In the early 1990, the band Chicago was in an interesting situation
. Peter Cetera
, who had long been a wussifying
infulence on the band, had just left, with the ironic complaint that the band had gotten too soft
. Plus, they were rolling in piles and piles of dough
, due to a obscure contract clause in their favor
, which allowed them to publish their own songs from their own company and keep all the money.
With Cetera gone, Robert Lamm was the undisputed leader of the group, and he floated the following suggestion: With Chicago in charge of their own publishing company, and with none of them in any financial need, why not try returning to their roots and putting out another album that reclaimed Chicago's early tradition of making funky, innovative songs that incorporated a variety of urban and ethnic styles? His band-mates liked the idea, and in 1992, they went into the studio and recorded the funkiest, urbanest, ethnicest innovativist album they could produce. Then they took it to Chicago Records, their pet publishing company.
The publishing company hated it. They advised Chicago not to release it. Chicago suggested a release in limited markets. They advised against it. Chicago suggested a very limited release of only a few thousand copies, most of which would be sent to friends and family, with the rest sold to die-hard collectors. They advised against it. So Chicago decided to take the advice of the people they paid for advice, and decided not to ever release the album, which soon became known as the Lost Chicago Album.
While I was taking a class in music production in 1997, Robert Lamm came in as one of the guest speakers, and I was priviliged enough to hear a couple of songs off the Lost Album, which he played for us from a DAT. My review: Chicago Records was right. If Cetera had never pushed the group towards soft rock, the music I heard would have been innovative, funky, and original.....for an album released ten years earlier. As it was, it sounded like a heavy-footed retread of ground already well-covered by seminal rap artists like Run-DMC and LL Cool J. Had they released the music to the public, it would have damaged Chicago's reputation forever.
As Prince has shown us, once you've sold out, the only way you can go back to your hard roots is to shed your skin completely and remake yourself in an entirely new image. It is too late for Chicago, and they must be satisfied with playing Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is to crowds of screaming baby boomers, then going back to their trailers and rolling around in their piles of money.