There’s that old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It wasn’t broke, and the remake totally fell flat. With all the synthesizers and drum machines the fire of the original was gone. And while Steve Lukather’s guitar solo might have given it a little more credence, a little more “polish” if you will—a polished turd is still a turd.
The rest of Chicago 18 is a valiant effort, but it’s missing something—and by something I don’t just mean the departed Peter Cetera who had left to seek the “greener pastures” of a solo career after the multi-platinum success of Chicago 17. Jason Scheff does a respectable job and has a pleasant but unremarkable tenor voice. Part of what made Chicago sound so Chicago wasn’t so much that Peter Cetera was a good singer, but more that his tenor vocals were so distinct. He had one of those voices that could have easily have been picked out of a police line-up. And while Jason Scheff could (and still can) certainly sing the songs and sing them well, there’s nothing about his vocals that make those songs stand out the way Peter’s voice once did.
But even if Jason did have that “distinct” voice, there’s still something else missing. A certain fire under the toes. With Chicago 16, the band was in dire straits (and I don’t mean they were bandmates of Mark Knopfler and Midge Ure). They’d been dropped by Columbia Records and while they’d had moderate success after the death of Terry Kath, they hadn’t matched the success they’d had with their first eleven albums. Chicago XIV had gone toilet paper (2-ply) or maybe—if you’re being generous it went plywood. Chicago 16 was make or break. The band knew it, David Foster knew it and you could hear it in the music. There was a fire in the music, desperation to it. And even as polished as it was you could still hear that fire—that energy. Following the success of 17 and despite the departure of Peter Cetera, the band seemed to be wresting on their laurels—merely going through the motions on Chicago 18. It’s not that the songs were of sub-par quality, if anything they had good material to work with (arguably, better than the material on Chicago 17). It’s that the performances were generally unconvincing and flat, a glaring contrast to both Chicago 16 and 17.
Will You Still Love Me
25 or 6 to 4 (1986 remake)
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