Love Songs

Chicago

Warner Brothers, 2005

http://www.chicagotheband.com

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/16/2013

There’s something comforting about putting on a Greatest Hits record. You know all the songs, down to every word. They’ve played on the radio a thousand times but that’s okay, because they truly are “greats” in every sense of the word. Granted, there’s not going to be a feeling of “Whoa, this is new,” but that’s not why you’re playing the record!

Now when we start talking about Vol. II of a Greatest Hits, or a Vol. III, things start to get a little murkier. The question “Were these really hits?” tends to crop up much more on subsequent hits compilations than they did on the first volume. The phrase “cash grab” gets thrown around. But even so, there are usually still a gem or two mixed with some solid album cuts to make the purchase worthwhile. However, when we get to the themed hits albums....ouch.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

I cannot argue with some of the songs that were selected for Chicago’s 2005 Valentine’s Day release Love Songs. “If You Leave Me Now,” “Hard To Say I’m Sorry,” and “Look Away” are the group’s three Billboard #1 hits. A handful of others came very close to reaching that pinnacle. The usual suspects – “You’re The Inspiration,” “A Hard Habit To Break” – are here as well, and justifiably so from a charts perspective.

What is particularly jarring is the juxtaposition of 1980s Adult Contemporary Chicago, with that of their ‘70s peak. It’s clear that the label executive charged with creating this track listing did his best to alternate the different periods of the band’s history. So you end up listening to a piece of drivel like “Look Away” but immediately washing it down with a dose of an edited (sigh) but outstanding “Beginnings.” The transition is not smooth, to say the least.

These kinds of records tend to have alternate versions of songs, or rare tracks that are supposed to justify a fan plunking down the money for the album. In the case of Love Songs, those cherries on top come in the form of “If You Leave Me Now” sung by Phillip Bailey of Earth Wind & Fire and “After The Love Is Gone” performed by Earth Wind & Fire with Bill Champlin. Wait, what’s that you say? You can’t remember the Chicago classic “After The Love Is Gone?” Oh wait, could that be perhaps because THEY NEVER RECORDED IT?!?

Yes, I realize that Bill Champlin of Chicago wrote the song with David Foster back in the ‘70s, but how that means the song makes it into a Chicago hits record is beyond me. I can somewhat get behind “If You Leave Me Now” being present in a different incarnation, but “After The Love Is Gone” was never a Chicago hit and I cannot get past that.

The real question is not “Which?” but “Why?.” The easy answer, and truth be told the correct one, is money. There are some classics on Love Songs, so on a purely musical basis there is some merit to this album’s existence. But the “extras” and lackluster theme certainly mean a fan can skip it.

Rating: C-

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