Underplayed Vinyl: Chicago

I had to buy a record player, and it’s all Fred Hembeck’s fault. O.K., not really. But he was the inspiration.

I was visiting Fred Hembeck’s MySpace page. This is actually fairly unusual in that I generally spend my time at his Fred Sez page instead. I must have wanted to leave a comment wishing his daughter a happy birthday, so I went to the that day’s post. The other thing the MySpace page has that FredSez doesn’t is an indication of Fred’s mood and his current musical excursion. For that particular day, the selection was Chicago, the second album of the group formerly known as the Chicago Transit Authority. I hadn’t listened to that album in ages!

So, at the next opportunity, I pulled out my double album, put the first LP on the turntable, and…NOTHING. It had been cranky of late, with me having to start it up manually before it would take hold, but this time – nothing at all. The turntable was probably fixable, but for how much?

Then I remembered one of my former interns at work had purchased a record player at Target for $70 or $80 this past summer. I attempted to see if it was still available at the local store; the website said it was, but the person at the store assured me that it was not. Then I went to Amazon and found a Memorex® Nostalgia Turntable and Stereo, for $39.97, plus $8 shipping, provided by one of their vendors, Bargain Outfitters. I ordered it, and it came within a week.

The assembly was minimal, and so I finally got to play that Chicago album that I received for Christmas in 1970; I don’t remember this, I had marked the album 12-25-70 ROG, as was my wont at the time.

So what did I think?

Well, much of it lyrically is a bit earnest, especially It Better End Soon, which dominates Side 4 (oh, I miss the notion of Side 4). But I really enjoyed the album all over again. I recognized some really interesting musicality. Fancy Colours, which starts Side 3, starts off in a very slow 4/4, then switches to a fast 3/4 (or 6/8), and ends with those discordant horns that made me think originally, and again recently, that the record was skipping.

Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon, which takes up much of Side 2, to be punny, made me smile. Even Colour My World, which I’ve disliked since it was the the theme song for my high school girlfriend’s prom, I seem to have lost my loathing for.

I have no rational thought about this Chicago album, except that this one and its predecessor were as good as this group ever got musically, though greater commercial success came later (Chicago V through IX each went to #1.) And i am really enjoying my record player.

One annoyance about Columbia Records at the time; they never had a copyright date, either on the LP or on the package; maddening.

Today is former Chicago singer Peter Cetera’s 63rd birthday. Coincidentally, David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat and Tears, another horn-based rock band on Columbia, is celebrating his 66th birthday today.

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