Chicago’s remaining core line-up has spent various years refusing the dramatic musical shift that started with their sixteenth album. Most of the blame has been positioned on producer David Foster, who ushered in a three-album period of chic pop sensibility with the discharge of Chicago 16 on June 7, 1982.
“David really created a sound that included the Chicago sound, but turned out to be his sound — his sound using Chicago as an instrument,” co-founder Robert Lamm instructed Goldmine in 2000. “To this day, David Foster really wants to be an artist – and he will never be an artist. So he makes records with artists so what he’s doing can shine through, using the artists as synthesizers, if you will.”
However, Foster came when the former experimental jazz-rockers were at rock bottom — both creatively and commercially. Drugs, personal troubles and a lack of creative direction took their toll. 1979’s “Chicago 13” was their first album ever to fail the top 20.
“I firmly imagine that with out David Foster the band in all probability would not have existed at the least as a mainstream band again then,” admitted Lamm. “If we did not have these hits, it will have taken plenty of effort to seek out our approach. It was like the suitable man on the proper time, each for us and for radio.”
But first they had been dropped by Columbia Records, who then put out a flimsy compilation. Greatest Hits Volume II was additionally bombed, however it gave Chicago a while to regroup. It was at this level that new member Bill Champlin and drummer co-founder Danny Seraphine started a dialogue about David Foster that turned Chicago’s fortunes.
Watch Chicago’s Hard to Say I’m Sorry video
“I said to the band, ‘You have to be willing to throw away every song you have. They have to be good songs or he’s not involved,'” Champlin mentioned in 2011. “Things started to change when they started hating him, but Foster really brought this band back to life.”
Chicago’s new producer would oversee adjustments that had been each speedy and dramatic. Longtime collaborator Laudir de Oliveira’s Latin percussion was out, as had been a lot of the early Chicago demos, which soon-to-be-departed singer Peter Cetera would later bluntly name “pure shit.”
“People would come up with songs that were just weak,” Cetera instructed the Knoxville News Sentinel in 2017. “So David Foster and I started writing songs, and the things we came up with were really good. What will you do? Pick songs that aren’t worth it?”
Foster accomplished the band’s in depth makeover with outdoors songwriters, session wrestlers from Toto and a aptitude for hovering string-driven manufacturing that usually sidelined the horn part.
“The guy’s an amazing, talented guy,” trombonist James Pankow instructed Goldmine. “But it’s almost like he’s like, ‘Okay, you guys play in traffic and I’ll make this record.
Lamm just disappeared on the way. Once the band’s central creative force, he was reduced to a single co-writer of a throwaway instrumental coda that was cut from the hit single “Hard to Say I’m Sorry.” Instead, Cetera and Foster solidified their new creative partnership with “Love Me Tomorrow,” the album’s second Top 40 hit.
Watch Chicago’s Love Me Tomorrow video
“He and Peter clicked immediately and wrote some nice songs,” Seraphine told Coachella Valley Weekly in 2021. “It added many, a few years to our careers. Lots of people discuss ‘traditional Chicago’ and people are nice songs – however so are the ’80s ones.”
The results may have turned off some old fans and even some members of the group. But Chicago 16 brought in dozens of new listeners. This was their first album since 1978 to reach platinum status – and it was only six months after it hit store shelves. The Grammy-nominated “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” became her second-ever Billboard #1 single.
“Peter did not like horns, and he and David Foster co-wrote these large ballads,” Pankow told the Daily Press Affair in 2014.”
Despite this, Chicago caught with Foster’s formulation. The follow-up, Chicago 17, went six-times platinum in 1984, then 1986’s Chicago 18 turned a Top 40 hit that bought gold – regardless of Cetera’s eventual departure.
“Of course, Cetera got all the attention pretty soon,” added Champlin, who left Chicago in 2009. “When it became person-oriented, he said they fired him too. That insecurity runs the whole thing. They rode on our coattails – cetera, David Foster, me. As for them, I had nothing to do with it, but I’ll be committed to our five top 10 hits.”
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