Chicago XXX Rhino Records
Produced By: Jay DeMarcus

Running Time: 57.15

Release Date: Out Now


Musical Style: AOR / Westcoast

Links: Chicago
Songs: 88%
Sound: 95%
In a marketplace saturated with metal, the absence of some classic AOR and Westcoast seems more noticeable. Chicago's long awaited new studio album their 30th overall release definitely fills that gap.
What is most satisfying is the way the band fills that gap. This is a release of the highest quality that is designed not only to satisfy long time fans of the band, but also offer something that might attract new fans looking for something a little more mature to spin when the occasion calls for it.
Divine instrumentation and immaculate production mixed with the sweet harmonies of the band's vocalists make for an album that is very easy to listen to and very easy on the ears.
There is nothing on this album that will surprise anyone familiar with the music of Chicago. But that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. This is exactly what fans of the band want.
The opening track Feel is classic Chicago. Soft keyboards and a subtle but busy rhythm section are dominated by a hearty guitar riff and a powerful lead vocal. At the center of the track is a great hook and one which should find them on radio playlists everywhere.
Two versions are offered one at each end of the album, but I prefer the closing version. The addition of those Chicago horns in this mix really makes you feel at home.
If Feel left you with any doubt, King Of What Might Have Been and Caroline won't.
The ballad King Of What Might Have Been features Jason Scheff in full vocal swing with Toto's Joseph Williams guesting on backing vocals.
The equally smooth, but more uptempo and radio friendly pop rocker Caroline is another example of why Chicago is the very best at what they do. Another Toto alumni, Bobby Kimball appears as a guest on backing vocals.
Other guests on XXX include guitar great Dann Huff on 6 tracks; country rockers Rascal Flatts on the 80s style pop ballad Love Will Come Back; and Shelly Fairchild on the duet Westcoast ballad Why Can't We.
Other highlights of the album include the Westcoast pop of Long Lost Friend and the catchy double-dose of high-tech AOR in 90 Degrees And Freezing and the even better Where Were You.
Things turn a little jazzier in the last few tracks on the album, but the first two thirds is packed with classy and classic Chicago.
The Bottom Line
This is Chicago doing as they have done for years nothing new and nothing out of character. But it's done so very well without a single note being out of place. Add in superb production quality and some of the more memorable songs the guys have delivered in recent memory and you get a winning combination and one of the better pure AOR/Westcoast releases for 2006.
Discography / Previously Reviewed

Line Up:
Jason Scheff: Vocals, Bass
Keith Howland: Guitars
Tris Imboden: Drums
Walt Parazaider: Saxophones, Flutes
Robert Lamm: Piano, Wurlitzer, Hammond Organ, Vocals
Bill Champlin: Hammond Organ, Piano, Fender Rhodes, Vocals
Lee Loughnane: Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Piccolo Trumpet
James Pankow: Trombone

Essential For Fans Of:
The softer side of Toto
Track Listing
Feel *
King Of Might Have Been *
Caroline *
Why Can't We
Love Will Come Back
Long Lost Friend *
90 Degrees And Freezing *
Where Were You *
Already Gone
Come To Me, Do
Lovin' Chains
Feel (Horn Mix)*

--*Best Tracks

07/01/07: Paul -
Rating: 85
This is a cd that didn't really grab me the first time, which I'm usually pretty impatient and not often returning to cds that don't give me at least one track that hits me right away. But this is Chicago, a band whose beginnings date back to my own childhood (Saturday In The Park still rates among my all-time favorite songs), so a second chance this cd did receive. Thank goodness, because I was was greatly rewarded for my return. The thing about this cd is that there really aren't any HUGE catchy songs that would've been top 10 in any of their eras. What it is is a strong collection of songs that form a very good cd. Many on here have cited the different eras of Chicago, and there were three. There was there beginning, heavy brass and a sound that nobody had tried before in rock and pop. Artistically, that was their peak, if for no other reason than the uniqueness of their vision & sound. Then with Hot Streets and continuing through Peter Cetera's departure, they became much more mainstream pop, and enjoyed perhaps their greatest commercial success. Finally there is the era of Jason Scheff, and quite frankly, most of that era has been one of trying to find a new identity. Although Scheff was competent on vocals, he lacked the dazzling unique character of Peter Cetera's voice that was the yin to Champlin's yang in the early years, and of course was the identity of the band in their second stage. While the band did have some success early on with Scheff, I believe it was due mostly to blind devotion. Chicago XXX strikes a wonderful balance. For the first time, imo, Scheff conjurs up the timbre of Cetera. His vocals are blended with the rest of the group to bring back memories on several tracks of the original Chicago. He also solos to harken the memories of the stage 2. And then there are tracks consistent with the late 80's and 90's efforts. This cd has something for every Chicago fan. It won't be loved by every Chicago fan for this very reason. If you can appreciate the entire history of Chicago, you'll enjoy this cd. Yes, it is mellow, but what do you expect after nearly 40 years in the biz? We all mellow(at least a little) with age. Very listenable, just don't be looking for that one Chicago classic that usually accompanied most of their first 20 albums.

13/11/06: bob -
Rating: 84
there's some good classic Chicago on here, and some of it doesn't catch immediately. Overall, its a solid record though. The first half of the disc is better than the last half.

11/11/06: Kenny -
Rating: 0
I've been a Chicago fan for many years. I recently purchased their new studio album Chicago XXX, and I was not disappointed. I really like this new CD. Great job!

24/07/06: Brad -
Rating: 88
I love this band and have for nearly 25 years (since I was in junior high school in 1982--when "Hard To Say I'm Sorry" hit the airwaves). While most artists get some criticism from me if they have too many ballads, this is one band that has been above that because they do the ballad so well. I love all of their "second career" stuff from the 1980s--including all those hit ballads. I also have gone back to visit their earliest stuff--including listening to and enjoying their debut "Chicago Transit Authority" album. Suffice it to say, I am a fan of all eras of this band.

So where to place this comeback effort? After listening to it numerous times, my conclusion is that it nearly stands up to previous material. I would agree with other reviews I have read about a couple of the ballads being a bit sappy even for them, and for sure the song order is strange with having all ballads followed by all uptempo numbers. I also see no point to having two versions of "Feel" on the album--just stick with the trademark horns version. Still, I am overall very pleased with the release of this album.

"Feel" is an enjoyable track (whichever version you listen to)--very familiar but with a sound of modern production. Good single, although I don't think it did too well chart-wise. Ballads like "King of Might Have Been" and "Caroline" would fit right on such Chicago albums as 17-21 with their beautiful vocals and overall melodic sound. Even the guest vocals on "Why Can't We" and "Love Will Come Back" are somewhat enjoyable and an interesting direction to take. "Long Lost Friend" is a bit sappy but for sure very pretty.

For me, the second half of the album comes as a nice surprise in returning to the "roots" of the band a bit. "90 Degrees and Freezing" is a catchy, fun uptempo number, and "Come To Me, Do" is a vintage-sounding Robert Lamm-sung track. "Already Gone" has some cool harmonies that are not so typically straight-ahead as so many Chicago melodies are. "Where Were You", "Lovin' Chains", and "Better" are also refreshingly uptempo and a lot of fun to listen to.

Some have called this a "safe" Chicago album, and to a degree I agree with that. Many of the ballads in the beginning certainly fall into a familiar territory we have heard before. While I have never heard a note of it, I am further intrigued by people's descriptions of the unreleased "Stone of Sisyphus" album and would love to have it see the light of day. I also think of such albums as the amazing one that Toto put out this year and wonder what a Chicago album made in the same vein (i.e., totally doing what they want to do instead of perhaps pining too hard for a return to radio single "glory days") might sound like. All that being said, for me this is overall a very satisfying release. I have enough criticism here with the song order and "safeness" of the album that I can't quite rate it in the 90s. Call my rating an 88 for an album that should be very satisfying to '80s Chicago fans and also to plenty of career-spanning fans of this legendary band.

21/07/06: chi-town mar\'tay -
Rating: 65
as a chicago fan for my whole life and a big fan for the past 17 years and someone who's had there real masterpiece 1994's ' STONE OF SISYPHUS' I really was dissapointed with the album for many reasons...Chicago 30 or triple X as I call it is basically the band trying to get back on AC top 40 radio as they have admitted. Fine, but they have tried to sound like a pop/country 2006 verison of there 80s Cetera power-ballad selfs and they don't even use the whole band. This is truely a Jason Scheff (who I like btw) n Jay DeMarcus solo album with the chicago logo.

There are 3 kinds of chicago fans IMO 1) those who like all era's and sounds 2) those who only liked the band until Terry died and Cetera quit (in may 1985) and those who really only like or prefer the Jason Scheff era (1986-2006).

Andrew I love and his site but... he, and millions of others really has no clue what chicago is about. It's not just over produced cheesy power ballads and love songs like most of the first 6 songs are.
Chicago at its best was a synthesis of jazz, prog rock, pop, a lil funk and great songs and hornsection blasting not just lil kicks n punches and cliche` riffs like on most of XXX but acting like another vocalist.

There are a few songs I like "feel" with horns, "King of Might Have Been", "90 degrees.." and bills' 3 tunes are all good and I can stand " Love Will Come Back" allright though its nothing grand minus the Scheff / flatts vocal wall.

even the best songs I listed all have problems within. the bands main songwriters, singers Bill Champlin and Robert Lamm are present and do sing esp. Champlin who always turns in fine vocals however, there music isn't heard here..there style isn't present its all " let's remake the 1982-1991 chicago power ballad and love song sound with over the top country vocal stylings and studio musicians"

There are more session players on this album than I've ever seen on a bands credits..they play more than chicago does!!! and thats a shame. Pankow's arranging and horn charts are mostly run of the mill minus parts of the fun "90 degrees" ...

yes, its nice to have a new album..but the bands said for 25 years how they hate doing just ballads and pop fluff , how they don't like it and how they want to do there music.

Well, after owning there own label for 7-8 years and releasing no new studio album they now release a half-ass record of cheese and poorly retreaded Cetera / Scheff cliched` 80's sounding album for 2006..when with there talent they could've and should've done so much more.

decent. but VERY dissapointing if you like the real chicago which barely rears its collective head here.

a glimpse of what chicago does best?? listen to 1) 90 degrees... 2) already gone 3)king of might have been 4) lovin' chains 5) better 6) come to me, do that is chicago well at least part of how they can sound when there sorta trying too and not just dumbing down to radio ac formats..


06/05/06: Splash777 -
Rating: 60
Another album from "Retro City". Well for all intensive purposes this album isn't terrible and that is thanks in part for the lack of Peter Cetera not being included. I can't get my head around the fact that this is Chicago and not Rascal Flatts. The album is a Rascal Flatts record with horns and "No" country. If the band make attempts to get airplay on CMT or Country/pop radio they will have success. Jason Cheff sounds like a cross between Flatts vocalist and the missing Cetera. The production quality is top notch and the ballads are well crafted. Another review mentioned this was a better album than Toto's latest release. I am not sure if I can agree to that comment. Toto's not falling back on their previous sounds to an almost clone like state. There really isn't a stand out single anywhere on this album. I found it very hard to listen to all the way through. "Lovin' Chains" is the only song I found memorable enough to mention. This album could have been better overall by not being so over produced and smooth. The rough edges of a lesser production sheen would have given a personality to the faceless AC that Chicago has released. I can only hope that if a new Supertramp album comes out this year they don't follow down the same slick path that Chicago XXX has taken.

21/04/06: Freddy De Keyzer -
Rating: 82
Surprisingly strong record from these veterans.
That typically Chicago sound is back and this is even better than the highly claimed Toto !
Nice surprise !

16/04/06: Melodic Rocker -
Rating: 100
Incredible. This album is simply awesome. I too think the closing 'Feel' is so much better with the horns. I love Chicago's horns, James Pankow is the master at his horn arrangements. 'Caroline' is simply breath taking. I could listen to that in a loop for hours. It is really fantastic. I have the entire 'Stone of Sysiphus' album so it hasn't been 15 years between releases for me, but it is nice to get a real release album and one of such quality. I hope it sells well and we get another in a couple of years. The boys in the band are not getting younger!!!

15/04/06: koogles -
Rating: 94
Chicago XXX is a complete Chicago album in that it brings together a number of different eras, from the 70s era ("Come to Me, Do") to the Cetera 80s ("Why Can't We" starts off with piano that immediately reminds me of "Hard to Say I'm Sorry"), "King of Might Have Been" also sounds like Peter's back singing the lead vocals (esp. in the verses). Then there are tracks that would have been right at home on Chicagos 18 through Twenty-One: "90 Degrees and Freezing", "Long Lost Friend" and "Love Will Come Back". Bringing it into the modern era, the first single "Feel" benefits from a modern beat and a top-of-the-line production. All in all, this is a smooth, savvy, satisfying album, with something for every Chicago fan, regardless of era. Of course, the ballad button gets plenty of pressing throughout, but can you blame them? Chicago is a band whose most successful period (1976-1990) was defined by no fewer than 10 Top 10 hits, 9 of which were ballads. (And the lone exception, "Baby What a Big Surprise", was mid-tempo at that.) This work is definitely the style of the late 80s Chicago is the most prominent, but it's as timeless a work as the band itself. One of the best Westcoast AOR CDs you will ever hear.

10/04/06: Carl1 -
Rating: 60
Technically brilliant but it's a very old fashioned style and I know it's a trademark sound but the brass setion just kills what would otherwise be very good aor songs. I can't see how anyone can compare this to Toto and Journey as it doesn't rock anything like either of those bands. Also the ballads are so slushy they wouldn't be out of place on a Barry Manilow record.
When they do rock up a little they are pretty good and those songs coupled with the production and musicianship get the marks. They lose 40% for the insipid ballads and brass. Flugelhorn's just don't cut it for me.

09/04/06: geoff -
Rating: 93
This is a great westcoast record,I have read reviews from
other sites,who have hated it,they must have something wrong with,there hearing .feel is a great song,if there was any
justice this should be a huge hit,other highlight`s are
the king of might have been the best ballad,of the album, 90 degrees and freezing another,
great song,caroline and already gone,in my opinion not a weak,
song on the album.the only thing I would say,is the running
order,to many ballads,together at the beginning but apart,from
that a great record.

08/04/06: Jennifer -
Rating: 100
This album is amazing Jay Demarcus of Rascal Flatts did a amazing job producing this album and the help of Rascal Flatts on "love will come back" is awesome!! The sounded great on that track! It rocked!

08/04/06: Ben Tuula -
Rating: 95
These guys and Toto must be feeding off eachother for the magic touch, because both of them have it this year! Amazing!

07/04/06: Markus Nordenberg Coastland Ride -
Rating: 100
15 years since the last album with original songs. It was worth the wait.

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