In 1970 an exciting new tenor burst onto the scene as one of the three lead vocalists of what would become one of the most successful bands of the seventies and eighties, Chicago on what has long since become a classic rock staple, 25 or 6 to 4. While Chicago’s direction shifted from hard rock tinged with jazz and classical influences to more accessible pop with horns over the years, Peter’s voice became an ever growing piece of their musical pie up until his 1985 departure.
And while his former band has continued to be a staple of the summer concert circuit, his live performances have been few and far between in the years since his departure from Chicago. In 2003 Peter embarked on a series of concerts backed by a symphony. There have been a small handful of unauthorized releases of some of these performances in the years following those shows of which this release is the best.
The orchestral accompaniment to Peter’s voice seems like a natural fit and with better production and/or mixing that fit would have been much more evident than it ended up on this Live in Salt Lake City release. That being said—at 60 plus years Peter’s voice is still excellent and given that throughout the seventies Peter and his former bandmates were under the influence of a cornucopia of various substances, his voice is considerably better than on some of Chicago’s live releases that came out during Peter’s tenure in the band.
The song selection is an excellent snapshot of both his solo career and some of his Chicago hits. Perhaps the biggest surprises of the setlist are Remember the Feeling, an album cut from Chicago 17 which Cetera dedicated to former bandmate, Bill Champlin (with whom he co-wrote the song) as Champlin has now been in Chicago longer than Cetera was; and No Explanation a catchy song that had only previously been available on the Pretty Woman soundtrack.
Providing the female counterpoint to Cetera’s vocals on his popular duets—After All (originally with Cher), The Next Time I Fall (originally with Amy Grant), and Feels Like Heaven (originally with Chaka Kahn) Kim Keyes. Keyes does a respectable job (and one could argue, better than Cher on After All) and also provides backing vocals on a handful of other tracks.
The orchestral arrangement of 25 or 6 to 4 is also quite noteworthy. The first verse is slowed down nearly to the point of making the song unrecognizable as it builds slowly and the tempo is increased to the familiar tempo after Peter finishes singing the first line. The electric guitars are replaced with acoustic which puts far more focus on the orchestral horns than on the Chicago original. However the song is cut short right before the familiar guitar solo from the original version. Given the excellence of Terry Kath’s guitar solo on the original, the decision to cut the orchestral arrangement short rather than attempt to replace or mimic Kath’s solo is actually the right decision in this case.
Given that Peter rarely tours, this release is a must have for any fan of Cetera’s stellar vocals. While I’ve never been crazy about the musical direction Peter has taken since his departure from Chicago, I’ve never lost my respect for him nor my love of his voice. Even over 20 years after becoming a fan, his voice still gives me chills with its sheer power and passion.
Peter Cetera (a reflection on his bass playing)
Peter Cetera s/t (1981) (album review)
Peter Cetera One More Story (1988) (album review)
Peter Cetera (Wikipedia entry)
Peter Cetera 25 or 6 to 4 Live in Salt Lake City
Peter Cetera Remember the Feeling Live in Salt Lake City
Peter Cetera No Explanation Live in Salt Lake City
Peter Cetera Have You Ever Been In Love Live in Salt Lake City
Peter Cetera Glory of Love Live in Salt Lake City
Peter Cetera w/ Kim Keyes After All Live in Salt Lake City