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When Chicago exploded onto the music scene with their stellar 1969 double-LP debut, Chicago Transit Authority, the band's innovative fusion of up-front horns in a rock 'n' roll context and impeccable pop sensibilities was an instant smash. Chicago rank among the all-time most successful American rock group. On their 30th album, and first new studio album in 10 years-the band's songwriting mastery and world-class musicianship shines on a collection of tracks ranging from signature ballads to funked-up grooves to solid rockers. Rhino. 2006.
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Over the last 35+ years, there has been a divided opinion amongst Chicago fans over the band's musical style. Many prefer the progressive eclecticism that was a hallmark of their early years while others lean towards the ballad-heavy pop songs that became the norm from the early '80s onwards.
If your a fan of the Chicago's early years, "XXX" is definitely not recommended. However, those who prefer the ballads and catchy pop numbers will be find plenty to enjoy here. The album basically follows the same formula that the band has followed over the last 20 years in that they have created another collection of inoffensive songs that are geared towards radio play and the charts. While this isn't neccesarily a bad thing per se, the album does come off as sounding like a band treading water and repeating themselves without breaking any new ground. Basically, if your familiar with any or all of Chicago's output since Jason Scheff joined, you'll know exactly what to expect here because it's more of the same.
What we have here is Chicago continuing to play in the safe zone with a pleasing collection of mostly radio-friendly tunes that'll keep their fans satisfied. "Chicago XXX" isn't by any means the band's greatest masterpiece nor is it an excellent album overall. It does have its share of shining moments though.
As an ending footnote: How about dusting off the unreleased "Stone of Sisyphus" album and releasing it to public. Now, THAT would be an anticipated Chicago release.
2) Adjust volume to "High"
3) Advance to track 7
4) Hit "Play"
5) Enjoy the ride
6) When the CD reaches the end, rise, stretch
7) Go to step 3, repeat
Some of you may wish to buy this Chicago album because, foolishly like me, you want to listen to the music and songs of the guys in 'Chicago', but you get to listen to the compositions of :
1- 'Dannay Orton',
2- 'Blair Daly',
3- 'Greg Barnbill',
4- 'Dennis Matkosky',
5- 'Chas Sandford',
6- 'Jay DeMarcus',
7- 'Brett James',
8- 'George Hawkins Jr.',
9- 'Marcus Hummon',
who are not in the band.
With only 1 song (out of 12) written entirely by a band member, apparently either the band are no longer capable of making music or the producers think so.
If you, foolishly like me, buy this album to hear the band play, you have to listen to:
1- 'Lee Thornberg' : trumpet,
2- 'James Matchack' : Keyboards,
3- 'Jay DeMarcus' : keyboards,
4- 'Tom Bukovac' : guitar,
5- 'Dan Huff' : guitar,
6- 'Dean DeLeo' : guitar,
7- 'Yankton Mingua' : guitar,
8- 'Jack Kincade' : guitar,
9- 'Jay DeMarcus' : guitar...
10- 'Steve Brewster' : drums,
11- 'John Brockman' : drums,
and listen to the vocals of :
12- 'Shelly Fairchild',
13- 'Rascal Flatts',
14- 'Gary LeVox',
15- 'Jay DeMarcus',
16- 'Joe Don Roony',
17- 'Bobby Kimball'
18- 'Joseph Williams';
So in the eyes of Mr Jay DeMarcus, the Producer of this album, allegedly by Chicago, 16 additional musicians and 9 song writers were necessary to do the job that the band themselves were, in his eyes, incapable of doing!!
Jay DeMarcus himself has played guitar, and keys, as well as treating us to some singing. I am glad he had some fun, but I was not paying to hear him and his other 15 friends he called to the party at the expense of Chicago. If I had wanted to listen to all those other 25 people I would have asked for their names in the shop, not ask for Chicago. Is it too much to ask to be listening to Chicago's music when we get a `Chicago' CD?
I am not referring to the quality of music here, which is purely a matter of personal taste but, good or bad, I wanted to listen to 'Chicago'. I don't mind if I don't like the songs, as long as it is THEIR music. But apparently, in the eyes of the producers and financiers of this album, there is not a viable 'Chicago' anymore which they can trust to write and record its own music; only a name to milk ... as they did with Chicago 19 and 21, but far worse this time.
I do not mean to offend the taste of those who find the music on this CD pleasant enough to enjoy it; I do however mean to offend that faithless producer, Jay DeMarcus, who has made an art of mediocrity and lack of vision, and has offended the band by showing clearly that, as their producer, he believes that the compositions and playing of all those other musicians would somehow be better for the album than that of the Chicago themselves.
His treatment of Keith in particular is almost unbelievable: 6 guest guitarists?? He has not let Keith play on at least 9 of the songs!
And he has not let Tris play drums on 4 of the songs!
This is a joke...
Not sure how Mr DeMarcus can say he is proud of the boys! He seems to me to be ashamed of them and prefer to hide and burry them under the works of others. If he was proud of them he would not disempower them in this fashion and make a sad joke of them on their last album.
But the band themselves, whom I had continued to love for decades, should have known better, after a thinking pause of 15 years, what to choose to go out on, and what legacy and memory to leave behind; cause they are not going to get a chance to do another album after this. A bunch of the usual type ballads, indistinguishable from any out-takes from any of the albums from 16 to 21, written AND performed in great part by others, is an unworthy epitaph, for a band that used to be more than just a brand name for a bunch of writers and players to sell their stuff under.
1- If you are a fan of the Chicago 1 to 7, entirely avoide this album and save your stomach a lot of churning.
2- If you are a fan of the Chicago 8 to 11, you may find a couple of nice pieces here that you might enjoy, such as the one by Robert. Borrow it from a friend for a listen.
3- If you are a fan of the Chicago 12 to 17, you will find several pieces here that you will enjoy very much. Worth buying for occasional listening.
4- If you are a fan of Chicago 18 to 21, you are not going to care who made the songs and who played them and you will totally love the whole of this album, which is more of the same. It has some good playing by some people, just the sort of songs you enjoyed on those other albums, and good production. Buy it and love it.
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!
No more jazz. No more R & B. Just pop music for the masses.
Since it's been 15 years since the last "new" release, I guess I'll be dead (or close to it) before the next one. As far as I'm concernced, their best work is way behind them.
So long Chicago.