Chicago – Chicago VII

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts nearly Triple Plus (A+++) soundor close to it on all FOUR sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • These pressings have real depth to the soundfield, full-bodied, present vocals, and lovely analog warmth
  • Happy Man, (I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long and Wishing You Were Here (with Beach Boys backing vox) are the big hits here
  • “It was Peter Cetera who made the biggest strides on Chicago VII, composing his two most impressive songs thus far, Happy Man and “Wishing You Were Here” (#11), a lush ballad (signs of the future) that features three of The Beach Boys on backing vocals and which became a big hit in late 1974.”

*NOTE:

  • On side two, a mark makes 4 light ticks followed by 6 moderate pops at the end of Track 3, Life Saver.
  • On side three, a mark makes 5 soft ticks at the end of Track 2, Mongonucleosis.

These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top-quality sound that’s often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers (“relative” being relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don’t agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.

Most pressings don’t reproduce the percussion harmonics, the leading edge transients of the horns or the big, open space around Peter Cetera’s vocals that we know is there, but a high-res, super-transparent copy like this one brings out all those qualities and more. Here us the sweet and open top end that allows the vocals and guitars to sound tonally and harmonically correct.

The superb presence found on the best sides puts the vocalists right in the room with you, and when the band kicks in, the sound really starts jumping out of the speakers. That’s what I’m talkin’ about when I award our highest A Triple Plus grade. It just doesn’t get any better.

Most copies suffer from dull highs and smeary, compressed brass. This is a sound we cannot abide. The lively copies with real bite to the brass and plenty of ENERGY in the music are the only ones for us. Finding them is not easy but we came across a few that made the grade and are proud to offer them here.

What Amazing Sides of Chicago VII Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1974
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

These Are Some Great Songs

Finding great-sounding Chicago records is not easy. (Most copies of the second album are so bad sounding they defy understanding. I’ve heard Edison cylinders with more fidelity.) But some of their records are very well recorded, this being one of them, and even though the shootouts for double albums are twice as hard, for Chicago we do them, and for only one reason: WE LOVE THIS MUSIC. (Well, parts of it anyway. Chicago and consistency have one thing in common: they both start with the letter C.)

How can you write a better song than (I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long? That track, with its huge buildup of strings and wall to wall brass, just KILLS. It’ll send shivers up your spine at the live music levels we were trying to play it at. It actually has some real dynamics built into the mix, which is not something pop songs are supposed to have.

Wishing You Were Here (with Beach Boys vocals no less) is another one we love, along with Happy Man. These are some great Chicago songs, and the production is first-rate all the way.

What We’re Listening For on Chicago VII

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Prelude to Aire 
Aire 
Devil’s Sweet

Side Two

Italian from New York 
Hanky Panky 
Life Saver 
Happy Man

Side Three

(I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long 
Mongonucleosis 
Song of the Evergreens 
Byblos

Side Four

Wishing You Were Here 
Call on Me 
Woman Don’t Want to Love Me 
Skinny Boy

AMG Review

Chicago VII (1974) was not only a double LP, but much of the effort likewise returned them to their former jazz/rock glory while continuing the middle-of-the-road (MOR) ethos that was concurrently impacting the pop charts.

The opening instrumentals, including “Prelude to Aire,” “Aire,” and “Devil’s Sweet,” reflect Daniel Seraphine’s (drums) tremendously underrated skills as a writer as well as the combo’s recently underutilized talents as ensemble musicians. All three tracks provide a brilliant showcase for the brass/woodwind section(s) to flex their respective muscles, drawing heavily upon the styles of Weather Report and to some extent Miles Davis and Santana.

The second half of Chicago VII directly contrasts the less structured instrumentals with more inclusive sides such as the previously mentioned hits “Call On Me” and “Wishing You Were Here.”

This collection would be Chicago’s final two-disc set by the original lineup and offers the best of the band as improvisational instrumentalists as well as concise, emotive vocalists and song crafters.

Chicago VII on Wikipedia

Chicago VII is the seventh album by American rock band Chicago and was released in 1974. It is notable for being their first double album of new material since 1971’s Chicago III, and remains their final studio release in that format.

While touring in support of Chicago VI in 1973, the band began getting restless and started integrating some lengthy jazz instrumentals into their sets. While audiences were somewhat mixed in their reaction, Chicago greatly enjoyed the experience and decided, after years of talking about it, to record a pure jazz-influenced album, and headed straight to producer James William Guercio’s Caribou Ranch studios to cut their ambitious new album.

While the sessions started off well, there was soon dissension within the group about the jazz project, with, reportedly, Peter Cetera and Guercio both leery at the commercial risk of such an undertaking. While the band reasoned that some of the jazzy material was too good to throw away, the others finally relented to including the more pop and rock-oriented songs that the band had composed in the meantime. Almost by accident, Chicago had another double album on their hands.

While James Pankow came through with another success, “(I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long” (#9), and trumpeter Lee Loughnane got lucky on his first try at songwriting in the hit “Call on Me” (#6), it was Peter Cetera who made the biggest strides on Chicago VII, composing his two most impressive songs thus far, Happy Man and “Wishing You Were Here” (#11), a lush ballad (signs of the future) that features three of The Beach Boys on backing vocals and which became a big hit in late 1974.