World of Slick Music
Hi there folks!
Been a while since last post but here i am again with another edition of this little blog of mine. Today’s artist i think is fair to call an “institution” in American popular music. They’ve been around since 1967 and still have 4 original members left that’s quite impressive i think. Anyway as the headline above says today’s artist is the legendary band of Chicago!
Chicago of today left to right: Keith Howland (Guitar, Vocals), Lee Loughnane (Trumpet, Flugelhorn), Lou Pardini (Keyboards, Vocals), James Pankow (Trombone), Robert Lamm (Acoustic guitar, Keyboards, Vocals), Walfredo Reyes Jr (Percussion), Jeff Caofey (Bass), Ray Hermann (Woodwinds, live subbing for Walter Parazider also Woodwinds), Tris Imboden (Drums)
So what can be said about this band that no one hasn’t already been telling? Have i somehow got some super exclusive information never shared before, some really heavy secrets? If i claimed that someone might sue me for that or maybe not but no point bullshitting anyway!
So let’s go back in time to year of 1967 cause that was the year the group was officially founded in the city with the same name as the band, Chicago, Illinois. They described their music as “rock n’ roll with horns” although i’d say it’s a mix of like everything! It’s rock, soul, jazz, fusion, funk, slick, mainstream, latin according to me at least.
A band having horns is nothing unique in itself but in the case of Chicago it was more the arrangements of the horn parts that was standing out.
Photo: Past Daily
Chicago sometime late 1960’s/early 197o’s left to right: Peter Cetera (Bass, Vocals), James Pankow, Lee Loughnane, Terry Kath (Guitar, Vocals), Walter Parazider, Danny Seraphine (Drums), Robert Lamm
The founding members were Robert Lamm, Walt Parazider, Terry Kath, Lee Loughnane, Danny Seraphine, James Pankow.
Walter, Terry, Danny and James met while beeing students at the De Paul University. Later Robert was recruited from Roosevelt University. First they called themselves “The Big Thing” and played like hit list music. After a while they realized they needed tenor as a compliment to baritones Lamm and Kath. Further they also needed a bassist since the basspedals on Lamm’s organ didn’t “adequate bass sound”. They found a local guy who was a tenor as well a bass player and that guy was Peter Cetera.Eventually they moved to Los Angeles and changed their name to Chicago Transit Authority. In L.A. they played at the local clubs and began getting famous in the late 60’s. They were opening acts for Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. As related to William James Ruhlmann by Walt Parazaider, Jimi Hendrix once told Parazaider, ” ‘ “Jeez, your horn players are like one set of lungs and your guitar player is better than me.
Photo: Ultimate Classic Rock
So in April 1969 their eponymous first record, see picture above, it was actually a double album which is/was very uncommon for a first album to be. Still it was a success and sold over 1 million copies by 1970. The album contained several tracks which are like “Chicago standars/classics” today. Songs like Beginnings, Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is, Questions 67 and 68 and I’m a Man. The last one originally a hit by Spencer Davis Group.
After this album they were forced to shortened their name to simply Chicago. The reason was that in Chicago the public transportation company happened to be called Chicago Transit Authority. Obviously Chicago is much easier to say and remember.
Not long after the first album they released Chicago II which also happened to be a double album. The album’s centerpiece is a 7 piece, 13 minutes long suite by Pankow called “Ballad for a Girl in Buchannon”. The suite yielded two top 10 hits “Make Me Smile” and “Colour My World”, both sung by Kath, songs they still perform at their shows. Another song that also is a classic song for the band is the cryptic “25 or 6 to 4” by Lamm, this was the band’s first top 5 hit. The song is supposed to be about a singwriter trying to write 25 or 26 minutes before 4 o’clock in the morning. Cetera sang on this one.
Photo: WCBS-FM 101.1
Chicago sometime 1972/73 left to right front row: Peter Cetera, Walt Parazider, James Pankow, Robert Lamm. Top row: Danny Seraphine, Laudir de Oliveira (Percussion), Lee Loughnane, Terry Kath.
On the Chicago V album they had a member in the group Brazilian percussionist Laudir de Oliveira and on this album it became clearer that Cetera was the main singer for the band. In 1976 the band finally got their first #1 on Billboard the ballad If You Leave Me Now a ballad both written and sung by Cetera. In the U.S. it stayed on top for 2 weeks and in the UK for 3 weeks that song is found on Chicago X. With the next album Chicago XI they got their last top 10 hit for the decade. The year 1978 began first with a split with their manager since 1968 James William Guerico and then on January 23 Kath died of an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound from a gun he thought was unloaded. After this the band kinda lost themselves for a long time. From a commercial point of view the 80’s was a very succesful decade but they had like sold their souls musically speaking. Phil Ramone was one great producer with a cv that would make any other producer super jealous but he wasn’t right for the band. Neither was Tom Dowd or even David Foster himself. They turned down the horns or remowed them completely. Chicago IS a horn driven band and has always been.
Photo: Addicted to Vinyl
Chicago mid 80’s left to right: Danny Seraphine, Walt Parazider, Peter Cetera, James Pankow, Robert Lamm, Lee Loughnane, Bill Champlin (Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards)
In 1981 another member joined the band a multi instrumentalist and awesome singer a guy called Bill Champlin. In AOR/West Coast circles his names is mentioned with a great respect. Actually a person close to the band suggested that Bill should replace Kath already in 1978 but he felt he could never fill up those shoes. In 1981 he was working on a off Chicago project with Danny Seraphine and Peter Cetera. Seraphine and Champlin co-wrote a few songs together and Seraphine invited Champlin to sing on “Sonny Think Twice” as a guest vocalist. Champlin then suggested that David Foster would be a great choice for producing the band at that time. Now Seraphine began campaigning for Champlin to join the band despite some obstacles, a singer/songwriter, producer called Kenny Loggins called Champlin to talk him out of joining Chicago! He was saying that the band is over, they peaked a long time go and if you join you’ll sink your own career. Champlin joined the band despite the warnings of Loggins and thinking “i’ll give it a year” That “year” became no less than 28 years!
Chicago mid 90’s left to right: Walt Parazider, James Pankow, Lee Loughnane, Tris Imboden (drums), Robert Lamm, Jason Scheff (Bass), Keith Howland, (guitar), Bill Champlin
From the mid 80’s until the mid 90’s many people were passing by the band and lot of things happened. In the early 80’s Cetera began a solo career and wanted to focus on his solo career while not touring. The rest of the band declined this kind of arrangement and Cetera ultimately left in 1985. Replacer became Jason Scheff son of Elvis Presley bassist Jerry Scheff. Then early in 1990 co-founder and drummer Danny Seraphine got sacked and replaced by Tris Imboden, a session player whom also had played with Kenny Loggins. During the 80’s and early 90’s many different guitarists came and gone in the band but in 1995 they hired Keith Howland as permanant guitarist.
Picture above Chicago shares stage with legendary band Earth, Wind & Fire back in 2004. The last show at their tour was recorded live on dvd at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles in August 2004 and became released in June 2005. After only two months the double dvd was certified platinum. My recommendation is for you to find it and buy it!
On March 25 2006 their first all-new studio album was released Chicago XXX. The first that wasn’t a like “Best of” or rerecording of old songs or live album since Chicago Twenty One. In 2009 a new guy became member of the band, Drew Hester. First he was subbing for Tris as a drummer when Tris was ill then he became a full time member but playing the Percussion he stayed until 2012. First he was replaced by Daniel de los Reyes and later his brother Walfredo Reyes Jr whom just like Drew also plays the drum kit. Then in 2009 the re-joined forces with EWF once again for a tour. Those guys obviously loves eachothers company cause in 2015/16 it was time for a third tour with these two bands!
In 2015 the band was listed among the nominees for induction to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. The original lineup was inducted at the 31st annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on April 8, 2016. I’m happy for their sake but i think it’s a little unfair for like Tris Imboden and Bill Champlin for not beiing included since Tris has now been a member for 27 years and Bill was a member for 28 years not to mention Jason Scheff member for 30 years . Maybe it’s not a big thing for them, i don’t know. Anyway in February 2016 it was announced that the original drummer and founder would join the currnet line up for the first time in 25 years, picture below.
Photo: Modern Drummer
Speaking of Jason Scheff after taking a temporary leave in May 2016 citing “family health reasons” he eventually left for good in August 2016. His replacer was the guy who had been subbing during the summer Jeff Caffey.
If you think about it there are many similarities between Chicago and EWF, both are horn driven bands and has been around since like forever! They both have been produced by David Foster although i think he did a better job with EWF than Chicago. But on the other hand the 80’s wasn’t exactly “the golden age” for the styles of EWF and Chicago or Tower of Power. As i mentioned Bill Champlin was a member for almost 30 years and he co-wrote one the most famous songs of EWF, After the Love Has Gone. In the Live at the Greek Theatre show Bill actually perfoms the song along with EWF. Then as like favor in return EWF lead singer Phillip Bailey sings the classic and famous Chicago ballad If you Leave Me Now with Chicago. When you scratch the surface you see that there are many things these two bands have incommon. If you ever gets the opportunity to catch these guys live take it! They are a really great live act, seen them once in my town. I will recall it was a great show!
Ok last but not least as the saying goes it’s finally time for the song with Chicago. It’s taken from their latest album from 2014 called Chicago XXXVI:Now. I’ve choosen the title song called Now and listen very caryfully about 10-11 seconds in the guitar solo cause then a super cool syncope comes!!
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