Feeling inspired by new Chicago material for the fist time in almost two decades.
I know this is the solo album of Jason Scheff and I mean absolutely no disrespect by calling it Chicago material, but I wouldn’t have ever heard of Jason Scheff if it weren’t for Chicago. When someone says they’re a Chicago fan it’s really difficult to understand what they mean by the statement. You have to know there are about 4 versions of Chicago.
There’s the early years where they were a raw experimental rock band with horns. This version offered ripping guitar work and soulful singing of Terry Kath, smooth introspective song writing and singing of Robert Lamm, and the sweet high tenor 70’s pop sound of Peter Cetera. This era brought classics like 25 or 6 to 4, Just You’n Me, Make Me Smile, Colour My World, and a plethora of other ear tingling candy for us horn players and music lovers.
Then you move into the 80’s where David Foster redefined their sound and really created a sound that audiophiles to this day opine about. Yamaha might have made the DX7 synth but David Foster single handily made it the sound of 80’s pop. This version put Peter Cetera and the power ballad up front with the signature horns in the back. This move would eventually prove toxic for many of the band members (the horn players) but for the fans a wider musical menu to choose from when dining in the Chicago kitchen was formed.
When the mid to late 80’s came around you see what in my personal opinion was the best lineup, sound, and vibe the band ever had. You have the new kid Jason Scheff stepping in to replace Cetera who decided to go solo, but you also had a healthy mix of the grit and soul of Bill Champlin being seen more and more. The horns were back in the mix and a really balanced sound was starting to form. Ripping guitar player and super high tenor in Dwayne Bailey came on with the pocket and groove of Tris Imboden on drums. All of this created a kicking band. To me it was the best of both the old Chicago energy and musicianship with the polish and sound of where digital recording and recording techniques had come. The vocal mix between the grit and magic of Champlin’s voice and the sweet high tenor of Scheff made for some great vocals during that time period. Then as time past music taste began to change, Chicago became a caricature of itself.
By the late 90’s and early 2000’s it was clear they were becoming a tribute band of themselves. The shows were still good and they were still great musicians but no new music, no new sounds, no new period. This after awhile had to take a toll on the members. All the way to where the current day line up has only 3 original members and no vocalist except for Robert Lamm that was even in the band when they were still recording hits. There’s a Chicago cover band out of Russia that is now all over YouTube that has a more authentic “Chicago Sound” than the actual current Chicago line up does today. And that’s what brings me to this new album.
I really was expecting to hear just another “greatest hit” attempt by a former member, but WOW!! I was happily WRONG. This album rocks and for all the right reasons. Yes there are some old songs from Chicago’s 80’s hit list but they’re fresh and very tasteful. To hear the grit and magic of Bill Champlin with Jason’s smooth pop tenor voice recorded again just feels right. The new songs recorded and written are top shelf. My personal favorite new cut is toss up between the title track 2 and track 4. Jason’s tip of the hat to the pre-Scheff Chicago on track 6 is also very nice.
Listen to these songs, especially if you dig the Chicago 18, 19, and 21 era. I think you will be really pleased with this album.
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