This is what every Chicago fan has been waiting for. A new album of new music without the shackle of a label. Ignore XXXII: Stone of Sisyphus, since it was recorded in the early nineties, and most devotees had bootleg mp3's that were floating around the Internet, probably due to Dewayne Bailey, who left the band shortly after the recording. The previous new music was released as XXX on Rhino with muted success, partly due to the fact that Rhino is an oldies/re-release label and I don't think they did a great job on marketing. They released XXXII as an afterthought, with almost no publicity at all, in spite of being one of the best albums Chicago ever produced.
You can also forget the numbering. In fact nobody is sure what XXXV is, possibly the Nashville Sessions, which has no number on its spine. There is also the Chicago in Chicago DVD. Wikipedia has XXXIV as Live in '75. XXXIII is O Christmas Three, their 3rd Christmas release. XXXI is a 40th Anniversary "best of" set.
More Will be Revealed
Free at Last
Love is Forever
Something's Comin' I Know*
Watching all the Colors
Naked in the Garden of Allah*
Another Trippy Day
Although the album isn't due to be released until July 4, 2014, the band streamed a preview last week. I had heard three of the four singles which have been available on iTunes for about 6 months. The last one, Naked in the Garden of Allah preview didn't really connect with me, so I decided to wait for the album. There are a number of premium packages available for pre-order on Chicago web store.
There is something for everyone on this album: edgy Kath-era-like bluesy-brassy stuff, Foster-era poppy ballads and some Robert Lamm solo album-like songs.
The title track starts a little cheezy, but has the best hook of all the songs. It sounds like real Chicago, perhaps from Chicago X. In fact, there are several songs that strike me as taken from that album. Love is Forever may be their best ballad since the 80's, again with a great hook. Nice Girl is one of my favorites, as it sounds like early Chicago, but not too much.
Another Trippy Day, Watching all the Colors, and More Will be Revealed are Robert Lamm leads. I don't know for certain that he wrote them, but the second sounds like it is from his Bossa Nova project. I'm not all that crazy about them, but Crazy Happy and Something's Coming I Know (also Lamm leads) are excellent. America is a nice patriotic rocker, if you are into that sort of thing.
Free at Last has some of the best music. A lot of it sounds Kath era, but the brass work sounds a little Hot Streets-ish during the verses. The only problem I have with it is that it starts and stops a lot. I would probably re-edit it, if I had the chance.
Finally, Naked in the Garden of Allah. I really don't like the words, but I like the music quite a bit. I don't know what else to say. It has one of the best brass breaks on the album.
If you like the free roving Chicago brass, this is the album for you. Every song has it, almost too much. Overall, I like this album a lot. There is too much Robert Lamm for my taste. I think he had too much influence on the production, at least the artistic decisions. His later music has become a little too predictable and same-y, even to the point that Nick Lane provided some of the brass arrangements. For those who don't know, he is James Pankow's sub for some of their live gigs, and has arranged the brass on Robert's solo albums. (I remember him from the Maynard Ferguson band of the 70's.)
I can't give this anything less than 4 stars (of 5), as it should please most Chicago fans, including myself. Will it get them new fans? Is it "current" enough. Probably not.
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