On 1971’s Chicago III, one of the band’s passionate anthems went, “I just want to be free…” But it took until 1978 for the band to be truly free, and that year’s Hot Streets was an album of firsts. The freedom largely came as a result of the group having severed its ties with longtime producer/manager James William Guercio; hence, Hot Streets was Chicago’s first album in many years not recorded at Guercio’s famed Caribou Ranch. It was also the first to lack a number in its title and first to feature a band portrait on the cover. Tragically, however, it was the first album without founding guitarist Terry Kath, who died earlier in the year of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Hot Streets (the band’s twelfth album, for those of you keeping count, and also a No. 12 LP on the Hot 100) brought producer Phil Ramone and guitarist Donnie Dacus into the Chicago fold; both only lasted for a couple of albums but made strong impressions. Rhino Records reissued Hot Streets in 2003 as part of its Chicago “expanded and remastered” program; that series ended abruptly in the U.S. after Chicago 17, although Rhino’s Japanese arm continued with 18, 19 and 21. (The American remasters of 16 and 17 erroneously included alternate versions of some original album tracks, and these were corrected on the 2010 Japanese pressings of those two titles.)
Now, Friday Music has announced its own Chicago reissue campaign by arrangement with Rhino, and that series is kicking off with the return of (the now out-of-print) Hot Streets. According to the label’s Facebook page, it’s due in stores on March 27. Hit the jump for more details, including the track listing and discographical annotation!
Phil Ramone set up the band at Miami’s Criteria Recording Studios (birthplace of such other classic albums as Derek and the Dominos’ Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs). He recollected in 2003 that the band “wanted a more democratic process,” and that showed in the songwriting as well as in the production. Robert Lamm supplied just two songs for the album, “Love Was New” and the title track. The opening song was also the first single: James Pankow’s “Alive Again.” It was Pankow’s sole composition on the LP, but what a song it was. Dacus shared vocal duties with bassist Peter Cetera and also played the song’s rip-roaring guitar, leaving no doubt that the “new” Chicago could hold its own despite the great loss of Kath.
Studio neighbors The Bee Gees (then cutting Spirits Having Flown at Criteria) dropped in to add backing vocals to Cetera’s “Little Miss Lovin’,” and Chicago repaid the favor when Lee Loughnane and Walt Parazaider contributed flugelhorn and flute to the Gibb brothers’ “Too Much Heaven” track!) “No Tell Lover,” a collaboration between Loughnane, Cetera and drummer Danny Seraphine, anticipated the soft rock sound with which Chicago would dominate the airwaves in the 1980s. The Bee Gees’ associate Blue Weaver (“Don’t Throw It All Away (Our Love)”) contributed the synthesized strings to the song. It was selected as the second single, and hit the same No. 14 Pop position as “Alive Again.” It bested its predecessor, though, on the AC chart, where it hit the lofty No. 5 spot. Cetera’s “Gone Long Gone” was the third single, but stalled at a disappointing No. 73. Seraphine and David “Hawk” Wolinski were represented with two songs on the LP, and Dacus penned “Ain’t It Time” with Seraphine and Warner Schwebke. Lee Loughnane and Stash Wagner’s “Take a Chance” rounded out the original album.
Friday’s edition has been newly remastered by the label’s Joe Reagoso and includes the same bonus track as the 2003 reissue, a version of Robert Lamm’s “Love Was New” with an alternate vocal by Dacus. The label promises that original graphics not seen since the original release have been restored for the new CD. In addition, new liner notes are included. (A. Scott Galloway provided the essay for Rhino’s 2003 edition.) If you missed out in 2003, the new Hot Streets should be a fine opportunity to catch up with Chicago, post-jazz/rock and pre-power ballads. One hopes, however, that Friday’s series will reissue the “corrected” 16 and 17 as well as bring the expanded editions of 18, 19 and 21 to American shores. Ain’t it time?
Chicago, Hot Streets (Columbia LP FC-35512, 1978 – reissued Friday Music, 2012)
- Alive Again
- The Greatest Love on Earth
- Little Miss Lovin’
- Hot Streets
- Take a Chance
- Gone Long Gone
- Ain’t It Time
- Love Was New
- No Tell Lover
- Show Me the Way
- Love Was New (Alternate Vocal) (from Hot Streets, Rhino CD R2 76181, 2003)