Back in college my favorite group was Chicago. Now, mind you, when most people think of Chicago they think of one of about 5 songs, usually. And their popular songs are great (especially through the 70's) -- but I'm talking about the incredible, soulful jams that only people who've heard the whole albums would know. Like "South California Purples" -- especially the live version on Chicago 4.
All the albums through Chicago 8, (9 is a greatest hits album), then 11 is pretty good. And after that, the only one that stands out is Chicago 16 -- not because it's anything like the first 8, but because of it's sheer excellent pop polish. Right after that they added more sugar to the pop and they crashed fast and hard with 17. Which, ironically, was the only time I got to see them. At that point, to me, it wasn't even Chicago anymore. I figured 17 was a good breaking point because Cetera left after that one -- not that he wasn't largely responsible for the schlocky sound of 17. (No offense to Peter - they were very GOOD at the schmaltzy sound, I just don't particularly care for it.)
Anyway, I've been listening to them on Rhapsody the last couple of days. I have all of these (up to 17) on vinyl, but they vinyl collection's kinda hard to get to, and records are just more trouble than CDs and mp3s.
Chicago V, VI, VII, and VIII are probably my favorites. After Chicago 8 (with the exceptions of 11 & 16) there were a few pretty good hit songs but the rest of the stuff between was musically ... um... boring? Nothing like the great music you'll hear on VII, for instance.
Freakin' great stuff with actual melodies (which you pretty much don't hear anyomore outside of country music) and texture and improvisation. Fancy Colours indeed!
Anyway, it's reminding me a lot of my college days (good and bad) -- how many people who went to college in the 1980's are reminded of them by old Chicago music from the 1970's? Kinda funny.