Horns

Christmas With Horns

*Rubs hands together*

*Evil laugh*

If you didn’t see any of this coming, then you really don’t know me that well, do you?

So we’ve officially kicked off the holiday season, which began with the carving of a giant bird, which later moved into attacking people in stores for that 55″ television you just had to have. But for $250, it was a steal, and that old man couldn’t possibly run that fast. So as you scream “Survival of the fittest, pops!” you run off while dragging that box behind you…

Whoah, where was I going with this?

None of this actually happened, folks. I’m just trying to set up the season for you. Don’t mind me, apparently I’m a better fiction writer than I give myself credit for!

Anyway, the evil subject at hand…the actual evil subject!

Naturally, when I begin to compile my Christmas playlist – I run with all of the staples and favorites – Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, and the like. I’ve begun to expand my Christmas playlist to the likes of Anne Murray and Judy Collins, but I’m more apt to shy away from anything that sounds novelty or cartoonish, with the exception of anything that comes from A Charlie Brown Christmas or How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

Don’t make me ever listen to anything from Alvin and the Chipmunks, unless you like to see a quick descent into insanity.

A few years ago, my parents gifted me with Michael Buble’s Christmas album, which mixed the classics with the crooning of Mr. Buble. I’ve been a fan ever since, and since I’m convinced alot of things I like wind up being gateway drugs for other things, I began to take a liking to David Foster, Josh Groban, and became more appreciative of Kenny Loggins and Chicago.

This article all about that group I write way too much about.

I dislike snow, cold weather, and everything that has to do with winter. Conversely, I like Christmas music that sings of all these things. Oh, and there’s a place I’d rather not spend a moment of my winter or Christmas in…Chicago. However, there is one group I’d like to spend my holiday season listening to – theĀ band Chicago.

You knew where this was going long before you started reading. You chose to stay.

Horns

Chicago conquered it all – horn sections, the 1970s, creative album covers that didn’t need to feature the band on them, roman numerals. So it was only natural that they had to conquer the holiday season, but it took them until 1998 to do so, and the result was Chicago XXV: The Christmas Album. The album was released in August of 1998 on their label, Chicago Records (perhaps they were wise to have their own label after the debacle of that unreleased album), and later re-released in 2003 by Rhino Records as What’s It Gonna Be, Santa?, with six additional tracks. This re-release in itself came of the effort to possibly record an entirely new album of Christmas music, which was scrapped due to cost factors.

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The original album featured fourteen tracks, with the re-released album containing twenty. Adding to the festivities and joy of the season were the songs featuring a children’s choir for the songs “Children’s Prayer” and “One Little Candle,” both of which originated on the original version of the album, and featured some of the band’s children – Kate and Sean Lamm (daughters of Robert Lamm), Sarah Pankow (daughter of James Pankow), Dylan and River Loughnane (children of Lee Loughnane), and Ryan and Alex Bittan (children of Roy Bittan), among others.

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The re-released album (containing six new tracks) also gave Keith Howland his first lead vocal contribution for “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.” Howland, until that time, had been backing vocals since joining the group in 1995 (he’s still with the band today).

From Howland’s My Space page (https://myspace.com/keithhowlandmusic)

Complete track listing (Both Albums)

And what would an article about music be without, well, music?!

Here’s the original album:

Uploaded by mistermister668xmas

And the six tracks that were added to the re-release in 2003 (All Uploaded by Chicago – Topic):

As far as the albums go, all the standards of Christmas are covered. The arrangements are nice, and very much what you’d expect of any Chicago song, except the horns really add to the festiveness of the season.

I particularly love the total opposite song of the bunch, “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.” This was lead guitaristĀ Keith Howland’s first lead solo since joining the group in 1995, and it definitely didn’t disappoint – I love the more contemporary edge he gave the song. Chicago managed to re-invent their sound as the 1980s and 1990s progressed, and this is a great example of how they did it through the post-Cetera years.

And there are the beautiful children’s choir songs – the young voices in the songs “Child’s Prayer” (accompanied by Jason Scheff) and “One Little Candle” help them stand out among the trademark sound Chicago is known for.

And of course, if you ever want to hear a great group effort of vocals, “Sleigh Ride” has a four-part harmony of Robert Lamm, Jason Scheff, Bill Champlin, and Lee Loughnane (whom you’re more likely to see doing his impressive trumpet and flugelhorn work – it’s always nice to see him sing!).

I don’t think there is anything about Chicago I could ever not be impressed about – from their early hits in the late 1960s and 1970s, to their re-invented sounds of the 1980s and 1990s, to Christmas music, love songs, breakup songs, tributes to bassists that were bigger than a big name, and collaborations with other groups to combine sound and style, I just continually am impressed with with a find. I’m still not a fan of “Colour My World,” but that’s a minor detail.

Christmas, Chicago, Chicago music, and Christmas music as sung by Chicago…what could be better?

You came because you were lured in by Christmas music, and you got yet another of Allison’s fangirl articles about Chicago. But that’s ok, you stayed long enough to read this part. If you’d like to read more of Allison’s stuff, she’d love for you to visit her blog, Allison’s Written Words. You can follow her blog on Facebook, and Allison is also on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut. She mixes up her articles with random observations, and keeps the politics out of her tweets. She prefers it that way. Why would she want to discuss that when she can discuss a topic of her “happy place,” which is music.

Everyone should have a happy place like that.

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