Sound — 10
Chicago VII spans a lot of genres, including jazz in several varieties, acoustic, pop, and even some soul. The first half of the double album is dominated instrumental jazz. After two albums without much of a guitar solo presence of Terry Kath, this album offers a return to the epic solos of Kath. Aire is a very straightforward jazz tune with a catchy brass riff and some cool percussion, but Terry Kath really comes through with a wicked jazz guitar solo. Devil's Sweet is another instrumental track largely dominated by Parazaider on the sax, but Terry Kath has a strong rhythm guitar presence. Continuing with his love for effects, Kath puts a talkbox to use in Italian From New York. Peter Frampton and Joe Perry better watch out. The band also takes on Latin jazz with Mongonucleosis. Terry Kath continues with his own writing, with the acoustic Byblos and Song Of The Evergreens. In short, there are some very fun album tracks, though don't get any airplay these days, make the album worthwhile.
Lyrics — 9
The album covers a lot of ground. With all the instrumentals, the vocals don't kick in until the sixth track, Life Saver. It sounds heavily Beatles influenced, but with a big band sound. After six tracks of jazz, Peter Cetera goes to work on Happy Man. Wishing You Were Here calls upon the Beach Boys for vocals, and is not to be mistaken for the Pink Floyd song with a similar title. While his pop ballads would eventually be Chicago's undoing, his ballads in this album are decent. Loughnane's Call on Me, is quite catchy, sounds somewhat Beatles-esque. Skinny Boy was originally written for Robert Lamm's first solo album, but it flopped, so Lamm let Pankow add a horn section arrangement and feature it in the album. It's the only one of Chicago's songs to feature female vocalists during their heyday. You should try it; it's quite catchy.
Overall Impression — 10
This album takes a few listens through to grasp the full magnitude. Out of all their albums to this date, none other come even close to covering as much musical ground. One could say that it's Chicago's rough equivalent to the Beatles' White Album. To any new fan of Chicago, I'd recommend this album. To any old fan of Chicago, you probably already have this album. To any first time listener, be advised that this is a full length album. The only real gripe I have with this album is that this is the last album which truly captures their creativity. Despite that, the content is great and I would replace it if I lost it.