Chicago - Twenty 1

Chicago – Twenty 1

90 / 100

‘Twenty 1’ has been lambasted by long time Chicago fans as being their worst album. Personally, I think that’s an unfair call, I could go along with the ‘most different’ Chicago album..

Written by: gdmonline

ARTIST: Chicago
ALBUM: Twenty 1
LABEL: Reprise
SERIAL: 9 26391-2
YEAR: 1991
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List

LINEUP: Robert Lamm – vocals, keyboards, piano, percussion * Jason Scheff – vocals, bass * Bill Champlin – vocals, keyboards, guitars * Dawayne Bailey – lead guitar, backing vocals * Tris Imboden – drums, percussion * Jimmy Pankow – trombone, percussion, backing vocals * Lee Loughnane – trumpet, percussion, backing vocals * Walt Parazaider – woodwinds, percussion, backing vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Explain It To My Heart * 02 If It Were You * 03 You Come To My Senses * 04 Somebody Somewhere * 05 What Does It Take * 06 One From The Heart * 07 Chasin’ The Wind * 08 God Save The Queen * 09 Man To Woman * 10 Only Time Can Heal The Wounded * 11 Who Do You Love * 12 Holdin’ On



The 80’s decade was an interesting time if you were a fan of the band Chicago. This outfit along with Blood Sweat And Tears, Tower Of Power and a handful of other notables, pioneered a sound which fused big band, brass, jazz and rock all into a blended and unique package.

The late 80’s and early 90’s period were a far cry from their days as the Chicago Transit Authority way back into the 1960’s. The 80’s still saw the band release a string of hits, personnel changes were still occurring, most notably the departure of Peter Cetera, who was replaced by Jason Scheff. The band had also moved record labels, trading Warner Bros for Reprise Records.

‘Twenty 1’ has been lambasted by long time Chicago fans as being their worst album. Personally, I think that’s an unfair call, I could go along with the ‘most different’ Chicago album, but when you read reports that even the band members didn’t like this album.. well that ultimately says something.

The Songs

The inclusion of outside songwriters probably didn’t help Chicago’s cause. There are two Diane Warren songs, one is decent (being the opener ‘Explain It To My Heart’) but the other ‘Chasin’ The Wind’ is poor, and not really suited to the band. I really enjoyed the shape-shifting ‘If It Were You’, with prominent brass parts and some stinging lead guitar from Dawayne Bailey. My favourite track here is the stunning ‘What Would It Take’, the guitar solo from Bailey is an absolute killer, in the vein of Lukather and Huff.

Also worthy of a top mention is the Steinberg/Kelly composition ‘You Come To My Senses’, though the over abundance of ballads on the CD might have been one of the major reasons of annoyance for fans, long suffering because the band had moved so far away from their roots. The Bill Champlin fronted ‘Somebody Somewhere’ is an earthy tune, as is the case with most of Champlin’s material, quite likeable though.

‘One From The Heart’ is more in keeping with Chicago’s past discography, possibly add ‘God Save The Queen’, which is funky and full of brass parps. However, AORsters should sit up and take notice of two songs at the end of the CD. ‘Only Time Can Heal The Wounded’ and ‘Holdin’ On’ are both smooth AOR sounding tunes that will appeal, though again, hard core fans will probably say ‘yuck.’.. haha, you just can’t win.

In Summary

Certainly in West Coast and AOR circles, this album holds a high place, and in that context can be recommended wholly. However, as I have alluded to all throughout this review, long time Chicago fans will probably throw their hands up in horror when listening to this. Don’t be put off by the tirade of negative reviews out there on the Net. It’s not as bad as many make it out to be. Just different, and highly melodic.

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