Monday, 4 June 2018

Chicago - Chicago II (1970)

  

Released January 1970

Recorded at Columbia Studios, New York City

Released two years after their debut (also a double album), this is by far Chicago”s most experimental, innovative album. “Chicago II” is a sprawling, maybe a little bloated, double album of all sorts of musical styles. Predominantly jazz rock, there is also soul, funk, easy listening, searing lead rock guitar, clever, tuneful bass, Beatles influence, Beach Boys influence. Excellent horns abound throughout this album and also Blood, Sweat &Tears-style vocals.

TRACK LISTING

1. Movin' In

2. The Road
3. Poem For The People
4. In The Country
5. Wake Up Sunshine
6. Make Me Smile
7. So Much To Say, So Much To Give
8. Anxiety's Moment
9. West Virginia Fantasies
10. Colour My World
11. Now More Than Ever
12. Fancy Colours
13. 25 Or 6 To 4
14. A.M. Mourning
15. P.M. Mourning
16. Memories Of Love
17. It Better End Soon                                                
18. Where Do We Go From Here

The album starts with a series of relatively long, fully-formed songs - the jazzy “Movin’ In”, followed by the funky “The Road”. Then we get the very Beatles-ish and tuneful “Poem For The People”. Late 60s Beatles influence is all over this album.

Next up is the soulful, funky “In The Country” with its simply great guitar, and its gruff soul vocal and impressive tempo changes. 

The Beatles influence is obvious on “Wake Up Sunshine”, but also Beach Boys harmonies too. “Make Me Smile” features a full on Blood, Sweat & Tears, David Clayton-Thomas influenced vocal and some great percussion and, yet again, stunning guitar parts.

The album changes momentum now and we get some short, semi-songs - the vocal “So Much To Say, So Much To Give” and segue-ing into “Anxiety’s Moment”, an instrumental, with “Sgt Pepper” brass and “Abbey Road” drums; then straight into the jazz rock of “West Virginia Fantasies” and then on to the more substantial piano-driven, beautiful ballad, “Colour My World”. Then it is back to the instrumental “To Be Free” before the short but punchy, drum dominated “Now More Than Ever”. It all sort of plays as one continuous piece, again an “Abbey Road” influence.

The extended rock guitar and brass of “Fancy Colours” sees a return to longer, more substantiated tracks. As indeed is the hit single, “25 Or 6 To 4”, which sounds like Cream meet The Loving Spoonful to hang out with Crosby, Stills and Nash. A great late 60s/early 70s feel to it.Classical influence is clear on “A.M. Mourning" and “P.M. Mourning”. “Memories Of Love” is a beautiful, laid back song.

Finally, we get the four movements of the politically-motivated “It Better End Soon”, heralded in by some spectacular Santana-style guitar, a great vocal followed by flute, bass and drums in movement two, as the band move into full “jam” mode.  The third movement enters “What’s Goin’ On” territory. Solid, passionate anti-war stuff. The fourth movement is a funky call to arms. “Where Do We Go From Here” is a final heartfelt call for unity for the whole world as it entered a new decade.This album almost has to be listened to apart from Chicago”s other output. When the band’s music is played in a random selection, for example, the tracks from here stick out a bit from the more mainstream, jazzy a.o.r. funk of some of the later albums, even those from just a few years later. To be appreciated properly, it needs to be listened to individually. It suffers a bit from the “its a bit bloated” curse of all double albums, however.

B-

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