Now - Chicago XXXVI

01. Now
02. More Will Be Revealed
03. America
04. Crazy Happy
05. Free At Last
06. Love Lives On
07. Something’s Coming, I Know
08. Watching All The Colors
09. Nice Girl
10. Naked In The Garden Of Allah
11. Another Trippy Day (Bonus Track)

Robert Lamm - keyboards (1,4,5,7,8), lead & backing vocals, horn arrangement (2,4,7,8,11), synth (3), synth guitar (8), programming (10), arrangements
Walter Parazaider - alto saxophone (7,8,10)
Lee Loughnane - trumpet (2,9,10,11), flugelhorn (3,4,6,7,8,10), lead & backing vocals, horn arrangement (3)
James Pankow - trombone (2,5,6,7,8,11), horn arrangement (5)
Jason Scheff — bass guitar (2-11), synth bass (4), keyboards (4), lead & backing vocals, acoustic guitars (6), piano (6), arrangements
Keith Howland - guitars (2,3,4,5,7-11), lead guitar (1), lead & backing vocals, Rhodes (9), horn arrangement (9), arrangements
Tris Imboden - drums (2-11)
Lou Pardini - keyboards (3,9), lead & backing vocals, organ (9)
Walfredo Reyes, Jr. - percussion (2,3,5,8,9,11)

Officially numbered discography
1 Chicago Transit Authority (1969)
2 Chicago II (1970)
3 Chicago III (1971)
4 Chicago at Carnegie Hall (Live, 1971)
5 Chicago V (1972)
6 Chicago VI (1973)
7 Chicago VII (1974)
8 Chicago VIII (1975)
9 Chicago IX – Chicago's Greatest Hits (compilation, 1975)
10 Chicago X (1976)
11 Chicago XI (1977)
12 Hot Streets (1978)
13 Chicago 13 (1979)
14 Chicago XIV (1980)
15 Greatest Hits, Volume II (compilation, 1981)
16 Chicago 16 (1982)
17 Chicago 17 (1984)
18 Chicago 18 (1986)
19 Chicago 19 (1988)
20 Greatest Hits 1982–1989/The Heart of Chicago (European title) (compilation, 1989)
21 Twenty 1 (1991)
22 Night & Day Big Band (1995)
23 The Heart of Chicago 1967–1997 (compilation, 1997)
24 The Heart of Chicago 1967–1998 Volume II (compilation, 1998)
25 Chicago XXV: The Christmas Album/What's It Gonna Be, Santa? (Reissue title 2003) (Christmas special album, 1998)
26 Chicago XXVI: Live in Concert (Live, 1999)
27 The Very Best Of: Only the Beginning/The Chicago Story: Complete Greatest Hits (European title) (compilation, 2002)
28 The Box (Box set, 2003)
29 Love Songs (compilation, 2005)
30 Chicago XXX (2006)
31 The Best of Chicago: 40th Anniversary Edition (compilation, 2007)
32 Chicago XXXII: Stone of Sisyphus (recorded in 1993 but unreleased until 2008)
33 Chicago XXXIII: O Christmas Three (Christmas special album, 2011)
34 Chicago XXXIV: Live in ‘75 (Live, 2011)
35 Chicago XXXV: The Nashville Sessions (Live, 2013)

Philippe Saisse: keyboards (1)
Verdine White: bass guitar (1)
Dorian Crozier: drums (1)
David Williams: guitars (1)
Michael O'Neil: guitars (1)
Luis Conte: percussion (1,6)
Harry Kim: trumpet, flugelhorn, horn arrangement (1)
Daniel Fornero: trumpet, flugelhorn (1)
Arturo Velasco: trombone (1)
George Shelby: tenor saxophone (1)
Schiela Gonzalez: baritone & tenor saxophones (1)
Hank Linderman: guitars (2), backing vocals (10), arrangements
Ray Herrmann: alto saxophone (2), soprano saxophone (2), tenor saxophone (5,9)
Trent Gardner: horn arrangement (3,4,5,10), trombone (5), synth (5)
Larry Klimas: alto saxophone (3,4,11)
Nick Lane: trombone (3,4)
Steve Lu: synths (6)
Tim Pierce: electric guitars (6)
Jeff Babko: horn arrangement (9)
John McFee: fiddle (10)
John Van Eps: synths & programming (11), arrangements

Hank Linderman: coordinating producer, engineering, editing, mixing
Phil Galdston: additonal production & arrangements (2)
Drew Hester: drum track engineering
Keith Howland: engineering (5,9)
Dave Collins: mastering

Released 2014-07-04
Reviewed 2014-08-09



Saxomophones, trumpelipets and all kinds of horny instruments is what I take with me from 'Now - Chacago XXXVI'. The Hawk, bull, bear and other white socks are back with a new album - the first in three years if you count from their christmas release 'Chicago XXXIII: O Christmas Three' (their latest release), the first in six years if you count from 'Chicago XXXII: Stone Of Sisyphus' (their latest studio release) and the first in eight years if you count from 'XXX' (their latest newly recorded studio release).

The band roots back from 1967, which is before man walked on the moon and way older than most readers on Hallowed. They describe themselves as "rock 'n' roll with horns" and that's a pretty good description on a band that has used horns in their music since the beginning. This is the thirty sixth official release with the band and their 24th studio album. The fun thing with releases by Chicago is how they keep numbering their albums and in the beginning they didn't even name the albums, just numbered them. They finally gave that up for their 1995 album, 'Night And Day Big Band' and I don't know if that has anything to do with it or not but since then their sales figures has steadily dropped (I'm guessing it has more to do with their aging and dying fans as well as the general drop from downloading) but the numbers say they've still sold over 40 million albums. Despite selling this many albums and numerous gold and platinum albums, Chicago has struggled to reach anything close to their fame in the US outside their home country. They've stubbornly played their many horny instruments while other bands have played it on one or a few albums (well, Jethro Tull excepted). It's become their main identity sign and still today, 47 years after they started they play it, we get it - another album in typical Chicago manner.

The problem as far as I see it is that it has been done a few times now (you can count for yourself) and I feel this album is pretty tired and veeery familiar. Instrumentally and vocally, though, I feel it's ticking all the boxes. It's so well made and well written it could strip almost any album released this year to the bare skin and eat their flesh and bone but perhaps this is the reason why the album feels so boring as well. It's too neat, nothing happens - really. It's plenty of good music that should be enjoyable but just feel boring to hear. Like a porcelain ball or glittering stones - it doesn't do anything. Pretty? Yes. Impressing? Maybe… Necessary? No!

The best feature on the album are the brass instruments - the horny section. They do whatever they can to spice things up by blowing everything and anything with a little "traadelitraaa" between every chord change and tempo change and also in the background of most songs. That adds a bit of value but despite this it's pretty much a sleeping pill due to it being so over produced and commodified. Musically they don't have asingle part on this album that feels challenging, daring or even slightly dangerous. Nor even different. Sure, this is Chicago doing what Chicago does best - they have a whole orchestra helping them out as well as a small town of people helping them with vocals but the end result, however perfect it may be, is not fun to listen to. Why? Simply because it doesn't seem to need me there, it's doing it's thing anyway - it doesn't need my attention and doesn't try to get it either, which result in 51 minutes of dullness.

A few of the songs are a bit better than the rest, though far from classic songs like If You Leave Me Now, Hard To Say I'm Sorry, Just You 'N' Me or Saturday In The Park. Personally I find Crazy Happy makes me most happy on the album. Not crazy happy, but way more happy than when I hear America the track before which feels like the bottom mark. Not only because of the lyrics but I must say those stupid lyrics does it no good as it suggest those monitoring gun happy Americans have a free country (yeah, right!). Crazy Happy, though, is catchy and fun and if you turn the volume up to almost unbearable you can almost dance around to it, unlike America that has a low tempo and mostly choirs doing a cappella.

It's still a decent Chicago album, not groundbreaking or fantastic but definitely on the better half of their discography. Still, they have a bunch of better albums out there already in my opinion and all though it's nice to get some new material that are pretty decent it's not an album I'd rush to buy. 'Now' is listenable and not disappointing at all - it's good but not to the point it makes you crazy happy.



Label: Frontiers Records
Three similar bands: Crossfade/Earth, Wind & Fire/Orleans
Rating: HHHHHHH (4/7)
Reviewer: Caj Källmalm

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