Same Chicago, Different Sound, That's All
Gord o' The Books | SE Michigan | 06/30/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Chicago is more than any one member. Some people think that if it doesn't sound like CTA, it doesn't count. But this group started out with seven very talented original members, and as they left, were replaced with other very talented people. Robert Lamm and James Pankow dominated the songwriting creativity of the early era. Over time, Peter Cetera gained in prominence. This album is the culmination of Cetera's ascendance as temporary "leader" of the group.
Those that do not think Chicago has been true to its roots need to consider: this is the kind of music Peter Cetera likes, and he was the main guy at this point. He can't make himself what he's not. By being TRUE TO HIMSELF, he was able to influence a direction that connected with a whole lot of music buyers. Give him credit for being authentic - and give the rest of the group credit for keeping the band together while Peter had his day.
Chicago has something for everybody. And I am thankful to them, for giving us this music that made fans out of some close relatives of mine that did not like the early horns albums.
Yet - I do not like this one as much as 16. For whatever reason, 16 had a better click with me. 16 marked the new direction. 17 just carried it on. But this album is almost a five-star. Everytime I hear Hard Habit To Break, and You're The Inspiration, and my girls start singing along to it, I find myself liking these songs even more.
This is a legendary album, and it still sounds great. Play Chicago V, and then this, and marvel at the versatility of this awesome group!"
A Landmark Album!
Jim Kelsey | 08/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Chicago 17 (1984) was a landmark album for the group in many ways. For one, it further propelled their comeback off of Chicago 16. The album released four hits: "Stay the Night, " "Hard Habit to Break," "You're the Inspiration," and "Along Comes a Woman." The first three songs are very strong and firmly established Chicago with the next generation.
Secondly, it was the first time that Chicago was on MTV.
Undoubtably, the record label released those songs that Peter Cetera sung since his voice was so recognizable. With the exposure that MTV gave Cetera as the frontman, it is no doubt that he separated from the band no long after the album's release.
Finally, it was the second album in a series (Chicago 16-18) that was produced by David Foster, a huge name in the recording industry. With Foster, came a series of new studio musicians (Richard Marx, Donny Osmond), as well as song writers (Steve Kipner, Lionel Richie).
What I've always appreciated about Chicago is the balance that each of the members gives the band. There have always been three main singers, in this case they are Robert Lamm, Bill Champlin, and Peter Cetera. Each has a unique singing style and range, giving the band a nice balance; unfortunately, that's not what listeners hear on the radio. Out of the ten songs on the album, Cetera solos on half of them.
The other thing that I've liked about Chicago is the balance in songwriting. Each of the main members - Cetera, Lamm, Pankow, and Champlin - tend to lean towards a specific style of composition, which again, provides balance and interest. Lamm's influence is very apparent in the progressive jazz tune "We Can Stop the Hurtin;" Pankow tends towards funk/fusion in "Once in a Lifetime," a tune that almost has a hip-hop beat to it; Champlin excels with a more bluesy feel in "Please Hold On", and Cetera's pop style was felt in all of the hits and "Remember the Feeling." The band Toto also shares this strength and when one reads the liner notes, you'll find that both bands share members back and forth, beginning around 1982.
Not to belabor my enthusiasm for the album, but it also hit me at a key point in my youth. I was a sophomore in high school and very involved with playing trumpet in concert band and piano in jazz band, not to mention that my band director was a huge Chicago fan. "Chicago 17" was my first exposure to the band and hearing the brass and keys really inspired me to continue on both intruments, ultimately making teaching music a career.
The difference between the CD release and the original LP are two songs: "Please Hold On" and "Prima Donna." Both of the CD versions are alternate takes - not necessarily better, just different. Hopefully Warner Brothers will do like Rhino has done with the first fourteen albums and re-release "Chicago 17" with the original versions and the alternate takes.
Undoubtedly, "17," "18," and "19" propelled the band into the ballad arena - something they eventually got sick of. "Chicago 17" still retains the essence of the "old Chicago" that diehard fans remember. Not that "18" and "19" are bad - they just are much more radio-focused. If you purchase this CD, you'll be well-pleased.