TITLE: Chicago II (Chicago as it was first released, but you know…roman numerals)
YEAR RELEASED: 1970
CHART ACTION: #4 US, #6 UK
SINGLES: Make Me Smile (#9 US), 25 or 6 to 4 (#4 US, #7 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Color My World, Now More Than Ever
LINEUP: Robert Lamm, Terry Kath, Peter Cetera, James Pankow, Walter Parazaider, Lee Loughnane, Danny Seraphine
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second double album features three almost side-long suites, of which one works great, and some other songs which are hit and miss.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Chicago started to develop its pop ear on this album, but they didn’t sacrifice their musical chops or risk-taking. The dominant track on Side 2 is “Ballet for a Girl in Buchanon”, which contained the big hit “Make Me Smile” along with “Color My World” but also had some very nice jazzy moments.
Their experimental side was still in vogue with “Fancy Colours”, a song that doesn’t end with a resolution and is just fantastically arranged, and “25 or 6 to 4”, which is one of the best jazz/rock songs in music history. While “Color My World” is sappy, and “Wake Up Sunshine” does have a sweet side as well, they’re well done and heartfelt.
This is a double album though, and while the first side is OK, it’s rather pedestrian, and the other two suites don’t work very well. The suite on side three is a classical based one that’s not in the band’s wheelhouse, and the political suite on side four is noble, yet a little forced to my ears and too stretched out to be effective.
Seraphine is the secret weapon here. His drum chops allow the band to take the chances on unconventional structures and time signatures. Without him, I don’t think they’d be able to pull this off. As it is, Chicago II would have been a fantastic single album stretched to a double. (Everything past “25 or 6 to 4” on side 3 and 4 could go and I’d be thrilled!)
NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Memories of Love”, the side three suite, was written by Terry Kath and noted TV and film composer Peter Matz
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Single mixes for the hits appended.
GRADE: B+: It’s an album that overstays its welcome, for sure. But dang the songs that hit are just tremendous, and really you shouldn’t by cynical about them. The rest, though is padding.