Bought two CDs the other day: “Chicago: The Very Best of: Only the Beginning.”
Man! I love this disk!! If you have been looking for just ONE Chicago CD to own, this should be it.
Some of you who know my music may be surprised to find that for many years of my life, I was a HUGE Chicago fan. I still am. They’re not making as much music as they once did, of course, but I’m still a fan…
This two-CD anthology traces their career all the way back to “the beginning.” It’s got every hit that ever made it on to the charts for them. This is important, because their “Greatest Hit” collections usually center on the MONSTER hits. This one includes everything that ever charted for them…which is most of the songs in this collection. The CD has a great synopsis of their career, and really intricate liner notes about each song, and where it finished on the charts.
Here are some of Chicago’s stats:
— Five consecutive number one albums
— 20 Top Ten Singles
— Fifteen platinum albums
— Thirty -seven songs that charted at some level over the years.
I was always a HUGE fan. I am the proud owner of every single one of Chicago’s studio releases… That’s 21 LPs.
Significant for me, is the inclusion of songs like “Happy Man,” and “Another Rainy Day in New York City.” Those were always favorites of mine, but I didn’t know anyone else liked them. The collection also has some early songs like “Questions 67 and 68, “I’m a Man,” and “Free.”
One of my very favorite pieces of music is the “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon,” from Chicago II. Many folks don’t realize that “Make Me Smile” and “Color My World” were both lifted from this longer work. I love to listen to the whole thing. (It’s NOT on this hits collection, btw…) Can you imagine ANY band putting out a fifteen minute song today?!
I know, I know…a lot of folks will slam them for going for the cheap ballads during the later years. And those ballads certainly aren’t my own personal favorites. But, it seems to me you have to admire a group that can just last that long….a group that can have top ten smash hits in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. The set of folks who did that is very, very small.
I, for one, never begrudge artists for changing with the times, and doing what they can to get their stuff out there. The music business is pretty tough, and that kind of longevity really IS rare.
So anyway, I’ve been really digging this compilation, and really enjoying going down memory lane.
Those who don’t know their earlier as well may be surprised to find that they had a lot of
politically edgy stuff back in the day. A song called “Song for Richard and His Friends,” was a scathing anti-war anthem during the Vietnaam era.
There was a great interview of Robert Lamm and James Pankow a couple of years back in Performing Songwriter Magazine. Here’s a transcript of the entire interview.
Another song that is bitingly political, but most folks don’t get, is “Dialogue (Parts I and II)” from Chicago V. For some reason, the song didn’t make it on the first “Greatest Hits” compilation, despite the fact that it climbed to #24 on the charts at the time. The positive-feeling music masks some really biting lyrics. And I thought I’d post them for you today. Because, it strikes me that in a lot of ways, we’re right back in the same place again. There are so many folks out there today who think the world is “just fine.” There are many more of us who think we’ve never been in a bigger mess.
So, take a look at the lyrics. In the original song, Terry Kath asks all the questions, and Peter Cetera gives the answers. I like to imagine that George W Bush is giving the answers today:
Dialogue, by Chicago
Are you optimistic ’bout the way things are going?
No, I never ever think of it at all
Don’t you ever worry
When you see what’s going down?
No, I try to mind my business, that is, no business at all
When it’s time to function as a feeling human being
Will your Bachelor of Arts help you get by?
I hope to study further, a few more years or so
I also hope to keep a steady high
Will you try to change things
Use the power that you have, the power of a million new ideas?
What is this power you speak of and this need for things to change?
I always thought that everything was fine
Don’t you feel repression just closing in around?
No, the campus here is very, very free
Don’t it make you angry the way war is dragging on?
Well, I hope the President knows what he’s into, I don’t know
Don’t you ever see the starvation in the city where you live
All the needless hunger all the needless pain?
I haven’t been there lately, the country is so fine
But my neighbors don’t seem hungry ’cause they haven’t got the time
Thank you for the talk, you know you really eased my mind
I was troubled by the shapes of things to come
Well, if you had my outlook your feelings would be numb
You’d always think that everything was fine”
Part two is still true, despite how many naive people there are out there:
“We can make it happen
We can change the world now
We can save the children
We can make it better
We can make it happen
We can save the children
We can make it happen”