Thursday, October 23, 2008

Album Review: Stone of Sisyphus

I haven't talked about or reviewed any sort of media release in quite a while. That said, I really got excited when I ran across this because of not just the really high energy and the high quality, but also because it reminded me of what once was.

Chicago, the band, has been around since the mid-1960's. They are one of the few bands that have continued to work with most of the same core personnel, and with little exception have been consistent in the quality of their music.

An aside: when I was a kid, I was a huge fan of these guys; after all, I was (at least I thought) an aspiring musician. I was a trumpet player - by the accounts of others, at one time I was pretty good. It was something I enjoyed doing, and I strongly considered becoming a professional musician. I wanted to model myself after Lee Loughnane, the trumpet man of Chicago's horn section.

In 1993, they recorded what was supposed to be Chicago XXII. But because of some problems they had with their record label at the time - I think it was Warner Brothers - it never got released. In the middle of fighting with WB over this album, they also let DaWayne Bailey, their lead guitarist at the time, go. With all of that said, the album sat still the entire time with bits and pieces of it being let go in "bootleg" fashion. Many people referred to it as "Chicago's lost album", and its existence - for lack of a better word - was the stuff of legend.

Anyway, Rhino Records, Chicago's current label, authorized release of this album in June of this year, 15 years after it was recorded. It was renamed "Chicago: Stone of Sisyphus", otherwise known as "Chicago XXXII." I discovered it yesterday in my haphazard way of Web surfing; I had no idea that this had been released, much less that it even existed. And it has started to grow on me in a big way in a very short time.

I have to say that there are no tracks I dislike; if you are appreciate the power of a good horn section, you'll like what is on here. The title track is in the below video - it has drive, the backbeat of the rhythm section is solid, and the vocals are right on. The only thing I would have done differently is with the ending - I would have re-written the melody line without the high notes we hear Keith Howland (bassist and vocalist) singing; I would have dropped that high note down one full step and left it that way.

Overall, at least in my opinion it is one of their better albums. It definitely should have been released 15 years ago.

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