With a career that spans over 40 years, Chicago is one of those bands you refer to as ‘an institution’. And with over 30 million albums sold, perhaps one of the greatest snubs (aside from not being inducted into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame) in music has to do with dissing the many ballads produced by Chicago. Chicago songs, prior to Peter Cetera’s 1976 breakout hit ‘If You Leave Me Now’, were expected by hard-core fans to be rocking horn-laden numbers a la ’25 or 6 to 4′.
And while Chicago continued to rock hard with up-tempo numbers like ‘Get Away’ and ‘Along Comes A Woman’, the masterful touch of producer David Foster created a symphonic approach to huge numbers like ‘Hard to Say I’m Sorry’ and ‘You’re the Inspiration’. Consequently, most hard-core CTA (Chicago Transit Authority, the band’s early 70’s monicker) were quickly alienated by the big, sweeping and decidedly love-struck stylings (especially with songs that relegated the horn section to a background texture).
But honestly, some of these amazing pieces, with maestro David Foster’s incredible arranging and production touches, are the very best of Chicago. Chicago songs may run the gamut in style from 1967 on, but Peter Cetera’s vocals never sounded bigger or better than on big ballads like ‘Hard Habit to Break’ and the aforementioned ‘Hard to Say I’m Sorry’.
Upon Cetera’s exit in the mid-80s, Jason Scheff took the helm and incredible (and underrated) songs like ‘Will You Still Love Me?’ and ‘What Kind of Man Would I Be?’ came to the fore, combining the kind of orchestral stylings that so well-marked David Foster’s production…and perfectly suited Chicago’s incredible line-up (even the world-class horn section). Bill Champlin gave Chicago a massive hit with ‘Look Away’ before the 90s and grunge relegated big precision melody to a thing of the past.
And while today’s Chicago favors the very early work of the band over their 80s hey-day, there is no denying that songs like ‘Will You Still Love Me?’, ‘You’re the Inspiration’ and ‘Hard to Say I’m Sorry’ may now be some of the most underrated work every produced by Chicago. Chicago songs cover a broad spectrum, but the Foster/Chicago collaborations have to rank as some of the greater recordings the band ever made.