Becky's Reviews of Chicago Albums, CTA through 17
Release Date: 1984
Cover Design: Wrapped Package, tied with string
Proves Cover Theory?: Yes
Becky Rating: VI out of X
THAT'S IT FOR THE OTHER ONES
One one hand, Chicago 17 was the easiest of the Chicago albums for me to review. I could have just written "Uptempo songs, great, ballads, yuk" and left it at that. On the other hand, Chicago 17 was the most difficult of the Chicago albums for me to review. It had the misfortune to be released in the middle of the worst time of my life, my college years, and many of the songs (particularly Hard Habit to Break) bring back very unpleasant memories for me.
Anyways...the music. Like 16, this is a very '80s sound, with synthesized keyboards, synth bass, and drum machines. The drum machines, in particular, get very irritating. The horns pop up where appropriate, but again, I'm never sure if it's real horns or synths, especially on Along Comes A Woman. Can you tell?
The up-tempo songs on 17 are great. Please Hold On (co-written with Lionel Richie!) and Only You are both funk-lite tunes with snappy horn parts that don't overpower the vocals. Robert Lamm and Bill Champlin trade vocal parts in Only You, and it really works. We Can Stop The Hurting also spotlights the horns at one point. You almost have to ask yourself, though, how the band that once sang "We can change the world now, we can make it happen" now just shrugs its shoulders and says "We can stop the hurting, for a while." Times change, I guess.
Peter Cetera contributes three nice up-tempo songs: Along Comes A Woman (remember its Indiana Jones-like video?), Prima Donna (another one which should have been a hit), and the album's opener, Stay the Night. This one is a rocker, albeit a synth-rocker, and also featured a memorable video, in which Peter chases a fast-driving woman, and two of the band members play motorcycle cops. "Police! Always police!" I remember saying out loud the first time I saw the video in 1984. I was glad to see Chicago continue the police-chase picture motif they started back on the VIII poster.
Unfortunately, two of the biggest hits from 17 were horrid ballads, Hard Habit to Break and You're the Inspiration, both of which no doubt have been played to death on those late night dedication call-in shows on Lite-FM radio. To paraphrase Roger Ebert, You're The Inspiration is one of the few songs that does not improve on the same amout of time listening to silence. I hate hate hate hate this song.
Finally, Cetera gives us another cringe-inducing moment with his pronunciation of "emotions" on Remember The Feeling. What's with the Pittsburghese vowels, Peter?
Overall, 17 is a decent album, especially if you program out the ballads. I originally rated it a VII, the same as 16, but took off one point just for bad timing. Sorry, gang.
We all know what happened in the wake of 17. In the summer of 1985, Peter Cetera left Chicago for a successful solo career, bringing to an end the Good Parts Version of Chicago. They would continue to record and tour, with a new high-voiced bassist, and even would have one or two more hits, but for those of us who loved the powerful horns, relevant lyrics, and strong rhythm section of the Old Days, it wouldn't be the same.
(c) 2001 Becky Banfield for Dos Gardenias Productions