Becky's Reviews of Chicago Albums, CTA through 17
Release Date: 1976
Cover Design: Chocolate Bar
Proves Cover Theory?: One of the two best examples of a great cover with bad music, the other being 13
Becky Rating: III out of X
Whoooooo, doggies, does this one stink! As yummy as that chocolate bar looks is as bad as this album is. In my opinion, Chicago X is the band's worst album with Terry Kath and possibly is their worst album of the entire Good Parts Version.
Since we're up to Album X, let's get started with: Top X Things I'd Rather Listen To Than Chicago X
X. Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music
What's so bad about it? Poor songs, mostly. Skin Tight is probably James Pankow's worst song to date - compare it to the much superior Ohio Players song by the same name. The second side of X is littered with wimpy, stupid throwaways like Gently I'll Wake You, You Get It Up, and Mama Mama. Terry Kath - composer of Byblos, Jenny, and An Hour in the Shower - is reduced to repeating various permutations of "I don't know." Strings pop up everywhere, particularly on the infamous future Pets.com commercial, If You Leave Me Now. Peter Cetera affects a ridiculous Latin accent in Another Rainy Day in New York City. This would never be allowed today! Speaking of strange vocals, who told those horn players they could sing? Sure, both can carry a tune, but they don't have lead-quality voices.
There are two very good songs on X. "Once or Twice," which opens the album, is a vintage rocker that features a nice Walt Parazaider saxophone solo. "Scrapbook" is one of the few self-referential Chicago songs that WORKS - the horns get some great lines, and Laudir de Oliveira adds some wonderful percussion that doesn't stick out. Lyrically, it recalls highlights of the band's career, similar to "Truckin'" for the Grateful Dead. It's interesting that, when the Terry Kath tribute CD was put together, these were the only two X cuts included.
This album sold millions when it was released in 1976, and If You Leave Me Now was Chicago's first Number 1 hit in the fall of that year. It certainly didn't hurt that X has a great cover, which won a much-deserved Grammy for Best Album Packaging. The inside jacket features yet another police-chase scene: a funny picture of the entire band trying to escape town on one motorcycle, as a police officer runs after them, brandishing his club. Maybe he was upset that the album was so bad?
It gets better, folks. I promise.
(c) 2001 Becky Banfield for Dos Gardenias Productions