Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Chicago II (Chicagothon Part 2)

It's the dawn of a new decade and our windy city boys, meaning windy instruments rather than flatulence, are hot on the heels of their debut releasing another double extravaganza contained within a gatefold sleeve, plus the logo is bigger and actually legible this time around.

They have shortened their moniker though, as Chicago mayor Richard Daley took offence to the name of the city's public transit system being hijacked by hairy rock upstarts. Thus The Chicago Transit Authority was streamlined and the band had to call themselves just Chicago from here on.

Chicago II

Side 1
Moving In (4:06)
The opening salvo has our chaps in fine fettle with this track with a strong hook and a definite The Band like vibe in the singing department. The biting brass is back baby.

The Road (3:10)
A lighter, less blended vocal, together with a less memorable hook make this a bit filler.

Poem for the People (5:35)
The mood goes downbeat, with a piano led introspective ballad with lyrics that reflect on the state of the folks.

In the Country
Surprise surprise: more overbearing trombones, along with many key changes make for confusion it’s all over the place and I thought the country is supposed to be tranquil.

Side 2
Wake Up Sunshine (2:32)
An poppy upbeat sunshine tune that refreshes like standing under a sprinkler.

(Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon) this is in seven sections written by James Pankow
a. Make Me Smile (3:15)
The drums are let loose on this hit song. Terry Kaff's gravely singing reminds me of Joe Cocker fruit-looping it at Woodstock or Barry McGuire's voice on 'Eve of Destruction'

b. So Much to say, So Much to Give (1:12)
A change of pace.. there's everything but the kitchen sink in this segment.

c. Anxiety's Moment (1:00)
Let's slow this baby down to bridge the gap with a nervy minute.

d. West Virginia Fantasies (1:33)
instrumental Hammond action

e. Colour My World (3:00)
One of the others hits off the album, it goes all moody with some piano led flute action to soothe me, Terry Kaff sings as he yearns for his 'ole lady'

f. To Be Free (1:15)
Ooh, those heavy brass and drums are back, it's been a while..

g. Now More Than Ever (1:25)
Crosby Stills & Nash trademark vocals are plundered in the grand finale, I've noticed the drummer has got more leverage in this album and is making sure everybody can hear him.

Side 3
Fancy Colours (5:09)
I know why your seeing those fancy colours lads: lay off the doobies, Chiccy go samba! Perhaps the most fun song on this album.

25 or 6 to 4 (4:58)
This was the big pop hit and it sure does stand out. It’s a fresh and pacey song with an urgency in the tempo. You can feel the influence of the West Coast relocation working here. The title refers to the time in the early hours when the songwriter was penning the tune.

The eclectic influences of Terry Kaff shows up here with a mini-suite that has classical pretensions. The chamber music makes me feel like I'm in a costume drama dinner dance, competing for the attentions of Miss Buckleberry, the vicar's daughter, against the advances of slimy Mr Lucian Fothrington-Smythe.

A.M. Mourning (2:05) P.M. Mourning (1:58)
These middle sections transcend into incidental music, I'm falling asleep now.

Memories of Love (3:58)
We wind up with a 'Hamlet' moment with this mournful lullaby, that is genuinely beautiful.

Side 4
It Better End Soon
I know the feeling! It's Robert Lamm's turn to lay an epic on us, in four parts no less, angry young men laying out their ideals about the state of the nation.

1st Movement (2:33)
A pulsating horn riff underpins those sun drenched 'West Coast' harmonies.

2nd Movement
A pastoral flute Jethro Tull stylee that becomes more urgent with a chugging riff holding it together.

3rd Movement
Raff is singing an anti war rant, remember, the man may have the guns but the 'long hairs' have got the tunes.

4th Movement
Time to clear up with a bleeding horn solo, that’ll teach the fuzz. Well, there you go, more movements than from my bowels on the morning after a curry and lager night out..

Where Do We Go from Here?
Peter Cetera get a writing/singing credit at the final furlong and his commercial sensibilities are glimpsed in this downbeat country tinged tune.

To sum up, this is more focused and confident offering than the predecessor. As a collection, it knows when to let go and when to pull it back in whacking us with those tight acid-jazz-rock riffs that Chicago were famous for. It's an exhilarating ride save for occasional sequences that over reaches their ambition.



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