The band Chicago looks back as it moves forward
BY DAVE HOEKSTRA Staff Reporter August 21, 2013 9:00PM
When: 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Ravinia Festival,
Tickets: $90 and $105 ($38 lawn)
Info: (847) 266-5100; ravinia.org
Updated: September 23, 2013 6:52AM
Chicago has spun back to its 1967 roots as the Top 40 band that played joints like Barnaby’s on the North Side and the GiGi-a-Go-Go in Lyons.
The band recently covered “More Today Than Yesterday,” a 1969 hit for the horn-driven Spiral Staircase. Longtime fans may dig yesterday more than today when Chicago appears Saturday and Sunday at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park.
“More Today Than Yesterday,” which features Chicago co-founder Lamm singing in a lower key than the original, is available as a “summer single” iTunes exclusive. The band also is having a TV moment as a plot point in Larry David’s HBO movie “Clear History.”
Chicago has 47 gold and platinum awards and is the first American rock band to chart Top 40 albums in six decades.
“I’ve been active as a solo artist with other musicians for years,” Lamm explained last week in a conversation from Memphis. “Chicago had a stagnant period when it didn’t want to do anything but tour.”
During this time Lamm met Bobby Woods, a Los Angeles session player who leads the all-star recording band Les Deux Love Orchestra (named after the Hollywood nightclub Les Deux Cafe).
“Occasionally they perform,” Lamm said. “I recorded a Robert Palmer tune [‘Aeroplane’] with Bobby and a remake of [David Bowie’s] ‘This Is Not America’ with Gerry Beckley [founding member of America and a member of the orchestra]. Bobby said, ‘Tell me about Chicago when you started. What were you guys playing?’ I said we were playing in clubs, doing covers and Memphis soul tunes like Sam and Dave’s ‘Hold On (I’m Coming).’ ”
Lamm and Woods discussed song ideas for the orchestra, which features bassist Larry Klein (Warren Zevon, the Merv Griffin Orchestra), ex-husband of Joni Mitchell.
“Bobby instructed a guide track,” Lamm said. “We added live instruments and my vocals, which I’m still not happy with, but we had to stop at some point. Now there’s a few other songs in the hopper. We actually had ‘Hold On (I’m Coming).’ We’ve got [Junior Walker’s] ‘What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)?’ So there’s songs of that era we can render convincingly and we’ll have fun doing it. That’s another project that’s going to happen slowly as we have time.”
Lamm said the old covers will be cut on a new recording “rig” that travels with the band. The band’s new single “Somethin’ Comin’, I Know” — a Lamm-Beckley composition — was developed across a number of locations (mostly hotel rooms), including Nashville, Cleveland and other points.
“We’ve perfected it so we can do these things when we have a day off,” Lamm said. “We’ll put a guitar on this song or do the bass on that song. That’s our world now.”
In this new world, color the songwriter as “supervising producer.” Hank Linderman, longtime writing partner and studio engineer for Lamm and Timothy B. Schmit (the Eagles) is the “coordinating producer.” Linderman coordinates all the audio takes and files.
Numerous songs are in the pipeline, nearing completion. They will be released one at a time in a “series,” possibly ending up on a CD. The new track is available via Chicago’s website (chicagotheband.com), which also offers Lamm’s
New on the web is chicagopremium
access.com, with the band’s archives. Premium Access fans with VIP Access can hear new Chicago music well before public release. Subscription fee is $19 per year. There is currently four hours of content, with an update every Monday.