Thursday, January 06, 2005

For any fans of the rock group Chicago, here's a review I did on Amazon [with links inserted for this blog] for Robert Lamm's 2003 album, Subtlety and Passion:
Robert Lamm is one of the creative voices behind Chicago, the band that revolutionized pop/rock music in the 1970s. While Chicago has not released an album of original music since 1991 (the unreleased, yet still awfully good 1994 Stone of Sisyphus is widely available online as a bootleg), Lamm has become a de facto solo artist, releasing several albums in the past decade. None, however, had that stamp of Chicago, which endeared him to legions of fans. Although members of Chicago are quite close-mouthed about the rationale, it appears that there will be no new new album of Chicago originals for quite some time, if ever. Lamm makes up for it, however, with his 2003 collection, "Subtlety and Passion."

Featuring several members of Chicago, this album is, more or less, what a new Chicago release could have been. Opening with "I Could Tell You Secrets" Lamm sings that "All things are connected, much more than we suspected, nothing is by chance, how would you know." True words, here. Reading between the lines, and reviewing the online session notes, reveals that several of the S&P tunes were demoed for a Chicago release in 2001. Clearly, when the group failed to get its act together, Lamm went ahead and did his own thing.

Other highlights of this collection include "Somewhere Girl," which includes a nifty horn break with some some 6:8 measures thrown in for good measure, "Another Sunday," a wistful look at dreams once had and still hoped for, "Gimme Gimme," a biting and gutsy look at the plethora of awards shows and competitions, and "For You Kate," a sweet but not sappy love song to his daughter.

Lee Loughnane, Chicago's trumpet-meister, plays throughout the record, with appearances also by Walt Parazaider and James Pankow, Chicago's reed and trombone men. The horn arrangements, although often written by others, are pure Chicago in style, tone and composition. And, in a techno-achievement reminiscent of the Beatles recording new songs over old John Lennon demos, Lamm and producer-co-writer-co-performer Hank Linderman have taken a 1972 Chicago demo called "Intensity" with a Terry Kath guitar break, and constructed a contemporary song around that solo. Touches in this song remind the listener of Chicago in its best period, with horn riffs straight out of Chicago VI and VIII, and even an audio artifact at the beginning of the song that sounds just like the beginning of "What's This World Coming To," off VI. Definitely cool.

The best part of S&P, however, is that -- finally -- one of the sources of the Chicago sound has given us the next best thing to a Chicago-in-its-heyday album, full of hope, full of musicality, and full of promise of things to come. At this late date, and with the principals approaching and passing age 60 (scroll down), we may never see or hear the Chicago that got us excited years ago. Robert Lamm's "Subtlety and Passion" comes close, however.This is the best composition, performance and horn work on a Chicago (or proto-Chicago) record since Chicago XIV, released in 1980. Any fan of Chicago, or horn driven rock and roll, must have this album.

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