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Chicago V

An album by Chicago

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The Beatles In Reverse

  • Aug 24, 2010

If all you knew of Chicago (the band) was based solely on their post-1982 output (which consisted primarily of monstrous, hook-friendly hits for the lovelorn that could put the population of many small countries into a Diabetes-induced coma) - than you are missing out on some of the most adventurous and experimental rock ever created by not digging deeper into their earlier catalog.

There is little argument that at their creative peak (1967-1976) the horn-based ensemble redefined and blurred the boundaries of acid rock, jazz fusion and classical composition into an exquisitely intricate string of Top 40 and AOR hits. In the annals of rock history they are, for better or worse, the "Beatles in Reverse."

Whereas the Lads from Liverpool evolved from a very simple singles band into a complex stew of psychedelia and political anthem-making, Chicago's canvass unfortunately became very small - initially wrapping progressive social protest around long form composition to a final (and current) incarnation as a lyrically bereft hits band, sans horns and any palpable creative pulse.

While regrettable, their regress in no way diminishes the stature of their initial output (Chicago Transit Authority - Chicago VII) of which Chicago V stands as the most accessible exemplar of their signature sound. As their first single-disc offering, after a string of double-disc+ releases, their sound is tight, the horns bright and the harmonies complex all punctuated by a cohesive mood flow and lyrics, that while dated by the politics of the time; did aspire to something beyond an unremarkable Hallmark Moment. It is also worth mentioning that the record contains their biggest and greatest hit (IMHO) - Saturday In The Park - a song that ranks as one of the Top 20 singles of all time.

If you want to capture a great band in peak form, book a ticket to Chicago V. Highly recommended!

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August 24, 2010
Fine review. As you indicated several of Chicago's early offerings were outstanding and dwarf much of the band's later output. I am not even sure that I have ever heard Chicago V in its entirety myself and if I have it was decades ago. Perhaps I'll grab a copy at the library and give it a listen.
More Chicago V reviews
review by . May 16, 2010
posted in Music Matters
Chicago has had quite a career. When they started out they were a jam oriented band which implemented horns heavilly into their sound. Their first three studio releases were loaded with lenghty suite level pieces with a few shorter songs here and there. Chicago V seems to be a great bridge between the jam oriented band and the more po oriented tunes with great jazz inflections thrown in for good measure. The lead off song, A Hit By Varese has some cool chord changes which both rocks and bops. Many …
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Michael Neiss ()
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Though it may not have been clear at the time, Chicago's fifth album marked something of a turning point for the most successful American rock act of the 1970s.Vwas not only the band's first single-disc release, but, incredibly, its 11th LP worth of music in just three years. That Herculean workload may have watered down their previous studio album (III), but it also seemed to teach them a few important lessons as well. Here they manage not only one of their biggest hits (the joyous "Saturday in the Park"), but a stubborn, focused retrenchment of their most adventurous musical instincts in the bargain. That notion is clear from the intentionally ironic opening of "A Hit by Varese," through cuts like "While the City Sleeps," "State of the Union," and the autobiographical "Alma Mater," which bristle with the band's jazzy instincts and avant-garde influences. Even the album's other Top 30 hit, "Dialogue (Part I & II)," remains one of its more unusual chart entries. This digitally remastered new edition contains three bonus tracks (a Terry Kath noise-guitar-powered, previously unreleased studio take of "A Song for Richard and His Friends," the gritty outtake "Mississippi Delta City Blues," and the original single edit of "Dialogue") as well as Don Heckman's new liner notes, which feature insightful comments from several band members.--Jerry McCulley
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Label: Rhino, Wea
Release Date: August 20, 2002

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