REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/27/2010
It would not surprise me to find a website somewhere that was devoted to deciphering the meaning behind each cover to a Chicago album, and attempting to find some broad social statement deep within. If such a site existed, Chicago X would have to represent the growing commercialism of the band as a hit machine and a brand; and what better way to make that comparison then to have the famed Chicago logo depicted as a chocolate bar? What's more ubiquitous than chocolate?
Prior to the 1976 release of Chicago X, the group offered up their first greatest hits collection unto the masses (the first of dozens of such money making opportunities). I have always found the timing of these two records ironic, in that Chicago's most well-known song and biggest hit just missed the cut of being placed on the previous album. The Chicago that has survived into the present day was able to do so because they made the full fledged transition for jazz/pop fusion group into a straight-up pop music machine.
The song I refer to of course is "If I Leave You Now," the first significant sign of the ‘80s ballad-heavy Chicago was to come. One of the stories most commonly repeated with regards to this song is that band members themselves didn't recognize it when it was receiving play on the radio. Sure, that sounds funny, but in a way it makes sense. I would argue that up until this point, Chicago had never gone so sentimental, and so saccharine in a piece of music such as "If You Leave Me Now." In a way, it was a hit so completely at odds with their background, and it totally altered the perception of what a Chicago hit song could sound like.
Much of Chicago X fails to dispel the notion that Chicago was no longer interested in their avant garde style of music. Much as with Chicago VIII, the band was clearly still running on fumes, exhausted from years of nonstop touring and massive success. If the situation was otherwise, there would have been no way a moronic song such "You Get It Up" would have been included on the track list (yes, it means what you think it means). I'm inclined to be less harsh towards tracks such as "Another Rainy Day In New York City," which is obviously intended to bring in some Latin flavor to the Windy City. If you removed Cetera's ridiculous accent, the song itself is fun.
When a band has three lead vocalists, each with their own unique style and personality, it is hard to justify giving lead vocals to members of the group who had never sung on record before. The debuts of Lee Loughnane and James Pankow aren't particularly impressive; they’re more workmanlike than anything else (although to Loughnane's credit, he has been given more opportunities over the years and made the most of them). The big guns, Cetera/Kath/Lamm don't offend either; Cetera should get credit for nailing the vocal approach on "If You Leave Me Now," and Lamm shades in some toughness and grit onto vocals from "Gently I'll Wake You."
Chicago XI gets the attention because of the death of Terry Kath following its completion, and as mentioned before the greatest hits compilation preceded X, so I have always felt it is one of the forgotten Chicago records. Note that by forgotten, I in no way mean underrated. Chicago X is forgotten for a reason, and honestly there is not much on the album that would argue with that conclusion.
|I have not liked anything by this band since their 2nd album ... But I love that Album Cover!|