|All Artists: Chicago|
Members Wishing: 6
Total Copies: 0
Release Date: 1/1/1991
Genres: Jazz, Pop, Rock
Styles: Soft Rock, Oldies
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
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Experimental and Beautiful; Progressive in its Day
Lonnie E. Holder | Columbus, Indiana, United States | 06/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After "Chicago Transit Authority" announced to the world the existence of this wonderful rock group, the question was whether the follow-up album would be as good as their debut. The follow-up is not as good, it is better.
In some ways this album shows a dichotomy in musical styles. Portions of the album are constructed as progressive rock. Other portions are pop or rock and jazz combinations. Some are nearly classical. Some reviews of other versions of this album hint at this dichotomy by noting what the reviewers consider to be unlistenable portions of the album. It is interesting to note that depending on the style of music the reviewer prefers, the portions considered unlistenable by different reviewers may be exactly opposite from each other.
The CD pulls together the two albums that originally made Chicago II. Two groups of tracks make suites. Tracks 6 through 12 are part of "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon," and tracks 19 through 23 make up "It Better End Soon." There are five additional tracks leading up to the first suite, and six tracks between the two suites.
The five introductory tracks are blues-flavored rock. The fourth track, "In the Country," may remind some listeners of Three Dog Night. The other tracks in this group have the brass-flavored sound of "Chicago Transit Authority", but muted somewhat in comparison to the former album.
The first suite is a concept album, or side from the days of vinyl. Out of this suite came two singles, "Make Me Smile," which peaked at #9, and "Colour My World," for which I do not have a peak chart position. There is a lot of instrumental music in this group of tracks, and you can almost imagine these relatively short songs being one extended track, in the manner of progressive rock.
In the group of six songs between the two suites, several are noteworthy. "Fancy Colours" has a blues-jazz opening, but about a minute and a half into the song it transitions to a lighter, nearly pop sounding and faster song than the opening. The contrast is startling and makes you think the opening is a completely separate song from that after the transition. Robert Lamm wrote "25 or 6 to 4" when he was bleary-eyed and had stayed up too late. Knowing the origin of the song, the title nearly makes sense as you realize his brain wasn't working well when he tried to see what time it was. The next three instrumentals seem to form a mini-suite: "Prelude," "A.M. Mourning," and "P.M. Mourning." Given the style of the next song, "Memories of Love," you could possibly include that with the previous four selections. All four are mellow and heavily orchestral as opposed to typical rock.
The second suite begins with a fast rock beat. In the second movement a flute is prominent and though the bass and piano keep the beat moving, the instrumental has a strong jazz flavor. The third movement has a vocal part, with a strong blues flavor and a heavy beat. The fourth movement has a rock feel to it leading into the final song of the suite, "Where Do We Go from Here," which was released as a B-side single.
This album is amazing. The musical styles include jazz, blues, neo-classical, and rock. The combinations are broad enough and unusual enough to allow this music to be classified in a variety of genres. However, I choose to consider this album progressive rock because of the extended length of the suites and the unusual combination of styles. When considering the other groups considered progressive from this era, King Crimson, The Moody Blues, and Yes, it seems less of a stretch to consider this album progressive rock.
Note that there is a later version of this CD available that contains the single versions of "Make Me Smile" and "25 or 6 to 4." I always enjoy extra tracks, but you will need to judge whether there is a difference in price between that version and this one, and whether the difference is valuable to you. That same version has also been remastered with the best recordings available. Enjoy!