: June 15, 2018, 01:02:50 AM »
Awesome reviews, although that's the absolute first time ever I've heard 'in the midnight hour' and  'knock on wood' referred to as 'Blues' classics. They're soul (or 'R & B')songs to me. 
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Online Orbert

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Re: The Chicago Discography
« Reply #426 on: June 15, 2018, 07:18:49 AM »
Yeah, R & B would've been more accurate.  Maybe even Motown.

Offline Cyclopssss

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Re: The Chicago Discography
« Reply #427 on: June 15, 2018, 08:53:56 AM »
No, it's Atlantic Soul to be precise.  ;)
From the ocean comes the notion that the realise lies in rhythm. The rhythm of vision is dancer, and when you dance you´re always on the one. From the looking comes to see, wondrous realise real eyes....

Offline DragonAttack

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Re: The Chicago Discography
« Reply #428 on: June 15, 2018, 04:05:47 PM »
Been so busy (and lazy) lately.....

Next to Led Zeppelin, Chicago had the strongest first four studio offerings IMO.  Just had to mention that.

Along with having a community yard sale last weekend. 

I got rid of almost 800 of my vinyls (sniff).  My asking price was  3/$1.00  (33 1/3 cents a piece......get it? ;) )

A handful or so I sold for $2-10.....including Carnegie Hall.  Put a $5 sticker on it, and it went without a hassle.  I think back to my frat days, and sharing a two story house with my best friend out in the country, with a music room and that poster (amongst others) up on the walls.

I recall listening to those four pieces of vinyl when Orbert posted about this LP about sixteen months ago.  Thanks for the memories and this thread.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2018, 06:15:58 PM by DragonAttack »
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Online Orbert

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Re: The Chicago Discography
« Reply #429 on: June 15, 2018, 04:25:15 PM »
Awesome!  $5 is exactly what I paid for Chicago at Carnegie Hall, all those years ago...