Power Play Rock & Metal Magazine
“Wooooooo oh baby please don’t go.”
Yep, this is the band that gave us “If You Leave Me Now”, a staple of Terry Wogan’s Radio 2 show – that soppy. And Chicago did have a fine line in ballads like “Hard Habit To Break” a really memorable heartstring-tugger, included up top here.
But they were more than that, as throughout their forty-plus years, from the harder early albums to the smoother Peter Cetera years they’ve had a judicious way with a funky guitar line and a wonderful way with a horn part.
And so, among the soft rock stuff there are real gems like eight-minute strut “Street Player” from 1979 and clearly disco-influenced, “25 or 6 to 4” with Perry Mason brass and the 70s urban degeneration feel of “Make Me Smile”. When they hit this groove, there are few who can compete and even when they attempt a Steely Dan vibe, as on “Old Days” , they nearly make it. And the Randy Newmanisms of “Saturday In The Park” are a real surprise.
But is this really an ultimate collection? The 36 tracks make a good argument. The packaging is pretty good, but not sumptuous. There have been many best of collections over their 34-album career so this has to have all the tracks they had in one place. Well, it tries but the five-CD “Box” from 2003 has more since there is nothing from after 2003 here and they only released their mid-90s “Stone of Sisyphus” album in the late 2000s, this release doesn’t have the beating of it. Not ultimate then but probably cheaper.
There may be too many Smooth FM almost-rockers here for some readers, but if you like a bit of funky rock, you’ll be like a pig in ordure. And even some of those anodyne Ken Bruce show rockers, like “Question 67 and 68”, have towers of horns and a great Vaudeville dressing, like “Harry Truman”, so there’s often a hard centre in the marzipan.
If you haven’t listened to Chicago because you understandably thought they were a peddler of silk and not sandpaper, then give them a try. Their brazen love of brass might just change your mind. Then they’ll be a “Hard Habit To Break”. If Variety isn’t dead, I’m hovering over it clutching a pillow.