Chicago: Steven Wilson Remix
by David Chiu
“With this album, we dedicate ourselves, our futures and our energies to the people of the revolution….and the revolution in all of its forms.”
That statement featured in an album sleeve is not from Jefferson Airplane, MC5 or Rage Against Machine—but rather the 1970 eponymous record by Chicago. Today Chicago is mostly known for its numerous horn-powered pop/soft rock hits from the ’70s and ’80s. But in the band’s early years, circa 1969-1971, they were an avant garde, even progressive, jazz rock group. In fact, their first three releases were double records containing lengthy extended cuts with movements—similar to that of classical music–that dominated an entire side, not far from what the groups from the other side of the Atlantic had done. One of those key records, simply titled Chicago (or better known now as Chicago II) from 1970, is emblematic of the band’s ambitious combination of free-form counterculture rock and mainstream Top 40 pop. Lengthy suites highlight Chicago, from James Pankow’s Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon (which contains the hit singles “Make Me Smile” and the ballad “Colour My World”), and the Terry Kath/Robert Lamm/Walter Parazaider collaboration “It Better End Soon.” With the exception of “Make Me Smile” and “Colour My World,” Chicago features the immortal “25 or 6 to 4”-which has gone on to become a classic not just on FM rock radio but in marching bands throughout the country. More importantly, “25 or 6 to 4” showcases the amazing guitar work of Terry Kath that remains his signature performance. And like the band’s previous album Chicago Transit Authority, the lyrics on Chicago carry a social and political significance, probably more so in this record—such as Lamm’s “Poem for the People,” “It Better End Soon,” and “Where Do We Go from Here,” the latter which marks Peter Cetera’s first songwriting credit for Chicago. Now remixed by Steven Wilson, Chicago’s second album is now reintroduced as a socially-improved archival release that showed the band making a powerful social and artistic statement as well as a innovative musical one thanks to the dynamic playing of the musicians.