Becky's Reviews of Chicago Albums, CTA through 17
Release Date: 1973
Cover Design: U.S. Currency (originally printed on real U.S. Treasury paper - very interesting)
Proves Cover Theory: No
Becky Rating: VII out of X
THE QUIET ALBUM
How do you follow up a masterpiece? How do you follow up what for me represents the epitome of Chicago's style? By producing this very quiet, very personal, very good, and very unjustly forgotten album.
VI was the first Chicago album recorded at producer James William Guercio's Caribou Ranch studio in the Colorado Rockies, described by Robert Lamm as a "creative monastery." The relative tranquility of these surroundings is reflected in the musical styles on the album. It's a strongly acoustic effort - there's much more piano on this album than we've heard before. Darlin' Dear and Something In This City Changes People also feature the piano heavily.
By contrast, the horns are very silent (it's almost as if they needed a rest from all the great horn playing on V) and only really stretch out into that famous Chicago style on Hollywood. When there is a horn solo, it's a quiet one - the flute on Something, the soprano sax on Just You 'n' Me. Rediscovery is one of the few Chicago cuts that would actually sound better without the horns.
Terry Kath is relegated to the role of rhythm player on this album. He gets one song to himself in Jenny - a near rewrite of Jimi Hendrix's The Wind Cries Mary. Listen to them back to back if you don't believe me.
Peter Cetera is maddening on VI. He turns in an unintentionally funny song with In Terms of Two. The melody and lyrics are fine, but that Hillbilly Bears harmonica makes me giggle every time. What was he THINKING? Cetera then turns around and plays breathtaking lead jazz bass on Rediscovery and writes and sings one of the band's most memorable hits on Feelin' Stronger Every Day.
Lyrically, Robert Lamm's songs are mostly about the difficulties of his personal and professional lives - dealing with critics, people impressed by his money, Hollywood gossip. You know, stuff the average person can relate to. (Has there EVER been a band as self-referential as Chicago? I don't think so). Kath writes what seems like an ode to his dog, but is actually about false friends. Pankow writes love songs and even attempts a sociopolitical statement in What's This World Comin' To.
Do I listen to VI a lot? Not really. The two big hits (Just You 'n' Me and Feelin' Stronger Every Day) are available elsewhere and are both played constantly on oldies radio, and the album is just a little too quiet for me. I want more horns! But do I like VI when I hear it? Yes. That's why VI ranks a VII in the Becky ratings.
(c) 2001 Becky Banfield for Dos Gardenias Productions