Chicago 13


Columbia, 1979

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


About a year ago, my review for Chicago XIV went up. Needless to say, it wasn't pretty, because it was a terrible album, not just by Chicago's standards but in general. Unfortunately, its predecessor, 13 is not much better -- these two albums are generally considered Chicago's worst, and I'd be hard pressed to argue.

First off, I shall commit the cardinal sin of Chicago fandom and defend "Street Player." I've always thought Chicago would have been well suited for disco, particularly because of the horns. To me, "Street Player" reaffirms that belief. Sure, the song drags on too long, but there are some good bits to be found in between, such as the Maynard Ferguson appearance.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

With 13, it's just easier to mention the very few good tracks. Essentially, you've got "Reruns" and "Life Is What It Is." These two songs are decent efforts that aren't amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but when compared to the rest of the material, they stand above. "Reruns," in particular, seems to have caught Chicago in a good day in the studio; the band sounds like it's involved. The horns are flowing, Robert Lamm delivers his usual professional vocal and it's got a catchy refrain. "Life Is What It Is" is a bit more gentle, almost jazzy at times. The acoustic underpinnings add a nice touch, and Peter Cetera sounds like Peter Cetera, as opposed to P.C. Moblee (more on that in a sec).

The rest of 13 is sloppy, uninspired, half-assed drivel. You've got Cetera singing in a completely different style, one that just plain grates on the nerves. Legend has it that it was an attempt to create a new character called P.C Moblee, but thankfully, as the legend goes, Moblee died in a plane crash, never to be heard from again.

Also, the contribution from Donnie Dacus, the man hired to replace Terry Kath, is just insipid. I get the feeling the band was trying to get "heavy," but it didn't work out that way at all. "Run Away" ranks up there with the band's worst closing numbers, failing to provide any momentum or drive at all. "Reruns" should have taken its place.

"Mama Take" used to be a favorite of mine off the album, but after giving it another listen, it's lost its appeal. The music is pretty solid, but it just lacks something to grab a hold of. "Aloha Mama" starts off interestingly enough, with the horn section throwing out a little honky tonk, but lo and behold who is that on the mic? Why, it's P.C. Moblee! Track ruined!

XIV got a D, but 13 will avoid that honor, just barely. The three decent moments I mentioned keep it from being their worst piece of music. Chicago at this point was in the throes of their worst period creatively and personally, and the music reflected it. Sometimes artists can take personal strife and create something truly special with it. Chicago 13 isn't one of those cases.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2006 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.