Chicago II [Bonus Tracks]

by: Chicago

Chicago Transit Authority recorded this double-barrel follow-up to their eponymously titled 1969 debut effort. The contents of Chicago II (1970) underscore the solid foundation of complex jazz changes with heavy electric rock & roll on the first set. The septet also continued their ability to blend the seemingly divergent musical styles into some of the best and most effective pop music of the era. One thing that had changed was the band's name, which was shortened to simply Chicago to avoid any potential litigious situations from the city of Chicago's transportation department -- who claimed the name as proprietary property. Musically, James Pankow (trombone) was about to further cross-pollinate the band's sound with the multi-faceted six-song "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon." The classically inspired suite also garnered two of their most beloved hits -- the upbeat pop opener "Make Me Smile" as well as the achingly poignant "Colour My World" -- both of which remained at the center of the group's live sets. Chicago had certainly not abandoned their active pursuit of blending high-octane electric rockers such as "25 or 6 to 4" to the progressive jazz inflections heard in the breezy syncopation of "The Road." Adding further depth of field is the darker "Poem for the People" as well as the politically charged five-song set subtitled "It Better End Soon." These selections feature the combo driving home their formidable musicality and uncanny ability to coalesce styles telepathically and at a moment's notice. The contributions of Terry Kath (guitar/vocals) stand out, as he unleashes some of his most pungent and sinuous leads, contrasting the tight brass and woodwind trio of Lee Loughnane (trumpet/vocals), Walter Parazaider (woodwinds/vocals), and the afore mentioned Pankow. Peter Cetera (bass/vocals) also marks his songwriting debut -- on the final cut of the suite as well as the album -- with "Where Do We Go From Here." It bookends both, with at the very least the anticipation and projection of a positive and optimistic future. Potential consumers should note the unsurpassed sound quality and deluxe packaging of the 2002 CD remaster as well as the single edits of the hits "Make Me Smile" -- extracted from the "Ballet..." -- as well as "25 or 6 to 4," which are not only notably different, but have previously been available only on compilations prior to this reissue. Also included is a miniaturized copy of the eight-panel fold-out poster of the band -- although the lyrics are not included on the reverse, as per the original. Regardless, it is a nice, reminiscent touch. ~ Lindsay Planer

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