Terry Kath's Last Hurrah
Steven R Fleck | Rockville Centre, NY United States | 01/05/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Chicago XI marked the closing of the volume on these integral elements:It was the band's final effort with founding guitarist Terry Kath before his accidental suicide, their last with producer James William Guercio, and their last on Columbia Records.The major criticism I have of XI is that it's somewhat subdued. Other than Kath's inspired reworking of MISSISSIPPI DELTA CITY BLUES (1st appearing on Live in Japan), laid back tracks abound, including the one true ballad by Pete Cetera, the ho-hum single BABY WHAT A BIG SURPRISE. Kicking back in the hammock with it are 4/5's of Side One, including Pankow's equally lazy TILL THE END OF TIME (with a rare vocal by the trombonist), and Bobby Lamm's POLICEMAN and TAKE ME BACK TO CHICAGO (groovy R&B chorus, tho).Side Two kicks it a bit with Lamm's uptempo & funny VOTE FOR ME, and 3 extraordinary tracks: a welcome but eerie guitar cranker by Kath called TAKE IT ON UPTOWN (with cover lyrics that read like someone about to end his life), Lee Loughnane's wonderful THIS TIME, and Danny Seraphine/D. Wolinski's touching epic, LITTLE ONE, with truly poignant vocals by Kath. I remember listening to it after he died and being overwhelmed with sadness.Ironically, Kath's performance is the only element that seems truly alive. Check out the funky strumming on the opener, and, good heavens, the rhythm part on UPTOWN, let alone the leads. His solo on THIS TIME is gold in it's simplicity, turning the guitar part BACKWARDS in the final 4 bars, perhaps in tribute to Hendrix, who reportedly IDOLIZED KATH. His performance on LITTLE ONE supposedly became the standard for hiring his eventual replacement. I mean, it's almost like great fiction. It's interesting how Kath's guitar-heavy songs are in stunning contrast with the rest of the band on XI, like he was alienating himself from their direction. The fact that he succeeded 100-fold and nearly ended their musical career as a result makes XI more of an interesting, tragic portrait of a great guitarist than a great Chicago album."
Last Great Chicago Album
MCW | Ohio United States | 06/18/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For hard core early Chicago fans, this is the last great Chicago album. Chicago would never be the same after the death of lead singer and guitarist Terry Kath. The album is a hodge-podge but features some spectacular tracks, namely: Mississippi Delta City Blues, Baby What a Big Suprise, Takin it on Uptown, Inner Struggles of a Man-Little One. It also has some average/good songs like Policeman, Vote for Me, Take Me Back to Chicago, and This Time. The weakest track is Till the End of Time. Take Me Back to Chicago has an almost prophetic feel, predicting the depression that would soon overcome the band in the aftermath of Kath's death. Keyboardist Robert Lamm does a good Steely Dan imitation, and there are some great vocals by Chaka Khan. It won't be until the album "Night and Day (1995)" that Chicago will return to its old form with keyboardist Robert Lamm emerging from his seclusion as the leader of the band."
Highly underrated, along with the rest of their early music.
B. Samples | Hawthorne, NJ USA | 10/18/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In my mind, this is one of the most perfect albums ever. Each song holds its own special meaning, ranging from blues to ballads to pure rock. This was Terry Kath's last album with Chicago before his tragic accindental death, which makes it all the more special to me. Chicago XI is a great album. Highly recommended!"