REVIEW: Chicago’s “Now (Chicago XXXVI)”

 photo ChicagoXXXVI_cover_zps4edadbaa.jpg 45 years after they recorded and released their Chicago Transit Authority debut album, Chicago continue to make music and tour actively. We know the group have gone through their pop phase, and yet they know what makes them an unstoppable force: their songs. Now (Chicago XXXVI) is, of course, their 36th album so what type of music are they playing these days? It’s a mixture of what made their 80’s work such a success, so it does have that jazzy smoothness but it works beautifully because of the amazing horn arrangements of James Pankow, Walter Parazaider, and Lee Loughnane. Vocally, Jason Scheff has been underrated for too long but his strengths are heard throughout, showing he has been more than capable of being his own singer in his own right. Robert Lamm is the last original voice left in the band, but he shows why he remains. There are times in “More Will Be Revealed” where he adds a grit not unlike the late Terry Kath, which might surprise a few people but it’s there and it’s more than welcome. They bring back their political side once more in “America”, which will be interesting for those who are only familiar with their pop hits.

There are other songs that sound like a throwback to Chicago VII or Chicago XI, while other songs also focus on what made Chicago 18 and Chicago 19 stand out too. Overall, you could say Now (Chicago XXXVI) should easily be alongside Santana’s late 90’s pop success, as it is that kind of album. We know what Chicago are capable of doing, we also know what they enjoy doing, and everything that has made them a damn good band is in abundance. You want the pop, you want the grooves, you want the ballads, all here. Don’t expect “A Hit By Varese” or “Southern California Purples”, but if you have enjoyed what Chicago have done in the pop world, you will find this album to hold up to those albums quite well. In fact, you might discover this is better than those album.

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