Chicago began delivering its infectious – and still unsuccessfully copied – sound of pop-rock merged with horns in a ‘Big Band Rock’ sound, around 1969. On their first album, the public took to it right away adorning the album with hits like” Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?,” “Beginnings,” and “Questions 67 and 68,” thus making it a best-seller after dishing off several million copies. That success continued for many, many years and over many albums. It’s no surprise that, on the band’s 40th Anniversary – they began as a unit in 1967 – they would celebrate by releasing a 2CD retrospective.
Not that those don’t exist.
Rhino compiled a similar 2CD set in 2002, actually one-upping this release by including the excellent and still timely “Dialogue (Part 1 & 2)” from their equally excellent Chicago V, even if only the single edit. As an aside, I am incredibly displeased that “Dialogue” continually gets ignored in the band’s primary collections, this one included, save for 2002’s Only the Beginning, and 1998’s Volume II of The Heart of Chicago (the only full-bore cut of the song on a collection that I know of). 1981’s Greatest Hits Volume II included it but cut it to the bone making it a ‘does not count’ inclusion.
Most of the songs that you know are here. Disc One is filled to the edges with classic early Chicago hits leading up to 1976’s Chicago X – Chicago has a penchant for using numbering conventions for their albums, the lone shocker being Hot Streets (1978). Disc Two adds another 15 tracks, many from what the band referred to as “the hornless years.” The times were changing and it was decided to put the horns away to stay viable and to stay on the radio during the ‘80s. They “wouldn’t want to be swept away, far away…”, to borrow from one of their songs and so resorted to strong piano compositions for their hits.
The music has been remastered for this release, which might be a compelling enough reason for some to acquire. What additionally adds to this 40th Anniversary collection, differing from the better compiled, but less up-to-date From the Beginning ‘best of’, are the inclusions of “Here in My Heart,” a Reprise promo single from 1997, used on their 1997 The Heart of Chicago compile, and two Adult Contemporary charters from their Chicago XXX (Rhino – 2006) album, “Feel,” and “Love Will Come Back.” “Feel” has a remarkably current sound, feeling right at home in today’s youth market, while “Love Will Come Back” fits in the AC market perfectly. My hat is off to Chicago for sounding so spectacular 40 years later.
The 20-page booklet is filled with track-by-track commentary by various members of the band, notes by Bill DeYoung, song credits and charting info, plus a nice collage of potential album covers featuring the Chicago logo. I’ve always found it fascinating to see how Chicago would showcase their logo across each new album cover. And they never disappointed in their quest to come up with something interesting. For those who need more, like myself, they include it; a nice and subtle addition in several pages of Chicago logo displays.
Chicago has deservedly enjoyed a wonderful career thus far…but why they have to diss “Dialogue” so consistently, I’ll never know.