Have You Heard Tris Imboden’s Chicago Story?

“As many of you have already heard, our long-time drummer Tris Imboden has resigned. For nearly thirty years Tris has shared his tremendous talent, and indeed his life, with Chicago. We are fortunate to have known him and grateful to have shared the stage with him these many years. He has been a great friend and band mate and we’ll miss his enthusiasm and contagious smile. We wish Tris and Mary a lifetime of happiness together.” – Statement from Chicago’s website

The Chicago Shakeup

I logged onto YouTube yesterday to find a response to a comment I made on a Chicago performance video that vocalist and bassist Jeff Coffey left the group. His leaving comes after only joining the group full time in October 2016 (he initially filled in for Scheff during his leave of absence in mid-2016), but also two days after another shakeup in the group.

As the statement says, after twenty-eight years of drumming and flashing a smile that says “I love my job” (and not in the fake way people who actually hate their job smile), Tris Imboden resigned from the group. His recent marriage and the rigorous travel and touring schedule were cited as his reasons. While this makes me sad, the decision was obviously for great reason, thus proving that we haven’t seen the last of Tris Imboden’s talent.

What we have seen the last of, however, is this.

Upload via William Gigliotti

Amazing.

1990: The Summer Without A Tour

Tris Imboden’s Chicago story begins long before his arrival in 1990 – he saw the group perform as an opening act in 1968 (remember, they were new at the time!), and he loved their music immediately. Imboden’s talents took him to the Kenny Loggins Band (yes, that  Kenny Loggins), as well as Al Jureau, among other talents. The summer of 1990 saw Tris without either band he toured with going on tour that summer. The opportunity he was given was hard to pass up, and the rest, as they say, is history. For Tris Imboden, it was a twenty-eight-year journey that even his battle with Stage 3A Lung Cancer couldn’t put to an end.

Would You Like To Hear Tris’s Chicago Story?

I think the better question is: Would you like to hear Tris tell you about his career both before AND with Chicago?

I uploaded his excerpts from the mini-documentary The New Guys, filmed in 2014 and included as a bonus feature on the Blu-Ray of Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago.

Go on, check it out (click his name below the picture), and also witness Tris’s mad harmonica skills!

The New Guys – Tris Imboden (Upload to WordPress via Allison’s Written Words)

Excerpts: 1968, Being A Musician in the 1970s, Joining Chicago, and 1990

Thanks, Tris!

I said it on Twitter already (Chicago and Imboden both “liked” my tweet), but I’ll say it again: This author wishes Tris Imboden all the best in his future successes. His time with Chicago was amazing, and his talent will be missed!

(And this was before Chicago liked the tweet!)

Chicago Did Hip Hop?!

Oh hell yeah, Chicago did Hip Hop!

The Stone of Sisyphus Rolls On…

Returning to roots is not always a bad thing. However, if you’re Chicago, and your record label doesn’t like change, then, well…your album gets shelved.

I received the Chicago album Stone of Sisyphus as a birthday present. When I received it, I only knew “The Pull,” and “Bigger Than Elvis.” As you know, that’s because I wrote previous articles for both songs. Needless to say, I was excited about this gift. As a nostalgia archaeologist (or “Digital Indiana Jones“), I was fully prepared to immerse myself in deeper meanings and unreleased 1990s glory in a 2000s world.

What I found was the cooler, better-sounding 1990s answer to 1979’s “Street Player,” “Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed.” And guess what, they tried disco, so why not…Hip Hop.

That’s right, Chicago did Hip Hop!

Chicago Did Hip Hop?!

Much of Stone of Sisyphus feels like an experimentation of formats. The album departs from the power ballad rabbit hole of the late 1980s. While some of that is represented here, Chicago isn’t beating us over the head with it. They’re embracing the ability to stretch their creative muscles, hence, “Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed.”

According to Robert Lamm:

When John McCurry and I were cutting the demo, I had the lyrics written, we had the track, and I never really sang a melody. I was just kind of riffing. The rhythm of the words was there, but the melody wasn’t. I went out into the studio to do a rough vocal, and McCurry pushed the talkback button and said, “Why don’t you rap it?” And we both started laughing: OK, let’s try that.

According to Bill Champlin:

I think the record company heard that [“Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed”] and went, ‘Wait a minute – white guys don’t do this.’ Simple as that. I told Robert I thought it was an awesome piece, but you’re running up against racial lines here. I think that’s the first time Robert’s crossed any of those lines in a good long while.

Of course, in 1993, Bill was experimenting with something far more epic than music…Hair, Party of one!

“Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed” combines the sound of then-contemporary Hip Hop music (commonly referred to as Rap during that time), with the sound of Chicago’s “rock with horns.” I haven’t heard anything quite like this since Tom Jones rapped his heart out. And hey, his career was on a resurgence, so it had to work for Chicago, right?

Having alleged sex appeal probably didn’t hurt either.

Looking for the Big Hit…

It matters if I like it, right?

Because I do!

Unlike the aforementioned Disco Disaster known as “Street Player,” this song actually works! It is fun, funky, and experimental to the hilt! The obvious “we’re having fun” vibe is present throughout. And this grouping of lyrics?

I read somewhere that religion is for people
Who want to stay out of hell
I was praying for a sign or a vision or a message
Till you been there you won’t get well
I was sitting in a room I’d never recognize it
With a picture before my eyes
I’ve been sleeping in the middle of the bed again
I’m not sure this qualifies

I’d say a helluva good drug was available when Robert Lamm wrote this song, but he was clean for quite a few years at this point.

That Chicago Hip Hop Song…

Robert Lamm co-penned “Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed” with songwriter John McCurry, who has also worked with Cyndi Lauper, Billy Joel, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, John Waite, Belinda Carlisle, Julian Lennon, Joss Stone, Katy Perry, The Jonas Brothers, and Elliott Yamin. Robert Lamm is responsible for the vocals.

Someone that is quite possibly even more white than Robert Lamm. And Tom Jones.

Walter Parazaider discussed the exploration of this untapped genre:

Robert was just exploring another genre, which we’d been doing since Day One. I hink the only things we haven’t covered are Dixieland and polkas, and give us long enough we’ll probably do that too.

 

Because when you’ve done Disco, Hip Hop, Rock, and Power Ballads, this is naturally the course you must take.

Naturally!

I have to give Lamm kudos – on an album that already was quite the experimental mix, this song definitely stands out. And while “standing out” isn’t always a good thing, this was A Good Thing. I’ll give that it sounds bizarre for someone who had never rapped before (read: a 40-something-year-old white guy who sang in Italian on “Saturday in the Park”) to attempt it, but Tom Jones did it, so why not Lamm? Credit where credit is due, this song was creative in its efforts.

The disco album, on the other hand, was selling out.

“Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed”

And now, the part of the article where I unleash the song on you!

Ladies and gentlemen, Chicago rapping about religion, love storms, and lying dormant in a selected spot on a specified sleeping area.

Upload via Chicago – Topic

So now, you can tell everyone about that time that Chicago did Hip Hop…and prove it to them!

Not that this comes up in those bar/pub quiz nights, but if it does…

Watch The Peanuts Gang Rocking Out To Chicago!

The Peanuts Gang rocking out to Chicago.

Yep, I’m officially seeking out reasons to write about Chicago.

(Insert Chicago Explanation Here)

I’ll state the obivous: I love Chicago, I’ve seen them in concert, and I write about them ALOT.

I love this song, that song, and such and such album. The concert from 1993 is a Hair Party. I have lukewarm feelings toward Bill Champlin and Peter Cetera (love their singing though!), and OMG have you heard that disco song?!

Anyway…

Who Knew The Peanuts Gang Sang…Like This?!

Now, we’ve always known the Peanuts gang (Good Old Chuck and the Group!) to sing Christmas songs. There was also that time in the 1980s where child actors with actual singing talent played the characters. Every special in the 1980s had musical numbers. The characters came a long way from their over-enunciating days in the 1960s.

But they never quite sang like Chicago.

Until now.

A few years ago, my dad shared this video on my Facebook timeline:

I was just getting into Chicago’s music (thanks I Heart Radio!), but I’d been into Peanuts for years.

This video, my friends, is the work of Garren Lazar. It is just one of several Chicago music videos he made, featuring the Peanuts gang.

Oh yes, there’s more!

“The Peanuts Gang…in the Park…”

Garren has done quite the job of matching mouth movments and the music. What results is nothing short of amazing!

Take, for instance, this song I’ve never heard before…

This one EVERYBODY has heard!

Do you know what time it is?

…time to smile?

The flute solo that got stuck in my head for two days…

Seriously.

This lovely day in a certain open air place…I think it was some warm weather holiday…

This one, complete with all the feels…

I remember seeing this special as a teenager, and being sad. This song does not help!

That other song that signals a start…

I just wanna be…

And ANOTHER song I haven’t heard before!

All uploads via Garren Lazar

You laughed, you cried…you probably sang along. Don’t hide it!

But Wait, There’s More!

Turns out Garren Lazar has a huge playlist of singing Peanuts Gang videos, not exclusive to Chicago music!

Seriously, check this out!

Uploads via Garren Lazar

Thank you so much, Garren Lazar, for sharing you talent for making You Tube music videos a true art form! :-)

Have You Heard Chicago’s “The Pull”?

Uh oh, guess who discovered – or rather, got pull-ed in the direction of – another Chicago song?

Gee, let me guess…

The Stone of Sisyphus Keeps on Rolling…

Several months ago, I wrote about an unreleased (until 2008) song penned by Jason Scheff, and performed by Chicago called “Bigger Than Elvis.” The song was a dedication piece to Jason’s father, Jerry Scheff, who was a bassist for Elvis Presley. “Bigger Than Elvis” was set to be released as part of the group’s ill-fated 1994 album Stone of Sisyphus. 

The album was to be a return to Chicago’s personal, cultural, and musical roots, and not a strive for hits. The album was completed in secrecy (even from their label), in order to emphasize Chicago’s creative sovereignty, set for a March 1994 release, but suddenly rejected (it was initially well-received) from Warner Bros. Records. This resulted in the album going unreleased for fifteen years, and Chicago leaving the label altogether.

The 1993 “Greek Theater”Concert

Prior to the album’s ultimate rejection, there was one song that made the set list for Chicago’s 1993 Greek Theater concert. It was a song that I had not actually heard before, nor had I seen any concert footage from the 1990s. But I can tell you this: the concert is a total hair party, 1990s-era Chicago is as awesome as any era Chicago, and those horns…fabulous.

Bill Champlin’s hair. That hair is everything you’d expect in glorious hair.

I had total hair envy watching this concert. Can you see why?

Former Member of the Hair Party, bassist, and lead vocalist Jason Scheff had an arguably strong voice that contributed to the group from the mid-1980s and on through the 1990s, right up until his departure in 2016. It didn’t matter who wrote it or if Peter Cetera was the original voice, he could handle any song with a true performer’s glory.

He was the only one without long hair.

Even the horn section had Mandatory Mullets!

“The Pull” Gets Its Big Push in Concert

The 1993 tour was an obvious attempt to promote the group’s upcoming album, and they deviated from the usual set list to play one of the songs from that album. Perhaps this one had the “marketability” they were going for.

I’m not 100% sure, but I do know this – the song was quite catchy, and very reminiscent of mid-1980s Chicago.

Take a look at this amazing video of Jason Scheff giving his all to “The Pull.”

Uploaded by Mr Joe Lynch

Those horns, that sound, this is revived-in-the-1980s-era Chicago. This is everything this group was amazing for and yet, this (and the album it rode in on) didn’t see the light of day for fourteen years. It took ten albums and fourteen years (and Rhino Records) to release this amazing song and album.

The lyrics in “The Pull” tell listeners that no matter what, no matter how far one goes, one’s roots (and past) are always ready to draw one back.

It is truly a powerful song.

Departures, Arrivals, and Stones Finally Getting Their Push

Unfortunately, with the album’s unreleased status, it was the final album for guitarist Dawayne Bailey, whose contract was not renewed following the not release of Stone of Sisyphus. Bailey had been with Chicago during the ushering in of the “new era” in 1986.

But even with his departure, Chicago lucked out in the end…

You guys know how I feel about Keith Howland.

Past Exhibits:

Old Days, Good Times Some Didn’t Have! – Hear Keith Howland sing the song Peter Cetera hated to sing!

Christmas with Horns – Howland’s version of “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” is awesome!

Eventually, Sisyphus did succeed in pushing that stone – Rhino Records released the album as Chicago’s thirty-second album on June 17, 2008. Because when something is good enough, it will eventually get heard.

You can pretty much say someone had “The Pull” to get it released!

Get it, “The Pull…”

Ok, fine.

OMG hair!

Oh, and if you really want to see the full concert, it is AMAZING!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8FcJ6f3xJ4

Uploaded by MyyyTunes Concerts

David Foster Is Playing With Fire…And Chicago’s Horn Section!

Because David Foster + Chicago Horn Section = AWESOMENESS!

The Hit Man Hits The Wallet!

Ah, the famous “I got your money!” look.

A few years ago, I gifted my mom with every David Foster CD I could find. From the glory of the Hit Man concert DVD/CD combos (there are two different concerts), to River of Love, and even The Symphony Sessions (an album I wasn’t sure she’d like, but was something I really loved hearing on I Heart Radio), my mom and I would bond over listening to Foster’s piano-playing prowess (so much alliteration!!!!), and the ability to make any song an epic listening experience!

One of the other albums I found during all the searches was actually Foster’s debut album, titled, simply (because only he can!), David Foster. For someone who spent his career up until that point writing songs and producing hits for other artists, Foster had only put out one album of his own work, The Best of Me, in 1983. This album, released in 1986, was a collaboration of Foster and the friends and people he had worked with previously. That was, my friends, a whole lotta people.

Friends and Associations

David Foster’s list of hits and production contributions is numerous and far-reaching. In the 1980s, he was (at least partially) responsible for giving Chicago the big comeback they needed following the disco disaster of 1979. So when Foster was ready to release his self-titled albm, he called on a few friends. Of which he has many.

Three of those friends just happen to be a trio (part of a larger band) hailing from the Windy City, who happen to be quite handy with brass instruments, backup vocals, and two of the three are responsible for the Street Player dance (begins at 3:00)…

Uploaded by saskatchawan

Oh that dance.

The trio Foster called upon to provide their horns are none other than James Pankow, Lee Loughnane, and Walter Parazaider, the horn section that gives Chicago that “rock with horns” thing they’re known for!

The song this triple threat provided their magic for was “Playing with Fire,” an amazing instrumental piece that also features drummer Tris Imboden (pre-Chicago), who is half of this awesome duel…

Uploaded by bratalishus

This song is one of several in a great instrumental lineup that this album offers. I should note that I covered tapDANCE (yes, that is how it is listed on the album) in a previous Retroist article. I’ll have to cover the rest of this album at another time, but for now, please enjoy the music, by clicking play!

Uploaded by David Foster – Topic