George Starostin's Reviews



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mark wells <> (31.01.2006)

I've been playing all sorts of music since I was 15 and am 60 and still playing. I believe Chicago will be remembered as one of the greatest and Terry Kath will have his day in the sun as a great guitarist. Stop bashing Chicaco's recordings. Some people don't know their ass from a hole in the ground about music.


Ted Goodwin <> (26.08.2002)

Glad to see you review something from this band, and hope to see you do more (even though the band REALLY went downhill after a while). Quite an apt review -- you practically read my mind with your comment about "Liberation" ("doesn't get us anywhere we haven't already been over the preceding hour"). Just a few other thoughts:

"Listen" - Love that weird brass arrangement near the end!

"Poem 58" - What possessed them to give a 3-minute song a 5-minute jam intro? But who cares? I love it!

"I'm A Man" - The only cover tune to be found among the band's output for their first 20-odd years, this was originally a 3-minute single by the Spencer Davis Group (i.e., pre-Traffic Steve Winwood). What's funny is that Chicago has most of the lyrics totally wrong! They must have played the original record a couple of times and scribbled down what they heard. I wonder if there was anything else they could have done, and if they would have sung the correct lyrics had they known them (the line they sing as "my body's pretty strong" should be "my toilet's trimmed with gold"!).

Brian Sittinger <> (28.08.2002)

I'm glad you finally got around to this album. This is definitive proof that Chicago actually could rock at one time! There are many jams on here; some are better than others. I really like their take on "I'm A Man"; this definitely throws the Traffic version out of the window, with or without the drum solo. "Freeform Guitar" is definitely excessive. Somehow, you explained the appeal to "Beginnings" thta I could never figure out. Yeah! And, a final note: Jimi Hendrix did praise Terry Kath's playing during this time peiod: ****!

Ryan Maffei <> (30.08.2002)

Holy shitmongerchristwow! (Patent pending on the previous word)! You're reviewing a band that's unquestionably unoriginal and subpar! Wow! The lyrics really don't work too well on this record (a direction Robert Lamm would pursue heinously on later records) and garrulous and indulgent jams and too-far half-developed song structures are abound everywhere! I'll admit it has some merits as far as how engaging it is goes, and I enjoyed it despite myself upon first listening to it because it sounded like the band were actually as serious about themselves as were Blood, Sweat and Tears (whose self-titled second release I still can enjoy), but just thinking about Chicago II and Chicago III (let's not even go farther than that) makes me shudder in my sleep whenever I hear a James Pankow chart seep through the radio! I'm really depressed now!

Um, anyway, a 7/10 for this one. But don't bother to ask me about the later ones, and if you have to hear them, George, may God be with you through each tedious, overstuffed double-record set.

Brian Donovan <> (04.12.2002)

Chicago was certainly one of those bands that probably made their first effort their best. A combination of having built up material in the long lead up to getting that record contract and James William Guercio not yet having had time to wreak his magic.

That being said, I still get a special thrill listening to "Introduction," particularly when Kath's solo ends and the horns come back in. Back in the early 70s this would be playing in my mind as the car came down off the Skyway Bridge and onto the Dan Ryan when my folks drove to Chicago. Then the change to the quiet of Lamm's piano intro, then into another big tune, "Does Anybody Really.Know What Time It Is?" and I always think of my dad when I hear that. He was a trumpet player and amidst all the hard rock I was bringing home he'd look at me and say, "hey, I like that one!"

Kath was really all over the place on this one. I liked "Free Form Guitar" a lot. Wonder if we could get Adrian Belew to cover it?

After Live At Carnegie Hall I started to lose track of this band, although I'd hear their hits on the radio like everyone else, well into the 80s. I believe they're still active, too. Four to four-and-a-half.

Tony Souza <> (05.03.2003)

Long before they turned into a blah-sounding, generic ballad band, they actually made some good records early in their career with their debut being by far the best. Lyrically it may not be anything to write home about, but musically they rocked harder and played with more energy on this one than any other album they have since released. There are no cringe-inducing ballads on this one ("Beginnings" might have trite lyrics, but it's still a good, up tempo song nonetheless) and Kath's guitar dominates throughout showing he was the best thing about this band. This is their best effort at combining a jamming ethic while still retaining a catchiness to most of their songs.

<> (24.03.2003)

One of the finest albums to come out in the last thirty something years. I don't know if it's right to say that Chicago "stole" their sound from Blood Sweat and Tears or not. One thing that needs mentioning though is that a guitar player turned producer by the name of James William Guercio produced both bands and was the brainchild behind Chicago. Maybe he had the "if I can do it once, I can do it again" attitude. Who knows? Both bands were great, that's all I know. Terry Kath gets my vote as the most underrated guitar player of all time. If he didn't choose to be in a big band with horns and all, he would've gotten the respect he so richly deserves. If that wasn't all, he possessed an incredible soulful singing voice. Yes, Hendrix even praised his ability. 'Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is' and 'Beginnings' are from the pen of keyboard player Robert Lamm and are still included in the set list to this day. 'Introduction' starts the show off with the horn section proving that this isn't going to be your average rock record. Peter Cetera had yet to find his songwriting voice, but his vocal on 'Questions 67 and 68' is stellar. My favorite tune has always been 'Poem 58', again from the pen of Robert Lamm. Sounds like they just went in and jammed one day and that tune was born. I do like 'Liberation', it's a very good jam, and 'Free Form Guitar' sounds like they needed some space to fill. The obvious cliche about Chicago is that in all of their double albums, lies one really good single album. I'll be honest, sometimes that's true and sometimes that's not. Well, this is one case where every song is great and it's truly one of the most impressive debuts in the history of rock.

Jason Saenz <> (09.07.2004)

Terry Kath is the most underrated guitar players ever, Clapton could never do anything like that even good ole Mr. Hendrix gave his praises to Kath. The drumming on this album is great!! Seraphine sure know's some good drumming, and this album is proof that Cetera was once a man that cared more about music than being mainstream pop. Good variety in songs and good piano playing, catchy melodies.


Ryan Maffei <> (03.12.2002)

"Wake Up Sunshine" is a "Good Day Sunshine" carbon copy, "25 or 6 to 4" is the only decent thing on here (although I always liked "Movin' In" for the hilariously apologetic lyrics and the laid-back R&B feel of the whole thing), all the lyrics blow and there's nothing else on here worth of any kind of developed or semi-developed critical praise.

Even from me. Wow. A well-deserved 5 for this 'un.

F. T. Goodwin <> (04.12.2002)

Some people consider CHICAGO II the best of the 3 double-LPs that Chicago started with, but it's my least favorite. It's the one that I could most easily visualize being condensed to a single LP.

I've always disliked "Movin' In"; it strikes me as a cheap imitation of "Introduction" from TRANSIT AUTHORITY, plus it has a horrible sax solo. I like "The Road" musically, but the free-groupie-love lyrics are embarrassing. To me, this song and "In The Country" represent the last time Terry Kath wrote for Chicago per se rather than for Terry Kath -- most of his compositions afterwards were essentially solo tracks. "Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon" is a high point for me. (BTW, "Colour My World" is probably the only Chicago hit written by a member who didn't perform on it.) Everything on the 2nd LP except "25 or 6 to 4" and "Where Do We Go From Here" could have been thrown out and I wouldn't have missed it much.

Bonus trivia: This album was originally released as simply CHICAGO but it was renamed CHICAGO II, probably soon after CHICAGO III came out.

<> (04.12.2002)

If I had a dollar for every American high school prom in the 1970s that used "Colour My World" as a theme, I'd be a millionaire.

I think you put your finger on the main problem here, George, as well as their continuous slow decline thereafter: Terry Kath's role on guitar was reduced. I suspect Guercio was one of the culprits: maybe he wanted Chicago to sound more like BS&T (whose second album he had produced, the one with all the hits that won all the Grammys). BS&T didn't feature a lot of guitar at all.

Side One I liked a lot. Side Two, "Wake Up Sunshine" is great but I got sick of the rest because the radio kept playing "Make Me Smile" and "Colour My World" over and over again. Side Three had "25 or 6 to 4" a simple but effective jam, and I agree completely about Side Four, and your overall rating for that matter.

Steve Potocin <> (04.12.2002)

Gotta tell ya, playing good pop with a horn section is tough to do for a whole record. Chicago, nope [This is their best record though] Blood Sweat&Tears, hell no! The Buckinghams, Hell yes, better songs better vocals and great drumming! Drug bust ended their career in 68

Glenn Wiener <> (31.05.2003)

Terry Kath's role as a guitar player diminished? I think not. Many stunning embellishments and solos exist throughout whether it be the 'It Better End Soon Suite', '25 or 6 To 4', 'Movin' In', or 'In The Country'. Yes the brass is very prominent but balance is the key to the success of this record.

Excellent vocals and varied styles only add to this winner of a Chicago recording. A far cry from the baladeering band that has the nerve to wear the Chicago name!

Steven Knowlton <> (25.06.2003)

That "murderous, treacherous, snake-tongued, vulture-headed rogue villain that persuaded Chicago to make the "double LP" format their default one" was producer James William Guercio. He also established the "anonymous" image of the band: no photos, just logos, and all the albums numbered instead of bearing titles. They were "serious", you see?

Mike Willis <> (07.10.2003)

Hey, I have to take a stand for this one. See, when I first heard this I got the same impression as George here, but as time went on this one really grew on me, and now it is one of my favorite albums. It's not as flashy or immediately gripping as Transit Authority (at least, from a rocker's point of view), but after some time I began to be convinced that there are some really interesting musical ideas going on here, especially during the "Ballet for a Girl in Buchanon" suite (that flute/trumpet interplay in "West Virginia Fantasies" never ceases to amaze me; how does someone write stuff like this?), and nothing goes on for too long. Kath's guitar is in many ways even more impressive than on the first record; there he was going for power, here he is sometimes restrained and more musical ("Poem for the People" comes immediately to mind), sometimes rocking ("25 or 6 to 4") or sometimes some strange combination of the two ("Make Me Smile" and "In the Country"). The horns sound intelligent, the vocals are incredible, the songs are well-presented (if not always particularly well-written); the only thing these guys seriously lacked was lyrical ability. At least, that's my take.

A final note, "Colour My World" may sound simplistic, but it's a serious pain to try and understand musically, especially to me being unfamiliar with jazz patterns, or whatever this is...

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