Sunday, 01 December 2019 14:09

Chicago on a Sunday - Chicago VIII. The slightly anonymous one. Featured

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This Sunday we have come to Chicago VIII, perhaps one of the most anonymous albums from Chicago to that date, with the exception of a couple of tunes.

The recording session of Chicago VIII was started in August 1974, but the album wasn`t released until March 1975. Being a single album, it points back at both Chicago V and Chicago VI , but in my ears maybe most of all at Chicago VI. Like this album, VIII has a fairly large musical range.

Another relationship Chicago VIII shares with VI is that they both to me are candidates for preliminary jumbo places in Chicago's album series so far. But I still prefer VIII ahead of VI, despite the latter having a nicer gatefold cover. Chicago VIII is the first LP from Chicago with a standard single cover.

Still, the music on Chicago VIII is surprisingly dominated by some pretty rocky tunes. It begins on the opening track Anyway You Want, and is enhanced on Hideaway. Both are Cetera songs, and it confirms that it was a bit later that Peter Cetera was dominated by soft-pop ballads.

In retrospect, it is perhaps also somewhat surprising that we find no super-soft ballads on this album, which was initiated on the seventh with "Wishing You Were here".

What didn't quite emerge when the album was released in 1975 is that the split regarding jazz-dominated material on Chicago VII also materialized in the eighth, perhaps with the exception of Brand New Loveaffair, Part I. Only 27 years later with the digital reissue from Rhino becomes the exposed bonus material that showed more jazz-rock and even pure jazz, which had not been included in the original version. This shows that after Chicago VIII, the jazz faction in Chiago had lost the battle against Peter Cetera.

If these three songs - or at least two of them had been included in the original album - it would have greatly strengthened this album. And who knows, maybe they had even more jazzy tunes on hand so that Chicago VIII could also become a double album?

The sound of Chicago VIII

Like Chicago VII also this album is primarily evaluated on the basis of the vinyl edition, and an album which, like VII, was acquired at Playtime in Trondheim approx. 76-77.

For some reason, VIII is not quite on par with the previous two album in terms of sound. That despite the fact that Chicago VIII was also recorded on producer James Guercio's Caribou Ranch. My vinyl edition still sounds better than the digital remastered version from 2002.

Side A

  1. Anyway You Want (4-)
    Posted by Peter Cetera

    A little rocked song in the middle of the road, or maybe just a bit below . The tune demonstrates that Peter Cetera likes to take a stroll up the high octaves. Terry Kath lifts the tune a bit, but also he has explored even better that he was a superb guitarist on other occasions.

  2. Brand New Love Affair, Part I & II (5)
    Posted by James Pankow

    Part I of Brand New Love Affair is a great and soft jazzy ballad, wonderfully sung by Terry Kath. And Robert Lamm has once again showed being an excellent player of Hammond B3, despite not being virtuoso at all. Peter Cetera takes over the main microphone, and overall this will be good too. Here, the windmill is allowed to unfold more in classic Chicago events.

    Not surprisingly, there is no physical distinction between Part I and Part II on either the vinyl edition or the digital edition. But we are never left in doubt where Part II will take over. 
  3. Never Been in Love Before (4+)
    Posted by Robert Lamm

    A clear Lamm signature on this song sung by Peter Cetera. This one too in the middle of the road, but not below this time.

  4. Hideaway (5/4)
    Posted by Peter Cetera

    Surprisingly rocky by Peter Cetera. Or maybe it really shouldn't be that surprising, with the previous Chicago albums as the backdrop. A song just over medium from Peter Cetera.Terry Kath also gets to romp a bit here, and not least he demonstrates that he always finds an approach that strengthens and underpins the character of the avtual tune.

  5. Till We Meet Again (5)
    Written by Terry Kath

    A funny and distinctive song by Terry Kath, showing this super guitarist in his least rocked corner, a hook he found himself in more often than one might expect.


Side B

  1. Harry Truman (5-)
    Written by Robert Lamm 

    I have always taken it for granted that the lyrics to this song are packed with irony, and it has been reinforced by the fact that the music and the event also have a solid dose of ironic cut. And also the fact that in Norway we gladly associate this former US president with the fatal nuclear bombs in Japan in the fall of 1945 has reinforced this assumption.

    But then we have to remember that the backdrop for this recording was the Watergate scandal with Richard Nixon who had to step down in August 1974, a presidency which, incidentally, also had his passport written on Chicago V and on Live at Carnegie Hall. And Harry Truman was known for clear Speech. And besides, he was certainly a good pianist, which of course appealed to Robert Lamm. 

    Anyway, this has become a funny song, and it was released as a single ahead of the album release - an unusual grip for Chicago at that time. Nostalgic elements of the event, where the highlight is Walt Parazaider's clarinet.

  2. Oh, Thank You Great Spirit (5+)
    Written by Terry Kath

    The album's perhaps best tune is a tribute from Terry Kath and Chicago to Jimi Hendrix, this legendary rock hero who once told Walt Parazaider that Terry Kath was better than himself on guitar. A pretty strong statement from a man who is a self-made candidate when rock history's foremost guitarists are to be nominated. But of course it may have been a courtesy phrase, even though they were probably in the same division. And then we're not talking about the secondary League.

    The song starts off low-key and a little subtle in the familiar Terry Kath style. It has some musical thinking in common with the last half of Song Of The Evergreens on Chicago VII , although a rocking guitar solo with almost quotes from Hendrix shows up at the end.

  3. Long Time No See (4+)
    Posted by Robert Lam

    A slight downturn after the previous two tunes, but not at all bad. The purely instrumental part with the tight Chicago hornsection arrangement is a lifter. 

  4. Ain`t it Blue (5)
    Written by Robert Lamm

    This song is also a candidate for the album's best, not least because of the exquisite combination of Terry Kath and Peter Cetera's vocals, which are both at their best here and make a perfect match. And for some reason there is something magical about the phrase "I don`t know what to do, the rules are new", both because of the lyrics and for the musical mode the song and Terry Kath go into when he sings it. Or rather the combination of both.

  5. Old Days (4+)
    Posted by James Pankow 

    This is one of the singles on the album, and perhaps a somewhat typical result of the collaboration between Pankow and Cetera. Catchy tune, but still not among my favorites on the album.

Bonus track on expanded digital version (2002):

  • Sixth Sense (Rehersal) (5)
    Written by Terry Kath

    Opening gives associations to a track on Chicago XXXVI Now. Maybe a little out of character before Terry Kath enters the track and enriches with his masterful use of wah-wah. Great trumpet solo by Lee Loughlane. I have not been able to trace the origin of this tune, but it is not unreasonable to guess that it is a leftover from the jazz bar of Chicago VII. But there is not much leftover over this tune, which would have been one of the album's best candidates, had it been included on the original version.

  • Bright Eyes (4+)
    Written by Robert Lamm

    The slightly Latin-inspired and even lighter jazzy track is the weakest of the three. The wind section is left out, and Lamm's Fender Rhodes dominates the soundscape, without necessarily tapping the song.

  • Satin Doll (5)
    Written by Duke Ellington

    A live performance of Duke Ellington's classic Satin Doll. This performance dates from the end of November 1974, and is the recordings of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin 'Eve. Chicago played in tuxedo here, and the recording confirms that Chicago also enjoyed playing pure jazz at the time. And here they play and sound wonderful, like a compact jazz big band.


Also read the other Chicago series recordings on a Sunday:


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