Lee Loughnane says Chicago is at work on batch of long-awaited new songs

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Founding member and trumpet player Lee Loughnane says Chicago has begun creating new music again — something fans have to be hoping leads one of the band’s increasingly rare studio projects.

The news comes amidst the leanest stretch in the 45-year history of this horn-driven rock group, which released at least one album every year from 1969 to 1982. In fact, Chicago built its initial reputation on sprawling projects, issuing four consecutive multi-disc gold efforts from its debut through 1971’s IV: Chicago at Carnegie Hall.

Fast forward to today, and Chicago — who’ll hit the road again this summer with the Doobie Brothers — has put out just one album of fresh material since 1991 — 2006’s XXX. Chicago also issued XXXII: Stone of Sisyphus in 2008, but that album was comprised of sessions recorded in the early 1990s.

That made Loughnane’s comment to Matt Wardlaw of UltimateClassicRock.com all the more newsworthy: “The whole band is writing again,” he said.

Loughnane added that a least one track will be released directly to their fans via the band’s Web site, and perhaps several more. Chicago is without a label deal, after recording for Columbia through 1981 and then Full Moon through 1991’s Twenty 1. Loughnane has said that Chicago is thrilled that “we have become our own record company.”

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Chicago. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: CHICAGO: ans of their initial music could be forgiven for barely recognizing Chicago by the 1980s, as fussy power ballads eventually flushed out the band’s signature horn sound. A group that had built its reputation on organic experimentation, a kind of prog-fusion that earned heavy rotation on a then-new FM radio format, never returned to the album-length suites that once defined it. Well, we have. Often. Travel back now, to those thrilling days of roman numerals and Terry Kath. Here are five hand-picked sides, from their pre-guilty pleasure era.

SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: DRUMMER DANNY SERAPHINE, FORMERLY OF CHICAGO: A group co-founder, Seraphine had been in two prior groups with eventual Chicago saxophonist Walt Parazaider and guitarist Terry Kath. Together with trombonist James Pankow, trumpet player Lee Loughnane, keyboardist Robert Lamm and bassist Peter Cetera, they helped establish a muscular improvisational amalgam in the early 1970s. After the untimely death of Kath, inarguably the very soul of Chicago, it was Seraphine who brought in producer David Foster, a new management team and R&B-soaked singer Bill Champlin – moves that hurtled the band to superstardom in the 1980s, even as it fundamentally shifted the group’s sound towards a more commercial bent.

ONE TRACK MIND: CHICAGO, “STONE OF SISYPHUS” (2008): “Stone of Sisyphus” doesn’t go far enough to be truly jazzy, isn’t hard enough to be called rock — things you could always say (often in the same song) during the Kath-dominated early years. Instead, it boasts a familiar, if obvious, listenability that stuck with Chicago — even as their creativity failed them. That’s why this isn’t the kind of artistic leap that required shelving. To be honest, “Sisyphus” actually marks the initial salvo in a record that is, on balance, instantly recognizable by period for anyone who owned a radio during Chicago’s reign as mainstream pop music’s principal proprietor of middle-of-the-road makeout music. So, should it be enough that “Sisyphus” is a step up from the creeping commercialism then choking the life out of Chicago? Had it gotten so bad that we were reduced to praising this track, and the band, simply for trying? Depends on your devotion to the group.

FORMER CHICAGO MEMBER BILL CHAMPLIN ON “HARD HABIT TO BREAK,” “AFTER THE LOVE IS GONE,” OTHER SONGS: On this special edition of Something Else! Reviews’ One Track Mind, we hand the reins over former Chicago singer and keyboardist Bill Champlin. He talks about Grammy-winning tracks “Turn Your Love Around” and “After the Love Has Gone,” his contributions to Chicago, working with Toto, and how lounge-singer Robert Goulet almost got one of his gigs.

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Here are the announced dates for Chicago and the Doobie Brothers:

July 11: Tucson, AZ, Anselmo Valencia Amphitheatre
July 13: Lake Tahoe, CA, Harvey’s Lake Tahoe
July 14: Concord, CA, Sleep Train Pavilion at Concord
July 15: Los Angeles, CA, Gibson Amphitheatre
July 17: Denver, CO, Red Rocks Amphitheatre
July 20: Kansas City, MO, Starlight Theatre
July 21: Dallas, TX, Gexa Energy Pavilion
July 22: Houston, TX, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
July 24: Atlanta, GA, Chastain Park Amphitheatre
July 26: Raleigh, NC, Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek
July 29: Cincinnati, OH, Riverbend Music Center
August 1: Detroit, MI, DTE Energy Music Theatre
August 2: Pittsburgh, PA, First Niagara Pavilion
August 4: Atlantic City, NJ, Borgata Resort Spa & Casino
August 16: Boston, MA, Comcast Center
August 18: Wantagh, NY, Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
August 19: Holmdel, NJ, P.N.C. Bank Arts Center
August 21: Saratoga Springs, NY, Saratoga Performing Arts Center
August 23: Virginia Beach, VA, Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach
August 24: Scranton, PA, Toyota Pavilion

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The Something Else! webzine, an accredited Google News affiliate, has been featured in The New York Times and NPR.com's A Blog Supreme, while our writers have also been published by USA Today, Jazz.com and UltimateClassicRock.com, among others. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
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