Sunday, November 5, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Chicago "Chicago" - aka "Chicago II" (Steven Wilson Remix)

Chicago - aka Chicago II
(Steven Wilson Remix)
Rhino Records

Released earlier this year, I'd
remained ambivalent about
taking a chance on this remix.
However, based on the slew of
positive reviews it's received, I
finally took the plunge. And
I was pleasantly surprised.

Overseen originally by famed producer, James William Guercio, Chicago's second record is an impressive effort, indeed. Featuring the Top 40 hits, "Make Me Smile," "25 or 6 to 4" and "Colour My World," the exhaustive double-album set was a Top Ten smash when it arrived in stores back in 1970.

From the authentic jazz-driven grit of the opening track, "Movin' In" to the undeniable charm of "In the Country" to the timeless pop flavor of "Wake Up Sunshine" to the complexities of the 13-minute opus, "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon" to the delicate arrangements of "A.M. Mourning" and "P.M. Mourning" to the irresistible appeal of "Make Me Smile" to the hard core metal riffs of "25 or 6 to 4," Chicago II is one of the shiniest jewels found in the band's impeccable treasure chest.

So, a reasonable question might be — why on earth, after all this time, would anybody go back and fiddle around with such a bona fide classic? Well, simply put, the record sounded lousy — possessing all the audio warmth of an AM radio blaring in a cardboard box. And that's not a shocking or defamatory assessment. In fact, for nearly 50 years, it's been a well-known opinion among many of Chicago's most ardent fans that, production-wise, Chicago II is a peculiar pockmark on the face of an otherwise blemish-free catalog.

Chicago - circa 1970
Enter Steven Wilson, the acclaimed British producer who bravely would accept the daunting task of "fixing it in the mix." More than a mere remastering effort, Wilson revisited the original 2" 16-track master tape and recreated this gem from the ground up. The result — a delightfully delicious listening experience.

An Amazon reviewer offered a spot-on observation when he stated how Peter Cetera's tracks are now so vibrant, it sounds as if the legendary bassist is right in the guy's face, bustin' out badass grooves. Likewise, contributions from guitarist Terry Kath and keyboardist Robert Lamm also enjoy fresh new identities. As for Lee Loughnane, Jimmy Pankow and Walter Parazaider — the iconic horn section sounds simply superb. However, the biggest winner is Danny Seraphine whose world-class drum work FINALLY sounds as spectacular as his performance deserves.

In sum, there's no "funny business" going on here. Wilson has done a brilliant job of recreating this record respectfully and authentically. And it's truly a must-have for casual fans and diehards alike.

-Christopher Long
(November 2017)



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