Sunday, January 06, 2019

Chicago - VI Decades Live (This Is What We Do) (2018)

If you've heard Chicago's last two studio albums you would know that they were very unimpressive, to say the least. However, when I first heard about the huge live set they released this past April that consisted mostly of songs from the Terry Kath years I was looking forward to it even though, based on what I've read and heard from other devoted fans, I was expecting a very mixed bag of treats. It turns out my expectations were accurate.

As the title suggests, VI Decades Live is a large package of four CDs and one DVD that features performances from every decade of Chicago's career. The first three CDs are from their most artistically productive years and ends in 1977 after Kath's unfortunate passing. The fourth disc spans the rest of their career through 2014 and the DVD covers a single performance from 1977 along with a bonus track.

The Booklet
Let's start with the very colorful 24 page booklet. It contains some great, never-before-seen photos and old newspaper stories including an old interview with trombonist James Pankow. The booklet is only informative if you're not a diehard fan. Nowhere does it discuss who is singing or playing on any of the tracks which is especially frustrating when listening to disc 4 because this is the era when the band became a revolving door of personnel changes. It would have also been nice if there were comments from the band about why a particular track was chosen for inclusion.

CD 1 and CD 2
Chicago's headlining, Isle of Wight show from August 1970 is presented in its entirety on the first two CDs just as the band was about to become very famous and very rich. The concert includes much of their best work from their first two outstanding double albums and one unreleased song from their third. The concert reveals the septet to be a real, hard rocking band with blaring horns supported by huge doses of Kath's outstanding lead guitar work. The future hall-of-famers leave us no doubt they were already a well rehearsed but loose ensemble who were creating genuine grooves while having a ton of fun.

Unfortunately, the show is ultimately hindered by less than stellar audio. While the Isle of Wight concert possesses far better sonics than the original Live at Carnegie Hall LP it's still not up to the standard set by the lesser known Live in Japan double album. If you're going to be annoyed because this show won't send you to audiophile heaven you may want to buy a copy of Japan instead.

CD 3
Some of the music on this CD mines the same general period as the two previous discs but it also includes songs from Chicago 5 and later. Much of it is well recorded but a very long "A Hit By Varese" should have been left off because it sounds like it was recorded on a fan's portable cassette machine. Disc 3 also doesn't flow as well as the first two do because the performances come from from different concerts. It's incongruous that "Varese" is followed by "If You Leave Me Now." The two tracks don't belong together.

CD 4
Buyer Beware. You may want to skip this disc. It starts out with some nice, early post-Kath performances of "Hot Streets" and "Little One" but from there things go dark. Covers of R & B classics that are not particularly well done, post-Peter Cetera ballads, an awful track ("America") by Lee Louhgnane from their last studio record, and big band arrangements dominate the CD. If the group wanted to showcase the 80s and beyond, their hits from the brief but productive David Foster/Peter Cetera era should have been included instead. It's astonishing that there is nothing from 17, their all time biggest selling record. I've never believed that it was one of their better albums but once Cetera departed most of their music became unlistenable. This disc proves it.

The DVD is a complete two hour concert from Germany’s Rockpalast television series from February 12, 1977, and with Kath still on board the original seven plus Laudir de'Olivera show that they are still functioning as a well oiled live act. The enjoyable set includes a couple of questionable song choices such as Kath's "Hope for Love" that proves the band began their lengthy decline while the late axeman was still with us but, overall, this concert is a worthy addition to the total package.

Disc 1 (Isle of Wight Festival 8/28/70)
1. Introduction
2. South California Purples
3. Beginnings
4. In the Country
5. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? (Free Form Intro)
6. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?
7. Mother

Disc 2 (Isle of Wight Festival 8/28/70)
1. It Better End Soon
2. Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon
3. 25 or 6 to 4
4. I'm a Man

Disc 3
1. Poem for the People (Paris, France 12/8/69)
2. 25 or 6 to 4 (Paris, France 12/8/69)
3. Liberation (Paris, France 12/8/69)
4. Goodbye (The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington D.C. 9/16/71)
5. Now That You've Gone (Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, Australia, 6/26/72)
6. A Hit by Varèse (Chicago Stadium, Chicago, IL 8/13/73)
7. If You Leave Me Now (Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA 12/1/77)
8. Takin' It on Uptown (Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA 12/1/77)

Disc 4
1. Hot Streets (Greek Theater, Los Angeles, CA 8/11/78)
2. Little One (Greek Theater, Los Angeles, CA 8/11/78)
3. Forever (Pensacola Civic Center, Pensacola, FL 3/21/87)
4. Medley: In the Midnight Hour, Knock on Wood, I'm a Man, Get Away (Pensacola Civic Center, Pensacola, FL)
5. You're Not Alone (Starplex Amphitheatre, Dallas, TX 5/30/92)
6. The Pull (Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas, NV 3/20/94)
7. In the Mood (Caesar's Palace, Atlantic City, NJ 7/28/94)
8. Don't Get Around Much Anymore (Caesar's Palace, Atlantic City, NJ 7/28/94)
9. Look Away (Acoustic) (A&E Network, Live by Request 9/5/02)
10. America (WHYY, the Grand, Wilmington, DE 5/7/14)

Disc: 5 (DVD) (Rockpalast - Grugahalle, Essen, Germany 2/12/77)
1. Anyway You Want
2. Saturday in the Park
3. Skin Tight
4. Just You 'N' Me
5. Hope for Love
6. You Are on My Mind
7. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?
8. Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon
9. Beginnings
10. Scrapbook
11. A Hit by Varese
12. Call on Me
13. Takin' It on Uptown
14. If You Leave Me Now
16. (I've Been) Searchin' so Long
17. 25 or 6 to 4)
18. Got to Get You into My Life)
19. I'm a Man
20. What's This World Comin' To (Bonus track from CHICAGO LIVE IN THE ROCKIES)

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