Still Making Music, Rich Paschall
There are not too many bands from the 1960s still going strong. Those that are, live on the hits they made in the past. Chicago, the band, however, still finds time to write new songs and get new music out there. Early on in the pandemic Robert Lamm, a founding member of Chicago worked with Jim Peterik, author of our top “One Hit Wonders” of 1970, “Vehicle” by Ides of March, to create a new Chicago song. The two shared sound files back and forth across the internet and added in Chicago vocalist Neil Donell along the way.
After the tune took shape, they put in the magic touch of Chicago horns for the unique sound we know so well. This time the message is “Everything Is Gonna Work Out Fine.” With all that is going on in the country, they want you to know there are some positive signs too.
The song is on Spotify and iTunes and probably others by now. You will also find two versions on YouTube. Jim Peterek is singing on the Duet version.
The band has not sat idle during this time. They have done some live Zoom concerts with all of the band members playing from different locations. Modern technology is keeping live concerts alive. Lamm does not feel there will be concert tours this year, although the band is still showing on their website some performances later this year. Do not be surprised if they are rescheduled into next year.
Last year we received a new Chicago Christmas album that included some original tunes. The band would also consider that album as Chicago XXXVII. It was the first new album since Chicago “Now” came out on CD and various digital platforms.
In 2014 Chicago did something most older bands are reluctant to do. They put out a new studio album of original music entitled “Chicago NOW.” Legendary bands with staying power such as Chicago make their living off their faithful fans at live performances as well as sales of merchandise including older albums. They know that only a select handful of older bands can actually sell new singles and albums. The buying public for new music is mainly in the 13 to 34 age bracket and many of them tend to stream music rather than actually buy it. The main buyers of CDs are in the 45 and over category, but they are buying “catalog” music, or that is to say, classics from their favorite artists of the past.
Studio time can be expensive, both in terms of the studio cost and the lost concert performance time. A touring band like Chicago, who spends most of the year on the road, does not like the idea of stopping for an extended length of time. But Chicago is not ready to stop composing and recording, so how do they tour and record? The answer came with a new recording system they call “The Rig.” They have pushed the technology forward with a portable system so good, they record as they travel. Much of Chicago NOW was done in hotel rooms across the country and around the world.
Founding member and trumpet player, Lee Loughnane, took charge of the project to put out a new album without stopping the show, so to speak. Each composer of a song got to act as producer for his entry to the album and various band members helped with arrangements as well as select musicians from outside the group. Chicago not only recorded on the move, but they did not all have to be there at once. Members would record their parts at different times. Hank Linderman, a long time studio engineer, was the coordinating producer. A “collaboration portal” was set up and tracks were sent at all times from Chicago and contributing musicians. The result is a stunning contribution to the Chicago catalog and worthy of their best early efforts.
The title track, released as a download prior to the album début, has now worked its way into the current tour performances. Written by Greg Barnhill and Chicago band member Jason Scheff, the number was produced and arranged by Scheff. It is an energetic start to the album. Scheff also contributed “Love Lives On” and is co-composer to founding member Robert Lamm’s song, “Crazy Happy.”
While the horns section technically remains intact with founding members Lee Loughnane on trumpet and James Pankow on trombone, founding member and woodwind player Walt Parazaider appears in the videos but in fact, only played on three of the recordings. Now at age 75, a variety of health issues in recent years has limited Parazaider’s time on the road. Long time fill-in Ray Herrmann is also credited on three of the songs, though he was not listed as a band member at that time. While Herrmannn is now a frequent performer, the audience does not always realize it. From a distance he somewhat resembles Walt. Other sax players contributed to the album as well.
Guitar player Keith Howland sings the song he composed with Scheff and drummer Tris Imboden, “Nice Girl.” He also contributes, along with Imboden to Lamm’s “Free at Last.” As expected, Lamm leads the way on this album, being credited with lead vocals on six of the songs and background vocals on others.
Previously, I wrote about “America” which was released the autumn before Chicago 36. It appears on the album as well. Lou Pardini drives home the song and the social commentary on lead vocal and keyboards. Also on percussion for the band is Walfredo Reyes, Jr., a more recent addition to the Chicago lineup, a talented nine guys at the time of Chicago XXXVI. There are currently 10 official band members.
Chicago in Chicago, August 2014