After nearly 40 incredible years of non-stop touring and hit-making albums, Chicago has done it to their fans again. They've delivered a "refined" -- yet familiar -- pop-rock sound to their music. Sparked by solid song-writing, smooth multi-layered vocals, trademark horn lines and crafty guitar riffs, "Chicago XXX" is a kaleidoscope of sorts, taken from several periods, from a band that never seems to tire (nor we of it). I also think this release has the strength and variety to appeal to the average music fan in general.
Ballad-dominated at first, the album evolves with more livelier tracks. Whether it be a heartfelt power ballad "King Of Might Have Been," the jazz/rock masterpiece "90 Degrees And Freezing" (where old-school Chicago meets 2006), the pulsating rocker "Where Were You," or the mid-tempo R&B stuff like the gritty "Lovin' Chains," a foot-tapping "Come To Me, Do," and the compelling AC single, "Feel," of which there are two versions (one sans horns), "XXX" has it all! Even a "Night And Day" (1995)-sounding piece that's "Better." Not to mention guest appearances from country artists Rascal Flatts and newcomer Shelly Fairchild in separate ballad duets.
A lifelong Chicago fan, my initial impression was how producer Jay DeMarcus (Flatts bandmember) went to great lengths to modernize the band's sound. Sonically, I find this album as good or better than any I've heard. And, while some may describe DeMarcus' approach as "overproduction," I think it gives the listener more to hear all the time. Buy this album. Give it some ear time -- it's full of gems. Horns are everywhere, leaving little doubt as to XXXactly which band you're hearing. All in all, it was worth the wait!