Chicago VIII


Columbia, 1975

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


There is an old analogy that is applicable to a situation that doesn’t reveal itself immediately; one form in which you might see it expressed is something along the lines of “the ship kept steaming forward, yet it had begun to sink…” It is amazing how well the music industry reflects such sentiments. By the time a band has reached its true peak, their moment has passed and it’s too late to do anything about it.

Chicago definitely went on to have success following the release of Chicago VIII, but their true chart dominance at this point had begun to spiral downwards and was only reclaimed in 1982 with Chicago 16. After five years of intense touring and recording, it was becoming rapidly apparent that the seven members of the group were exhausted mentally and physically when the time came for this album to be recorded.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The jazz experimentations that had permeated the first half of Chicago VII was apparently out of the band’s system at this point; little on VIII veered away from the pop/rock foundation that had previously delivered winners for the band. Admittedly, when Chicago put their minds to it, they were capable of crafting excellent mainstream tunes. “Old Days” was the blockbuster single from the record, and while inherently cheesy, remains a fond ode to reminiscing. The second half of “Brand New Love Affair” remains one of the group’s most underrated compositions, foreshadowing the success of “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” seven years later.

Yet despite the occasional glimmer of a good song, there are too many dull tracks to dig through here. “Hideaway” finds a Chicago attempting to be edgy and tap into a hard rock vibe, only to fail miserably on both accounts. The song wastes the talents of guitarist Terry Kath and bassist Peter Cetera with a middling tempo and boring riffs. The same could be said of “Oh Thank You Great Spirit,” which finds Kath in a mystical mood. His guitar work is impressive, but his bandmates fail to hold up their end.

The energy level picks up on the second side of the record, but the songs come across as stop gaps and nothing more. “Long Time No See” has a personal connection for me as it is my father’s favorite Chicago tune, but it wouldn’t be confused with any of the bands more successful material. “Ain’t It Blue” does deserve recognition; it not only features the band at its most frenetic pace, but it features all three lead vocalists. Chicago was blessed with three solid vocalists during its classic period, and the chance to hear all of them interplay is a rare treat.

There is little denying that Chicago VIII contains all the elements of what made Chicago unique from their contemporaries, but the final mixture rarely results in much compelling, worthwhile listening. Drained of ideas and energy, Chicago offered up their weakest album at the time.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


CTA was an OK album, it was a slow downhill ride into dull AOR from there. I do hand it to to you Jeff, you are a truly loyal fan

© 2009 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia, and is used for informational purposes only.