Chicago – Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix) (1970/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:07:17 minutes | 1,36 GB | Genre: Rock
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Rhino – Warner Records
More than 40 years after its debut, Chicago II still sounds like nothing else. Released in 1970, Chicago’s second album brims with confidence and inspiration as it draws on everything from orchestral music to heavy rock. Although it never affected the record’s popularity – it peaked at #4 on the album chart and spawned a trio of Top Ten hits – many fans have longed for a more-nuanced mix. That wish is about to come true with a new stereo version created by British musician and producer Steven Wilson.
Chicago II has been remixed before, but never like this. For the first time, a stereo remix from the 16-track multi-track tapes made it possible for Steven Wilson to bring out elements that were muffled or submerged in the mix. The result is a new stereo version of Chicago II that boasts clearness, punch and definition that it didn’t have before.
Wilson explains: “Working with high-resolution 96K/24 bit digitally transferred files, I had every element from the recording sessions isolated, which meant I was able to rebuild the mix from the drums upwards, recreating as closely as I could the equalization, stereo placement, reverbs, other effects, and volume changes of each individual instrument or vocal – but at the same time looking to gain definition and clarity in the overall sound.
In 1969, Chicago recorded the band’s follow-up to their debut album, Chicago Transit Authority (voted 2014 into the Grammy Hall of Fame). When it arrived in January 1970, Chicago II became an instant sensation. Principal composers, James Pankow and Robert Lamm, emerged further as the band’s source of Top Ten hits for the group, including “Make Me Smile” and “Colour My World,” as well as “25 or 6 to 4,” which peaked at #4 and has become one of the band’s signature songs. Terry Kath, Robert Lamm, Lee Loughnane, James Pankow, Walter Parazaider, also Danny Seraphine and Peter Cetera … somehow found time (while touring the world behind the success of “CTA”) to prepare another double LP album.
“So rich was their creative seam at the time that, like their debut, and the album that followed this one, it was a two record set,” says Wilson. “In fact, with unprecedented boldness the run of double albums was only broken by their fourth which was a quadruple (live) set! I consider all of these albums to be classics, but perhaps Chicago II is the pre-eminent masterpiece. It’s got everything: moments of tender beauty to power riffs and scorched-earth jazz-rock, catchy melodies and gorgeous vocal harmonies. When I first heard it as a teenager I was captivated by the mixture of jazz, blues, pop, classical, progressive and heavy rock styles, including both improvisational elements and intricate arrangements, and by songs written and sung by several different members, all with their own unique personality. How could that possibly hang together?! But it does, and brilliantly so.”
The album, which was certified platinum by the RIAA, soon after its release, also highlighted some of the band’s most ambitious work, such as the 13-minute song cycle “Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon,” composed by James Pankow, as well as “Memories Of Love,” a Terry Kath song, arranged for orchestra by Peter Matz. Chicago’s lasting musical impact was recognized in April of 2016, with their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The Chicago Transit Authority recorded this double-barreled follow-up to their eponymously titled 1969 debut effort. The contents of Chicago II (1970) underscore the solid foundation of complex jazz changes with heavy electric rock & roll that the band so brazenly forged on the first set. The septet also continued its ability to blend the seemingly divergent musical styles into some of the best and most effective pop music of the era. One thing that had changed was the band’s name, which was shortened to simply Chicago to avoid any potential litigious situations from the city of Chicago’s transportation department — which claimed the name as proprietary property. Musically, James Pankow (trombone) was about to further cross-pollinate the band’s sound with the multifaceted six-song “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon.” The classically inspired suite also garnered the band two of its most beloved hits — the upbeat pop opener “Make Me Smile” as well as the achingly poignant “Color My World” — both of which remained at the center of the group’s live sets. Chicago had certainly not abandoned its active pursuit of blending high-octane electric rockers such as “25 or 6 to 4” to the progressive jazz inflections heard in the breezy syncopation of “The Road.” Adding further depth of field is the darker “Poem for the People” as well as the politically charged five-song set titled “It Better End Soon.” These selections feature the band driving home its formidable musicality and uncanny ability to coalesce styles telepathically and at a moment’s notice. The contributions of Terry Kath (guitar/vocals) stand out as he unleashes some of his most pungent and sinuous leads, which contrast with the tight brass and woodwind trio of Lee Loughnane (trumpet/vocals), Walter Parazaider (woodwinds/vocals), and the aforementioned Pankow. Peter Cetera (bass/vocals) also marks his songwriting debut — on the final cut of both the suite and the album — with “Where Do We Go from Here.” It bookends both with at the very least the anticipation and projection of a positive and optimistic future. –AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer
01. Chicago – Movin’ In (04:05)
02. Chicago – The Road (03:09)
03. Chicago – Poem For The People (05:34)
04. Chicago – In The Country (06:34)
05. Chicago – Wake Up Sunshine (02:32)
06. Chicago – Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon: Make Me Smile (03:15)
07. Chicago – Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon: So Much To Say, So Much To Give (01:11)
08. Chicago – Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon: Anxiety’s Moment (01:00)
09. Chicago – Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon: West Virginia Fantasies (01:34)
10. Chicago – Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon: Colour My World (03:00)
11. Chicago – Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon: To Be Free (01:14)
12. Chicago – Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon: Now More Than Ever (01:25)
13. Chicago – Fancy Colours (05:09)
14. Chicago – 25 Or 6 To 4 (04:57)
15. Chicago – Memories of Love: Prelude (01:09)
16. Chicago – Memories of Love: A.M. Mourning (02:06)
17. Chicago – Memories of Love: P.M. Mourning (01:58)
18. Chicago – Memories of Love: Memories Of Love (03:59)
19. Chicago – It Better End Soon: 1st Movement (02:32)
20. Chicago – It Better End Soon: 2nd Movement (03:40)
21. Chicago – It Better End Soon: 3rd Movement (03:18)
22. Chicago – It Better End Soon: 4th Movement (00:56)
23. Chicago – Where Do We Go From Here (02:49)
Peter Cetera – bass, lead & backing vocals
Terry Kath – electric & acoustic guitars, lead & backing vocals
Robert Lamm – piano, Hammond organ, Hohner Pianet, lead & backing vocals
Lee Loughnane – trumpet, flugelhorn, background vocals
James Pankow – trombone, brass arrangements
Walter Parazaider – saxophones, flute, clarinet, background vocals
Danny Seraphine – drums, percussion
Peter Matz – orchestrations and co-arrangements on “Memories of Love” (“Prelude”, “A.M. Mourning”, “P.M. Mourning”)