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Chicago: XXX

You may ask why a new Chicago release, their first one in ten years for the record, is being reviewed here on a progressive rock and metal site. Well, for starters, a portion of the latest from the pop legends recalls some of the bands more adventurous 70's and 80's material, when rockier arrangements featuring those fabulous horns were all the rage. Question any prog lover and for the most part many of those early Chicago albums will be treasured by a lot of them. Sure, XXX has plenty of the sappy ballads that Chicago has been famous for since the mid-80's, and besides for the core group of Robert Lamm, Lee Loughnane, James Pankow, Walt Parazaider, Bill Champlin, Jason Scheff, Tris Imboden, and Keith Howland, there are a billion guest artists and players on the album as well, like Toto's Bobby Kimball, former Giant guitarist Dan Huff, Joseph Williams, and many others, raising the question of just how many of the parts are being played by the band itself. But hey, we look at the final product right?

The good? Well, for starters, "Caroline" is a great song and would make a good single, with a catchy hook and upfront horns just like the "old days". "King of Might Have Been" is a touching piece about lost love and taking what is dear for granted, and contains some nice arrangements from the band. On "90 Degrees and Freezing" the band mixes poppy funk and rock, featuring some nifty horns, layers of vocals (and a great lead from Robert Lamm), and gritty guitar work, and "Where Were You" is pure catchy funk, complete with an irresistible hook and punchy horns, not to mention some ripping blues guitar solos from Keith Howland. A similar upbeat feel can be heard on "Already Gone", bluesy Hammond and horns drive the Robert Lamm penned "Come to Me, Do", and big funky arrangements along with chunky guitar licks highlight "Lovin' Chains". Bassist Jason Scheff seems more at home singing the funkier pieces rather than the ballads, although frankly he has a great voice any way you slice it. Check out the rampaging and screaming leads from Howland on this last one as well-pretty scorching stuff.

Now for the bad. The first single "Feel" is represented by two versions, the "hot single mix" and the "horns" mix. Come on guys-you are a "horn" band, leave the horns in! There's no comparison-go for the horns mix and leave the other one for the trash. Obviously this was done for hit radio, and the song is very catchy, but go for what got you here in the first place fellas. The band also decided to block together three unmemorable and bland ballads right smack in the middle of the CD, killing the momentum that started with "King of What Might Have Been" and "Caroline".

Overall though, Chicago's thirtieth release has some good tunes, a return to more rock and funk based formulas, and the horns on at least half of the album are very much apparent. Basically, if this was a ham sandwich, the bread is very good, the ham bland. Program out a few of the middle songs and you have a very solid return from Chicago.

Track Listing
1. Feel (Hot Single Mix)
2. King of Might Have Been
3. Caroline
4. Why Can't We
5. Love Will Come Back
6. Long Lost Friend
7. 90 Degrees and Freezing
8. Where Were You
9. Already Gone
10. Come To Me, Do
11. Lovin' Chains
12. Better
13. Feel (Horn Section Mix)

Added: April 13th 2006
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Chicago Website
Hits: 2979
Language: english

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» Reader Comments:

Chicago: XXX
Posted by Brandon Perez on 2006-04-17 20:48:09
My Score:

I dont think the reveiw was bad, I believe this CD has something for every Chicago Fan, I personally waited a long time for a CD of new Music from them, I actually Purchased a dozen copies and handed them out to my friends, they were very surprised...great job Chicago

Chicago: XXX
Posted by Mike Merton on 2006-04-17 15:24:14
My Score:

This reviewer says the solos were played by Keith Howland but they were played by Dann Huff and Tom Bukovac. The guitar solo on Bill Champlin's Better is played by Stone temple Pilots guitarist Dean DeLeo. Howland only plays the solo on Feel. Otherwise, it was an okay review for an very mainstream pop CD.

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