Chicago II


Chicago, 1970

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Before we get into the heart of this review, let's clear up one major misconception: this album is not named Chicago II. The second album from the former Chicago Transit Authority (before they had to shorten their name or face the wrath of Mayor Richard J. Daley) reflected their truncated name, Chicago. But, hey, you wanna call it Chicago II - hell, you can call this album Orange Juice, I don't care. Just reporting the facts.

There's another fact that has to be reported when it comes to this second double-album release from Terry Kath and crew. Unlike their last album, Chicago moves away from the jazz freeform that marked their debut's Achilles's heel... but move into the realm of pompous music, which was just as bad. We'll talk more about that later.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Chicago contained three of the group's biggest hits to that point. The first, "25 Or 6 To 4," is a solid rocker that shows off Kath's guitar skills wonderfully. It also shows how well a horn section could be worked into a rock number - just in case you hadn't been paying attention on Chicago Transit Authority with "Beginnings" and "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?". Bassist/vocalist Peter Cetera really comes into his own on this number, signifying the role he would later take with the group as their frontman. (On this release, Cetera is still sharing the lead vocal duties - at least I assume - with Kath and Robert Lamm. The liner notes are sketchy on this.)

The other big hits, "Make Me Smile" and "Colour My World," are wrapped up in a piece that symbolized the pompous shift for Chicago, "Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon". A work in seven parts, you really have to plow through the sludge ("Anxiety's Moment," "West Virginia Fantasies") to get to the portions of this piece you want to hear - namely, the two hits. (Columbia wisely took the X-Acto knife to the tapes when they released the single of "Make Me Smile" - sorry, guys, but that was the way the song should have been played.)

One you get past the hits, Chicago becomes a hit-or-miss album, occasionally diving into semi-interesting areas ("Fancy Colours," "Moving In," "In The Country") and occasionally going off the deep end (the series of four tracks, including "A.M. Mourning" and "P.M. Mourning", that close the third side of the record, as well as the traditional anti-Vietnam number "It Better End Soon"). Like their first long-player, it's not that these efforts are bad, but it does remind you why greatest-hits compilations for groups like this are must-owns.

Chicago broke no new ground for the band musically, though it did contain some of their most memorable music that sounds good, even some 30-odd years since its release. While everything you would need to hear is on the best-of Chicago IX, if you want to learn more about the group, then Chicago is worth checking out... but step carefully.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Christopher Thelen 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 Chicago, and is used for informational purposes only.