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Chicago: One of the Most Underrated Rock Groups?

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  • Chicago: One of the Most Underrated Rock Groups?

    It only hit me in seeing a recent interview how many studio and live albums and songs were released by the rock group Chicago. It's simply unbelievable--no make that mind blowing--that Chicago wasn't inducted in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame until 2016! Especially when you consider Chicago only trails The Beach Boys among US bands in total number of hit albums and songs. Chicago has sold over 100 million albums and have had 21 top ten singles in their long tenure. The group has seen lots of changes, originally championing that horn fusion sound (though other groups such as the The Buckinghams and BS&Ts had played with the horn sound) and then with a new producer changing their sound. And did any group do soft rock anthems any better than Chicago?

    No group, having grown up with the Chicago sound, is closer to my heart. 25 or 6 to 4 remains my favorite song, remembering that song being played at every dance my sophomore year in HS.

    What Chicago songs would make up everyone's top ten list? Mine is an ecclectic mix, though somewhat slanted to some of their softer songs.

    25 or 6 to 4
    Colour My World
    Beginnings
    Make Me Smile
    Does Anyone Know What Time It Is
    Will You Still Love Me
    Old Days
    Feeling Stronger Every Day
    I'm A Man
    If You Leave Me Now
    Nearly half a century after seven young men from the Windy City formed "a rock band with horns," the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers are making no concessions to age
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
    ________________________________________

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  • #2
    I love Chicago and am old enough to remember their original name before they were forced to shorten it to just "Chicago." For me, their best work was their first two studio LPs. After those two stellar albums, the band took a turn in a direction that steered away from their rock roots. The sound quality on the first LP is exceptional.
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    • #3
      Loved them since CTA days.
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      • tom_hankins
        tom_hankins commented
        Editing a comment
        Also, if you like Chicago, check out Sons of Champlin. Love the, Loosen up Naturally LP

    • #4
      I wouldn't call them underrated, but do perhaps feel they are somewhat underappreciated, and they're not the only band. I would put The Doobie Brothers in this same category. I am somewhat guilty in this regard as the many albums I own of both don't get the playback they probably deserve.

      I remember 25 or 6 to 4 really taking off on the radio in early spring and it being a staple for me during that entire summer. I absolutely loved it and couldn't get enough. Your list is excellent based on my memory, but I would need to revisit the albums to be sure.
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      • #5
        Originally posted by mep View Post
        I love Chicago and am old enough to remember their original name before they were forced to shorten it to just "Chicago." For me, their best work was their first two studio LPs. After those two stellar albums, the band took a turn in a direction that steered away from their rock roots. The sound quality on the first LP is exceptional.
        There are many versions of this group now called "Chicago", and stylistically they have ranged from rock to Jazz-rock to pop-rock to just plain syrupy overproduced pop. My preferences are for the rock or jazz-rock versions (and that's not only the earliest; after they added Bill Champlin they went through some more periods of more rootsy, less produced material). That said, some of their more mainstream pop songs are pretty good too.

        Their only studio albums I can listen to all the way through are C.T.A., V, VII and XVI (16)
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        • #6
          They were a great band with a lot of terrific music. Here's my Chicago story. While I was in school in Boulder in about 1970, I rented a house on the edge of town from a couple who managed the Caribou dude ranch up in the mountains above town. I got a call from them one day saying their ranch had been sold and they would need to move back into the house I was renting. It was James Guercio, Chicago's producer, who bought the ranch and turned it into a recording studio. The real estate agent who signed the deal bought drinks for everyone that night at the Boulerado Hotel to celebrate. Besides numerous Chicago albums being recorded there, many other artist like Joe Walsh and Elton John recorder there. Stevie Wonder and John Lennon visited. Quite the place in the day.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lY_uZNQ-Zjo
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          • Johnny Vinyl
            Johnny Vinyl commented
            Editing a comment
            Cool video!

        • #7
          I really like the early Chicago, but not so much the later Chicago they morphed into.
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          • Johnny Vinyl
            Johnny Vinyl commented
            Editing a comment
            Could be said for a lot of other bands as well. Not uncommon at all.

          • JCOConnell
            JCOConnell commented
            Editing a comment
            Beatles didn't take that route

          • Beaur
            Beaur commented
            Editing a comment
            I will go on record and say that I like the early Beatles better.

        • #8
          Contrast "I'm a Man" with "Saturday in the Park."
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          • #9
            Another interesting tidbit: Jimi Hendrix was once asked what guitarist he most admired and the answer was Terry Kath who was the lead guitar player for Chicago.
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            • Johnny Vinyl
              Johnny Vinyl commented
              Editing a comment
              Goes to show even Jimi wasn't always right! Hahahahaaha!

          • #10
            To me, the first album, Chicago Transit Authority was their best effort, followed by Chicago (II). Never understood why they didn't get into the R&R Hall of fame, possibly because they had wandered pretty far afield of their original sound to the point they weren't original or influential any more. MOR ballads and such. And gradually shoving the horn section deeper into the background.

            But then very few if any groups become progressively more interesting and influential as the Beatles did.

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            • #11
              That first album is fab. I think the early orange label UK pressing sounds better than the US pressing.

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              • #12
                I have the CTA album on mofi and it sounds great.
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                • #13
                  Originally posted by JCOConnell View Post
                  I have the CTA album on mofi and it sounds great.
                  I have it too and it doesn't sound as good as the original Columbia pressing. The bass guitar on "I'm a Man" is much better on the Columbia pressing.
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                  • JCOConnell
                    JCOConnell commented
                    Editing a comment
                    good luck for me finding a pristine original like my mofi
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