|Chicago XXX||Rhino Records|
In a marketplace saturated with metal, the absence of some classic AOR and Westcoast seems more noticeable. Chicago's long awaited new studio album – their 30th overall release – definitely fills that gap. |
What is most satisfying is the way the band fills that gap. This is a release of the highest quality that is designed not only to satisfy long time fans of the band, but also offer something that might attract new fans looking for something a little more mature to spin when the occasion calls for it.
Divine instrumentation and immaculate production mixed with the sweet harmonies of the band's vocalists make for an album that is very easy to listen to and very easy on the ears.
There is nothing on this album that will surprise anyone familiar with the music of Chicago. But that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. This is exactly what fans of the band want.
The opening track Feel is classic Chicago. Soft keyboards and a subtle but busy rhythm section are dominated by a hearty guitar riff and a powerful lead vocal. At the center of the track is a great hook and one which should find them on radio playlists everywhere.
Two versions are offered – one at each end of the album, but I prefer the closing version. The addition of those Chicago horns in this mix really makes you feel at home.
If Feel left you with any doubt, King Of What Might Have Been and Caroline won't.
The ballad King Of What Might Have Been features Jason Scheff in full vocal swing with Toto's Joseph Williams guesting on backing vocals.
The equally smooth, but more uptempo and radio friendly pop rocker Caroline is another example of why Chicago is the very best at what they do. Another Toto alumni, Bobby Kimball appears as a guest on backing vocals.
Other guests on XXX include guitar great Dann Huff on 6 tracks; country rockers Rascal Flatts on the 80s style pop ballad Love Will Come Back; and Shelly Fairchild on the duet Westcoast ballad Why Can't We.
Other highlights of the album include the Westcoast pop of Long Lost Friend and the catchy double-dose of high-tech AOR in 90 Degrees And Freezing and the even better Where Were You.
Things turn a little jazzier in the last few tracks on the album, but the first two thirds is packed with classy and classic Chicago.
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