Chicago VIII

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British reissue label Castle Communications here opts to license two of Chicago's albums and combine them on a single release, but it's hard to imagine why the label chose these two. Chicago VIII, released in 1975, found the band just past its popular peak, but still commercially potent; in fact, the album reached number one in the U.S. The group's two main songwriters, Robert Lamm and James Pankow, were still turning out quality pop material, but it had a strikingly nostalgic edge. Lamm, the band's political conscience, contributed "Harry Truman," looking back from the post-Watergate world of 1970s' political corruption to a time in the songwriter's childhood when America had a president who spoke his mind honestly (and played a mean piano). Pankow's "Old Days" was a list song of youthful joys. Both songs were hits, and the album boasted more depth in the compositions by Terry Kath and Peter Cetera. But Chicago VIII was the record of a band starting to retreat from its creative edge. The album, here called Street Player -- which is the name by which it was released in the U.K. -- was in the U.S. called Chicago 13 and appeared in 1979. By now, the band had thrown off producer/manager James William Guercio and suffered the loss of Kath. They were also determined to spread those songwriting royalties around; everyone in the group got at least a co-writing credit. The opening track (and, here, the title song) was Chicago's take on disco, and many disaffected fans didn't listen any further than that. There were some good songs later, particularly Cetera's "Mama Take," but Street Player (aka Chicago 13) was still one of the band's lesser efforts.

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