aka Chicago XXXVII, Rich Paschall
By now you have probably heard a lot of familiar Christmas music. It might be adding to the background noise at the mall. You may be hearing it in your auto on your Christmas radio station. You could be streaming that station on your computer or mobile device. You may even have a few old albums to put on the turn table or CDs to drop into your “boom box.” Whatever the case, the tunes may have been recycled for many years, even decades as Nat, Bing, Dean, and Burl; Frank, Perry, Gene and Andy, even Judy and Elvis bring you their “classics.” If you know at least 8 last names of the ten just mentioned, you may have heard their tunes a little too often. We have listed our favorites of these in our top ten tunes of Christmas Past, Dead Artists Edition.
It seems like there are about 20 songs in heavy rotation on the Christmas stations with another 20 sprinkled in from time to time. A newer artist might break into the play list this year, but will he or she stay there for long? The pop hit by the millenial artist is likely to fade away as quickly as the current release of the iphone. We always seem to go back to the same handful of tunes. Don’t you wish we could get some new holiday music?
Well, someone has brought along some new Christmas music. In fact they have seven new tunes, eight if you count the R&B and ballad versions of the same song. Chicago the band (not the city) has a new Christmas album. It is the third Christmas album released by the group. Chicago XXV: The Christmas Album was released in 1998 and had 14 tunes. It is one of my favorite holiday albums. Tha arrangements are unmistakably Chicago. It was re-edited and re-released by Rhino records in 2003 as What’s It Gonna Be, Santa, containing a total of 20 songs.
The next holiday album was Chicago XXXIII: O Christmas Three in 2011. Why O Christmas THREE? Perhaps because it is the 33rd album? Maybe because they considered the two previous releases of XXV as two Christmas albums? This time out they don’t just pass aroung the vocals to various band members, as usual. They also have some guest artists, Dolly Parton, Bebe Winans, and America (the band) to join them. Steve Cropper makes a guest appearance on guitar on the only origianl song, Rockin and Rollin on Christmas Day.
When producer and original band member Lee Loughnane (trumpet, vocals) asked band members earlier in the year if they had any original Christmas songs, he expected a contribution or two. Instead, he received more than they could use this time out. If you thought picking the songs was going to be difficult, arranging and recording was going to be more of a challenge. The band was on tour most of the year.
The group decided to use the same method to record this “studio” album as they did for the previous album, Chicago Now. They employed a mobile recording system they referered to as “The Rig.” This allowed them to rehearse and record on the go, utilizing hotel rooms, the tour bus and other stops along the way. Not all band members needed to be present at once, as various tracks could be sent by web portal and mixed later. It worked before and the band proved again that they can use the latest technology to achieve what older bands are reluctant to try; that is, record new albums.
Arranging and recording while continuing to perform means the guys are always working. If you think that “rock with horns” sounds just happens, then we will share a short “making of” video from the band’s You Tube channel. Notice at one point they are rehearsing and recording on the tour bus.
If you want to get the full dose of how it was done, you can watch Chicago Christmas (Making Of) here. This gives a much better insight into the collaborative effort. You see the guys together in a hotel room working out the harmonies and the parts for each. For a “band on the run,” it is the modern way to work.
Along with the seven new songs this time out, there is Sleigh Ride 2019, Here We Come A Caroling and Robert Lamm on a non-Christmas but very timely song, “What The World Needs Now Is Love.” You can add this new one to your play list:
You can find the CD on Amazon, or the band website, or you can download the album. Perhaps you do not want to pay for an album of songs you have not heard. It is not likely the Christmas stations will play them, so the band has a good idea for you. Just as they did for O Christmas Three, Chicago has posted all of the songs on their You Tube channel. You can listen to the entire album here.
The band is making some appearances to promote the new music. You can catch them in the Macy’s Thanksiving Day Parade playing tunes along the parade route.