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Articles Home » 1988 Articles » Chicago - 1988 Chicago 19
Chicago - 1988 Chicago 19

ARTIST: Chicago
ALBUM: Chicago 19
LABEL: Reprise
SERIAL: 9 25714-2
YEAR: 1988


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

TRACK LISTING: 01 Heart In Pieces * 02 I Don't Wanna Live Without Your Love * 03 I Stand Up * 04 We Can Last Forever * 05 Come In From The Night * 06 Look Away * 07 What Kind Of Man Would I Be * 08 Runaround * 09 You're Not Alone * 10 Victorious


Chicago were sitting pretty around the mid to late 80's, having very successfully replaced Peter Cetera with Jason Scheff. Many had expected their commercial fortunes to decline but the AOR hits kept coming. Their celebrated brass section had been steadily mixed into the background during the 80's, much to the chagrin of long time fans who far preferred the early jazz rock albums. While I respect that era ('Saturday In The Park' etc) it does little for me compared to the blistering AOR Chicago unleashed in the 80's and early 90's. Confidence must have been high after the huge success of 1986's '18' album, with Ron Nevison coming in to produce about half of the upcoming platter with Chas Sanford capably handling the other half. So with all these winning factors in place, what was the end result like?

The Songs
'Heart In Pieces' immediately smashes the notion of Chicago as ballad mongers exclusively. Urgent, crucial AOR with welcome involvement from Tim Feehan, this is a powerhouse full of the hooks you expect and a mesmerizing cascade of an AOR chorus. I especially enjoyed how the horn section stays involved without spoiling the song, playing more of a keyboard role and contributing some killer licks in the chorus. Having heard Tim Feehan's own excellent version from 1990 I have to admit I missed the brass licks! 'I Don't Wanna Live Without Your Love' is pretty much midtempo AOR billed as a power ballad. Sometimes the lines get blurred between what qualifies as a ballad and what doesn't, and Chicago walked that tightrope time and again. The chorus again steals the show, with support from hard riffing in the verses and a pounding midtempo rhythm, nothing soft about this, sitting alongside the singles Heart and Kiss were coming up with around the same time. 'I Stand Up' tries to combine AOR with funky elements and comes up a little short, but 'We Can Last Forever' is a different matter, another deceptive tune that seems to be a ballad at first but eventuates into midtempo AOR with a chorus to knock you over. Some traffic on the tightrope then, chalk up another killer AOR anthem. 'Come In From The Night' only continues the winning run, driving AOR with some big riffs and a chorus that won't leave your mind easily, again placing Chicago among the typical hard glistening AOR of the day. Producers like Nevison, Zito and Fairbairn were scattering some magic dust all over American radio around this timeframe, and Chicago were not immune!

I remember seeing the video for 'Look Away' on South African television back in 1988 and being blown away by the chorus. Thoroughbred midtempo AOR with ballad like flourishes here and there, joining the tightrope traffic mentioned above, this track was inescapable for large tracts of the late 80's. Strong coffee required, and a refill to go because 'What Kind Of Man Would I Be' repeats the dose to similar effect. How Chicago crafted this many monster choruses on a single album remains a wonder, no complaints from these quarters mind you. 'Runaround' offers up some more some more dark roasted AOR coffee, a rocker with another of those choruses that reach into the stratosphere. The brass section again provides some great fills in the chorus, and there's plenty of crunch in the tempo department. 'You're Not Alone' is even better, belting AOR with pretty much no brass intrusion to unsettle those purists among us! This could be a blueprint for AOR, especially the velvet chorus that sent the song to number ten on Billboard. 'Victorious' ends the album with the only true ballad present, a bit of a longer workout with more of the brass section in play. Not bad, but probably the odd one out considering the unwavering AOR served up on the rest of the disc.

In Summary
As it turned out 19 was the final album to feature Dannny Seraphine on drums, and it was a fitting epitaph with at least four top ten singles on board. Despite the hits the album sold moderately, a big surprise to me considering the relentless quality displayed from start to finish. By all accounts the tour was more successful, seeing Chicago invade Japan in addition to the other AOR haunts. Next up for Chicago would be the cool sountrack song 'Hearts In Trouble', followed by the equally essential 'Twenty 1' album in 1991 (reviewed by George some time back). To sum things up: if you only know the hits and never bought the '19' album, I recommend an investment in this little beauty, some very rewarding AOR discoveries await you.

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#1 | jeffrey343 on January 12 2015 16:21:23
I never actually listened to the entire album until last night. The big hits were all over radio, and I have them on the band's greatest hits 1982-89 album. The whole album is very solid and one I would have enjoyed 25 years ago. 'Look Away' is an absolute killer. One of my good friends adopted it as his 'theme song' when going through a tough breakup.
#2 | AOR Lee on January 15 2015 04:30:09
Similar story here Jeff, I had the Heart Of Chicago compilation so never bought this album until the late 90's. Was very satisfied when I got it though!
#3 | DaveE on January 16 2015 18:04:05
As a Chicago fan since 1970, 19 is my second favorite Chicago album after Chicago II. I would put Heart In Pieces, Come In From The Night, Look Away, Runaround, and You're Not Alone in my top thirty Chicago songs and this is coming from someone who owns every Chicago album of new material. Highly recommended!
#4 | code4 on October 25 2015 16:21:25
Heart in Pieces was excellent and relatively liked this album (or at least a bunch of the songs). However, unfortunately this is the one 1980's Chicago album to sound rather horrible on cd format (at least the european version anyway). 16 and 17 have seen remaster releases but didn't really need them as both sounded fine and truthful to the vinyls on the original cd's. 19 has not as far as i know.

If anybody is aware of the japan cd sounding better i would love a tip off. Wouldn't surprise me if so. The standard colombia usa cd of Toto IV (still in print) for example sounds awful whereas the early japanese versions sound excellent
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