Audiophiliacs rejoice: A new stereo version of Chicago’s second album has been masterminded by hi-res guru Steven Wilson. Chicago II: Steven Wilson Remix will be available on CD from Rhino on January 27, 2017. The newly remixed album will also be released as a double-LP set later next year.
Chicago II, originally released in 1970, has been remixed before — and you can also get the fantastic quad version of it on Blu-ray in the band’s recently released Quadio box set — but for the first time, a stereo remix from the 16-track multi-track tapes made it possible for Wilson to bring out elements that were said to be muffled or submerged in the mix. The result is a new stereo version of Chicago II that is said to boast clearness, punch, and definition that it didn’t have before.
“Working with high-resolution 96kHz/24-bit digitally transferred files, I had every element from the recording sessions isolated,” explains Wilson. “That meant I was able to rebuild the mix from the drums upwards, recreating as closely as I could the equalization, stereo placement, reverbs, other effects, and volume changes of each individual instrument or vocal — but at the same time looking to gain definition and clarity in the overall sound.”
In 1969, Chicago recorded the band’s follow-up to their debut album, Chicago Transit Authority (voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2014). When it arrived in January 1970, Chicago II became an instant sensation. Principal composers James Pankow and Robert Lamm emerged further as the band’s source of Top Ten hits for the group, including “Make Me Smile” and “Colour My World,” as well as “25 or 6 to 4,” which peaked at #4 and has become one of the band’s signature songs. Pankow, Lamm, Terry Kath, Lee Loughnane, Walter Parazaider, Danny Seraphine, and Peter Cetera all somehow found time while touring the world behind the success of CTA to prepare another double LP album.
“So rich was their creative seam at the time that, like their debut, and the album that followed this one, it was a two-record set,” continues Wilson. “In fact, with unprecedented boldness, the run of double albums was only broken by their fourth, which was a quadruple set [1971’s live Chicago at Carnegie Hall]. I consider all of these albums to be classics, but perhaps Chicago II is the pre-eminent masterpiece. It’s got everything: moments of tender beauty to power riffs and scorched-earth jazz-rock, catchy melodies, and gorgeous vocal harmonies. When I first heard it as a teenager, I was captivated by the mixture of jazz, blues, pop, classical, progressive, and heavy rock styles, including both improvisational elements and intricate arrangements, and by songs written and sung by several different members, all with their own unique personality. How could that possibly hang together? But it does, and brilliantly so.”
Chicago II peaked at #4 on the album chart and was certified platinum by the RIAA soon after its release. It highlighted some of the band’s most ambitious work, such as the 13-minute song cycle “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon,” composed by Pankow, as well as “Memories Of Love,” a Terry Kath song arranged for orchestra by Peter Matz.
Chicago’s lasting musical impact was recognized in April of 2016 with their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.