Sound — 10
This is Chicago's second album, which was released in 1970 and contains a double album's worth of material. While their previous album (CTA) had a lot of rock and jazz influences, this one adds some classical to the mix. Arguably, this is Chicago at it's best. Most of the songwriting was done by Robert Lamm, James Pankow, and Terry Kath, though Cetera and Parazaider chip in. While the album seems to fit all together, it's double-album length gives ample opportunities for the group to use a multitude of different styles. The album includes three multi-part suites. Terry Kath's "Memories of Love" is highly influenced by classical music. On the other hand, Lamm's multi-part suite "It Better End Soon" carries more of an agressive jazz and rock influence, spotting room for extended flute and guitar solos. The track "Fancy Colors" has a more funky sound. The horns sound great, and the sound quality is very professional.
Lyrics — 9
A good deal of the material written by Robert Lamm makes him the political voice of the band. He uses "It Better End Soon" as an outlet to voice his frustration with the Vietnam War, though his "Poem for the People" is also political. Terry Kath's vocals are amazing in "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon." His voice sounds like Ray Charles, and husky like Bruce Springsteen's. Peter Cetera sings in the higher range, as fitting for "25 or 6 to 4." The vocal chemistry between Kath and Cetera is present in "In the Country," and would later be seen again in "Dialogue Part I" from Chicago V. While the lyrics are good, it's the musicianship that make this album great.
Overall Impression — 10
The album gave rise to several hit singles, and a whole load of great album tracks. Lamm's "25 or 6 to 4" is a great song, and rightfully so. Kath's guitar work and use of the wah pedal give the song a wicked guitar solo. Its main riff sounds very similar to "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" by Led Zeppelin. Pankow's multi-part suite "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon" is clearly the center point of the album. It contained two hits "Make Me Smile" and "Colour My World." The suite was originally intended to be released as one complete 15 minute track. Radio fails to do this justice, as listening to the individual singles doesn't compare to experiencing it as a whole. While there aren't any low points of the album, some songs certainly stick out more than others. Other great album tracks include "The Road," "Wake Up Sunshine," and "Movin' In." As a whole, every track seems to fit in. While "25 or 6 to 4" and "Make Me Smile" often get overplayed on the radio these days, the depth of the album remains highly untapped. If I lost this album, there is no doubt that I would replace it ASAP. This album is a must-listen for anyone.