Monday, 14 January 2019

Chicago - Chicago XI (1977)


Released September 1977

This was unfortunately Terry Kath's last album with Chicago before he tragically killed himself in a gun accident at home. It was also their first album after their huge global hit "If You Leave Me Now" (which was always, ironically, quite unrepresentative of their overall sound, even though it was their biggest hit). It is certainly not all an "easy listening" album, containing some blues, jazz, soul, funk and classically-influenced material. It was a bit of a cultural anachronism, however, coming at the height of punk and disco and having no relation to either. The album is an inventive one one full of variety. It doesn't fit into any pigeonholes and certainly has considerable credibility.


1. Mississippi Delta City Blues
2. Baby, What A Big Surprise
3. Till The End Of Time
4. Policeman
5. Take Me Back To Chicago
6. Vote For Me
7. Takin' It On Uptown
8. This Time
9. The Inner Struggles Of A Man
10. Prelude (Little One)
11. Little One
12. Wish I Could Fly
13. Paris

The opener, "Mississippi Delta City Blues" is a superb, bassy, funky upbeat blues, with Kath on gruff vocals. The ubiquitous brass section plays a big part too. It is very much a throwback to the group's early albums. "Baby, What A Big Surprise" is an appealing rock ballad, with Peter Cetera on high-pitched vocals. It has some grandiose-sounding horn parts. "Till The End Of Time" is a rock 'n' roll-style slow number but with a deep, soulful vocal and some Stax-ish horns. "Policeman" is a jazzy, infectious number about, obviously, a policeman. It has a touch of bossa nova about its rhythm. "Take Me Back To Chicago" is a catchy jazz/soul number with some funky guitar/backing vocals.

"Vote For Me" is an ebullient and cynical song about the two-faced nature of politics. It features some fine organ/piano interplay. "Takin' It On Uptown" has some heavy rock guitar and a bluesy rock vocal over a thumping drum sound. There is an underlying funk beneath the rock foundations of the track. Its wah-wah guitar, from Kath, is superb too. "This Time" is trademark, melodic Chicago soul/rock, with sumptuous brass backing and a great soul vocal. It has a bit of a Doobie Brothers vibe to it.

After a lot of soul/rock tinged with funk we get a rather incongruous classical instrumental piece in "The Inner Struggles Of A Man". For me, it doesn't really fit and it merges into the short "Prelude (Little One)" which then goes into "Little One" which brings the laid-back soulful ambience back. It again features some sublime brass sections. There are touches of Stevie Wonder in the vocal delivery. "Wish I Could Fly" is a Doobie Brothers-style piano and guitar-driven instrumental. "Paris" is a rhythmic, piano-driven light, jazzy vocal ballad.

Despite its often catchy songs, this album still has a decidedly uncommercial feel for me, making it an interesting offering which needs several listens.


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