|THE VERY BEST OF CHICAGO, ONLY THE BEGINNING
Release Date: 2002
Cover Design: Flowers with Gardening Tools
Proves Cover Theory? No
Becky Rating: IX out of X
TRUTH IN ADVERTISING
To paraphrase Popeye, this am what it am: a 39-song two-CD collection of all Chicago's Top 40 hits save one, with a few favorite extras thrown in.
The comprehensive, career-retrospective greatest hits CD collection is a millennial phenomenon, spurred no doubt by the amazing success of Beatles One. Elvis, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, the Bee Gees, the Who, James Taylor, Elton John, Steely Dan, Barry Manilow, Luther Vandross, Hall and Oates, even my beloved KC and the Sunshine Band...the list of artists who have been honored with these favorites-only CDs is long and impressive. When Rhino Records bought the rights to the Chicago back catalogue, it was inevitable that we would see this sort of CD for Chicago, and anyone who purchases it will not be sorry they did.
"VBO," as fans call it, presents, in rough chronological order, the radio hits of Chicago from 1971 through 1991. Newcomers to Chicago can trace the evolution of the band from horn-blasting radicals in the early '70s to megastars in the late '70s to Peter Cetera's backup band in the early '80s to keyboard-driven balladeers in the late '80s. Here is the exuberance of "Make Me Smile," the harshness of "Free," the fun of "Saturday in the Park," the introspection of "I've Been Searching So Long" and the retrospection (is that a word?) of "Old Days." Later, as the songs got a little more samey, you'll find the beauty of the music track of "No Tell Lover," the comeback of "Love Me Tomorrow," the straightforward love lyrics of "What Kind of Man Would I Be." Can you think of any other band that has been successful with five different lead singers?
The extras include an early cover of "I'm a Man," Peter Cetera's Latin-tinged masterpiece "Happy Man," the quiet "Take Me Back to Chicago," and a fun cover of the old Benny Goodman classic "Sing Sing Sing" with the Gipsy Kings.
I would be given hell if I didn't mention the one radio hit left off this CD, Robert Lamm's near-novelty tribute to a fellow pianist, "Harry Truman." Some say it was omitted as to not offend music buyers in Japan; some say it's because of the odd sound of the song. It really isn't missed, and if you want to hear it that badly, invest in a copy of Chicago VIII.
VBO made the Top Forty on release in 2002, thus insuring Chicago membership in a select club of artists who have had Top Forty albums in five consecutive decades.
You can't go wrong with this CD set. It makes great road-trip listening as well as a great gift. For the newcomer to Chicago, or for the person who's been a fan since 1969, this CD provides the best overall perspective on what made Chicago an indelible part of the American rock and pop scenes.
(c) 2003 Becky Banfield for Dos Gardenias Productions