Thursday, December 29, 2011

Forgotten Music Thursday: Chicago - Hot Streets (1978)

Hot Streets is an album I was completely disappointed with and had no respect for when it was first released in 1978. I couldn’t believe what happened to my guys! Was it too much too soon after Terry Kath died or was it Chicago just didn’t care anymore? While the album hasn’t changed with the times I have, and I now view Hot Streets in a completely different light than I did in 1978. While I will never consider this record high art, and it will never show up on lists of Chicago's great works, I now view it as a fine pop album.

If there is a problem with Hot Streets it is the songwriting, not the musicianship. I find the musicianship on this disc to be impeccable throughout the entire album and it is the reason why I like it. The band's "chops" elevate mostly ordinary songs. Both Danny Seraphine on drums and Laudir deOliviera on percussion are superb. Anyone who enjoys percussion will love these guys here. Newcomer Donnie Dacus, who replaced Kath, turns in some fine guitar work, especially with his solo on the title track. Of course I miss Kath, whose lead solos and rhythm guitar would have added more punch and given the songs a harder edge, but there is nothing we can do about that. The horns are crackling too!

"Alive Again" and "Hot Streets" are two songs I loved off the album twenty-six years ago and I still do today. The opener is one of the finest songs Chicago ever recorded after they made their decision to go mainstream and, in my opinion, it is trombonist Jim Pankow's last great composition. Robert Lamm's title track is a perfect throwback to earlier times with it's jazz-rock vibe and a really fine Walt Parazaider flute solo. "The Greatest Love On Earth" is an unpretentious ballad. Dacus' "Ain't It Time" is another favorite. The singing robots at the end of "Show Me The Way" are still troubling, and so are Peter Cetera's motives and lyrics to "Little Miss Lovin," but in 2011 I find Hot Streets to be very listenable.

One should note that Hot Streets is also the first album Chicago recorded with new producer Phil Ramone after the firing of James William Guercio who guided their career until then. It was also the first not to feature the famous Chicago logo on the cover. Instead there is an awful picture of the band prancing around and jumping into each others arms. Ugh!

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