Chicago 17

Chicago

Warner Brothers Records, 1984

http://www.chicagotheband.com

REVIEW BY: Tommy Johnson

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/03/2004

An exciting comeback or a lifeless sellout? Call it whatever you want; Chicago 17 still remains a well-written, well-produced and well-performed album.

Released in 1984, 17 followed-up the successful 16. While 16 is considered to be Chicago's resurrection, the 17 album did far better in terms of success -- it had no less than two Top 5 hits and two Top 20 hits. Unquestionably, this band didn't sound like the experimental jazz-rock group that was formed in the city of Chicago in the late 60's. No, this sounded and sounds like a comfortable group of middle-aged family men, very much at peace with themselves and their instruments. It's not complex or groundbreaking (and it's not trying to be) -- it's simply well-done pop music.

With the release of 16, the previously faceless Chicago got themselves a face in singer/bassplayer Peter Cetera. He stepped out to the front while the horn section took some steps back. This didn't please some of the oldschool Chicago fans, but it was needed in order to put Chicago back on the map. Peter Cetera and Canadian hitproducer David Foster were two very important elements in the success of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 17.

The album has a reptutation of being "wimpy" or "beautiful," depending on if you're a guy or a girl. But out of the ten songs, there are only three ballads -- in other words, it's a misconception. However, the fact that two of these three songs were successful singles certainly helped the band's reptuation as soft. While the ballads are very beautiful and nicely arranged (especially "Hard Habit To Break," which also won a Grammy), it's the up-tempo songs that make this album excellent.

"Please Hold On" is certainly a highlight. It was written by David Foster, Lionel Richie and the (at the time) newest Chicago member, Bill Champlin. Bill, who used to front the San Francisco-based "Sons of Champlin," sings this r&b tune with that patented blue-eyed soul voice of his, and the result is magical. The man has enormous control over his voice. This is what Chicago is all about; great vocals, horns, good songwriting and good playing.

Robert Lamm's "We Can Stop The Hurtin'" is a nice welcome. Robert, who only had one song on the 16 album (it was one minute long), is back on track with this composition (co-written by Champlin and Neal). The Chicago of the '70s used to sing "We can change the world now" and in the '80s they were singing "We could stop the hurtin'for awhile." Their naïve youthfulness had been replaced with a mature conciousness.

This change was not only visible by looking at their lyrics; it was also heard in the production. David Foster gave Chicago a modern, slick and sophisticated radio sound; a sound that was nowhere to be found on the music Chicago recorded after their long-time producer James William Guercio's departure in 1978.

After the Chicago 17 tour, Peter Cetera announced that he was quitting Chicago and pursuing a solo career. This came as a shock to the world of music and Chicago fans, who once again thought that the end of Chicago had come. If they only knew that both Chicago and Cetera had many hits in front of them -- separately.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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