Columbia PC 33100
Released: March 1975
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 29
Certified Platinum: 11/21/86
While it's difficult to picture anyone failing to be amused by the intentional ludicrousness of, say, dedicating an album to the revolution or making the first addition to a lineup in eight years a conga player when nobody in the group can really sing, this superb satirical group's high jinks have traditionally gone over the head of your average rock buff. Even while critics have been acclaiming them indefatigably since their emergence, the masses have either vilified or simply ignored the Chi-guys.
While no single cut is as hilarious as "Critics Choice," Bob Lamm's classic sendup of people who get upset by disapproving reviews on Chicago VI or VII or whichever, there are nonetheless giggles galore to be derived from the actual music here.
Check out, for instance, "Anyway You Want," a wonderful parody of a group attempting to perform Jimmy Reed's "Tell Me What You Want Me to Do" without having first learned it. Or "Hideaway," whose music is a tongue-in-cheek pastiche of those dodo Doobie Brothers' "China Grove" and Free's "Fire and Water," with lyrics right out John Denver at his most mawkish. Or "Oh, Thank You Great Spirit," wherein that irrepressible cut-up Terry Kath -- he of the funniest Alvin Lee impression ever -- exorcises those problems that had been "hassling [his] head!"
Forget you you found it difficult to get heavily into this group's finely honed satire in the past. Chicago VIII will make you laugh until actual tears race one another down your cheeks. This is one horn band whose time has come!
- John Mendelsohn, Rolling Stone, 6/19/75.
The evolution of Chicago is probably about complete. It has gradually gotten away from the box-square self-consciousness of its "jazz-rock" sound -- which has already been milked for its prestige value and serves only to date for the group -- and now it is casting about in several styles: one cut here is folkish, another uses the sighing-strings jazz-ballad approach, another is polite honky boogie, and so on. But Chicago is still one of the dullest outfits ever to waddle down the yellow brick road. Unfortunately, it is also extraordinarily successful, so its music has a consistent smugness about it which comes only when a band moves from simple self-confidence to a sense of its own infallibility.
This album includes not only the de rigueur wall-size poster, but also a Chicago logo decal you can iron on to your T-shirt or face. Hats and horns!
- Joel Vance, Stereo Review, 8/75.
This album aptly proves that Chicago will be around for many more years. They have stayed current in their compositions and, unlike many, they haven't keyed on one sound and made a career of it. True, they do have a trademarked sound, but that's in their use of horns. This album has some very fine moments and the group ably covers a number of musical areas. As usual the composer chair is shared by several group members and each is outstanding in its own way. Recorded at Caribou Ranch and produced by James William Guercio. There is already a hit single from this album and it would be surprising if another one or two don't also come. Best cuts: "Anyway You Want," "Brand New Love Affair," "Harry Truman," "Long Time No See," "Ain't It Blue," "Old Days," "Hideaway."
- Billboard, 1975.
Chicago keyboardist Robert Lamm had been the band's main songwriter to this point, and although he contributed four of the 10 songs here, only his "Harry Truman" was memorable. The album's biggest hit was James Pankow's "Old Days," but little else stands out. * *
- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
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