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"WILD YEARS-THE MUSIC & MYTH OF TOM WAITS" BY JAY S. JACOBS

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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Record Reviews > Chicago

MUSIC REVIEWS

Chicago-The Very Best of Chicago: Only the Beginning (Rhino)

Very few bands have had two completely separate stylistic periods.  The late 60s-early 70s incarnation of Chicago was a pioneering force that wed rock and roll with jazz horns and improvisational playing in a way that was totally unique.  By the time the late 70s came along, with the death of singer Terry Kath and the rise of singer Peter Cetera, the band may have become less adventurous... a middle-of-the-road hit-making machine... but they still knew how to craft a pretty impressive single. 

This two-disk collection is being sold as the first melding of the two periods of the band, and while that is not completely true... those would be the two volumes of The Heart of Chicago released in 1997 and 1998... this 39-track overview is absolutely the best survey of a historic band.  The first disk is wall-to-wall classics.  Thirty years have not dimmed the sparkle of hits like the slamming "25 or 6 to 4" or "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" or adventurous love songs like "Make Me Smile," "Just You And Me" and "Colour My World."  Songs that should sound like products of their time, like the feel-good hippie-vibed tune "Saturday In the Park," still somehow feel totally relevant.  Even the less remembered tunes on disk one, like the cod-reggae "Another Rainy Day In New York City" are strong. 

While people have a tendency to dismiss the band's MOR tendencies of the 80s, disk two of this set does remind you that the band was damn good at the style, "Hard Habit To Break" is still a simply gorgeous song, as is "Love Me Tomorrow," and they could still pull out the odd pretty good rocker like "Stay The Night" or "Along Comes A Woman."  Even after Cetera left the band for a sporadically successful solo career, the band continued for several years to produce guilty pleasure ballads like "Will You Still Love Me" and "If She Would Have Been Faithful..." (and thankfully the compilers skipped the 1986 abomination of a "modern" slow remake of "25 or 6 to 4.")   By the late 80s the formula was getting a little threadbare with stuff like "Chasin' The Wind" and "We Can Last Forever," but by then we are almost finished disk two and put a lot of good music behind us.  Chicago is one of the classic names in rock and you aren't going to find a better overview of their career (or careers) than this.   (7/02)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2002 PopEntertainment.com All rights reserved. Posted: November 6, 2002.

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Copyright 2002 PopEntertainment.com All rights reserved.
Posted: November 6, 2002.