Sunday, August 10, 2014
CHICAGO: "XXXVI Now"
Label: Frontiers 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom
"Cause Now! This is the time we must start living in". Really? Formed in 1967 and with 36 albums under their belt, I believe the main question on every body's lips: Are they simply just timeless or completely out of touch? Perhaps we should give Hall & Oates a ring? Nah. Why bother? File this under easy listening with marvelous backing and lead vocals and their horn section at full swing. Peter Cetera and Bill Champlin are long gone and so are most of their AOR-infused melodies of the eighties and early nineties. Not necessarily a bad thing... but in this case... maybe.
'XXXVI Now' is yacht rock and ships in the same way as Barry Manilow is (to) Mandy. Not quite sure which way to turn? Or do they turn both ways? I don't know. Never mind the previous sentence. There are however no upbeat, uptempo, numbers to be found such as '25 To 6 or 4' and it's all very safe and middle of the road with few stand out tracks. Does it sound like a million bucks? Absolutely. Lamm and co. are truly professionals and this particular line-up (including newbies but veteran musicians Walfredo Reyes, Jr. and Lou Pardini) hit all the perfect notes from the word go. That's if you're into ultra smooth U.S. elevator music.
I have this love/hate relationship with Chicago and I believe that you can't beat their mid/late 80s sound. I do enjoy some of their more upbeat 70's stuff and XXXVI unfortunately feels like neither to be honest. Which sort of make sense since it's 2014. However, to each good tune, there's at least one dodgy. Opening track "Now" is glossy, laid-back music and probably my fave along with "More Will Be Revealed", "Naked In The Garden Of Allah", and the Earth, Wind & Fire sounding "Free At Last". The utterly cheesy and patriotic 'America' is beyond silly and several other tracks does not rock my Yacht.
File this under West Coast, Yacht Rock, Soft Rock? Elevator? or simply just Chicago? Yeah. The latter will do just fine. P.S. The perfect Yacht Rock album in my humble opinion - the Christopher Cross debut.