Our fearless LxL founder/leader Wes Jakacki, is moving to Chicago this week. Which means Wes will soon find himself in the belly of two beasts, as he is a Detroit Lions fan who started a music blog. So naturally, this move is a slow progression to him becoming a Chicago Bears fan who sold out and became a writer for Pitchfork. Let’s pray only the former happens, and the latter only remains a very lame joke. In any case, this move is a once in a lifetime opportunity that will certainly colour his world anew. We know that he’s been searching so long for a new job to make him smile, so in light of his big surprise, we decided to go ahead and dedicate the rest of this week to one of my personal favorite towns in all the world, Chi-town. Naturally to kick things off (if you haven’t already deduced by my “punny” last two sentences), we decided there would be nothing better than listing out five of our favorite tracks by Chicago-native, love-ballad-bangers themselves, and the most successful “began-as-a-cover band” story of all time, Chicago.
If you are a fan of the band, you know that they originally began as a more progressive-rock band. After the tragic-drunken death of guitarist/singer-songwriter/band co-founder Terry Kath (classic case of “death-by accidentally/drunkenly shooting oneself after proclaiming the gun he/she is flailing in front of everyone else “isn’t even loaded””), the band redirected themselves completely, and changed gears towards an era of music known commonly as the 80’s. Not only were they experienced veterans coming from a world of insanely intelligent and experimental rock ’n’ roll fused with jazz compositions, but they were also about to become pioneers of a new brand of 80’s rock ballads. Ultimately Chicago would end up being second only to The Beach Boys in terms of Billboard singles and albums chart success among American bands. We hope this list helps exemplify exactly why:
5. “Stay the Night”
In full disclosure, this song falls in line with more of the run-of-the-mill Chicago tracks (which still place head and shoulders above any other bands tracks in a general sense), but what really thrusts this song up to a 5-spot for us is it’s music video. This music video, made for a track that is so seemingly mild and easy going, appeared to not only have an endless budget, but also a relentless will to cram every second full of high action energy, stunts, hot women, and special effects, to a degree that even Sir Michael Bay to this day, has not been able to top. Nothing, not even Terminator 2 has ever filmed anything more worthwhile or incredibly badass in the dried up canal of the LA River … ever. And no music video, not even for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, has ever succeeded in special effects so brilliant, revolutionary, or believable. One YouTuber perfectly sums up this video in the comment section by stating this: “Awesome music, smoking hot women, and gas under a dollar a gallon. Can we please bring back the 80’s.” Although we are a group of guys that loves us some 2012, we know a spot-on review when we see it!
4. “Saturday in the Park”
^Selected the “Live” version to emphasize awesomeness …
Literally, the theme song to every Saturday of my entire life. It doesn’t matter if I’m in a park, heading to a park, just came from a park, or even stepping with foot within a 300 mile proximity of a park. And it certainly doesn’t matter if it is, was, or could be the 4th of July. This song is a helluva good time, and is essential for any Saturday ANYWHERE. This track was still released 1972 when the band was still know for their bitchin’ horn section, and I’ll be deemed a monkeys uncle before I’ll hear someone tell me that it isn’t warranted. You line a horn section up anywhere and have them belt out their favorite tune to blow, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t the horn arrangement for this very track. From it’s happy, upbeat musical tone, to its curiously unpatriotic lyrical undertone, all the way to its secret Italian-obsessed tone, we love this track through-and-through.
3. “Hard to Say I’m Sorry/Get Away”
Not only did this song teach us incredibly valuable lessons in life and love, but it also single-handedly broke Chicago into the scene of love-ballad-teers, forever changing the bands sound, vibe, and image. If ever came a lovers quarrel that this song couldn’t stomp, than that relationship is clearly doom for the depths of divorce in the long-run anyway. I’ve personally seen this song improve relationships upon a single listen more so than months and years of couples counseling. After all the terrible things a couple can go through, they owe it to each other to listen to this song just once before making any decisions final, to see if they can’t still find a way to make things right again. Best of all, after three minutes and thirty seconds of teaching us lessons in how to love again, and the difficulties of admitting when you’re wrong, the song breaks into a jazz-rock progression, showing us fans that Chicago may have changed their sound, but will never forget their badass roots.
2. “Ballet for a Girl In Buchannon”
“Ballet …” is almost an unfair track for a band to have in their catalogue. It is an arsenal of 3 hits (Colour My World, Make Me Smile, and Now More than Ever) instrumentation, orchestration, vocalization, and lyrical genius that is tightly wrapped up in thirteen minutes and technically seven separate tracks when broken down properly. Nonetheless, it all falls under one title of the “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon” and could not be more of a prog-rock/jazz-rock/love-ballad staple. Chicago flipped music upside down with this track, and showed bands from The Beatles to The Who what stuff a mulit-track composition was really made of.
1. “You’re the Inspiration”
This track making our #1 spot is completely self-explanatory and exemplified in just the title itself. This song provides inspiration for getting up each morning. This song provides inspiration for living life to its fullest potential. This song provides inspiration for listening to music, for falling in love, and for believing in things greater than ourselves. This song was the inspiration for making not only this list, but every list we have ever made. This song proves to mankind that we have souls and they need to be inspired. This song was the inspiration for The Beatles getting together, and ultimately, the inspiration they broke up … because after years of tireless efforts, they realized they could never do better than this song (last “inspiration fact” not checked by the LxL fact-checker due to lack of inspiration … he hasn’t listened to this song in a while). All-in-all this track is simple to declare our winner, because as I already so mildly already indicated, it is our inspiration for everything.
The “just missed our list” list:
All: Due to the fact that it is simply impossible to disagree with the ordering of our favorite Chicago tracks, we were all stonewalled with the same answer … It was of course –A 14-way tie for every track on the album O Christmas Three
^A brief sampler of the entire album to wet your Christmas whistle 8 months early!
O Christmas Three is obviously Chicago’s own Christmas album. Now, we know it is not traditional for a band to be recognized for a holiday album (especially for a holiday that is currently so far away), but the fact of the matter is that it dominates all other competitors in such a way that we couldn’t NOT make mention of it. It is really the only Christmas album that a band/artist has assembled that actually matters, and since we have already made mention of Chicago dominating every other aspect of music, we felt it necessary to highlight the fact that they dominate in the holiday seasons as well. So with traditional classics such as “O Christmas Tree”, all the way to covers of modern originals like Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time”, let this album be the soundtrack to your next holiday season.
So there is our list. Don’t bother trying to correct us or inform of us of what we may have gotten wrong. This time, we know we’re right!