Robert Lamm – The JVE Remixes (2012)

Really, this isn’t a remix album at all. More like a complete rebuild, using scraps of timber, radically rearranged bricks and a few familiar pieces of furniture.

In John Van Eps’ hands, age-old Chicago songs like “25 or 6 to 4,” “Beginnings,” “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is” and “Saturday in the Park” aren’t just transformed with a big beat, they’re pulled apart and put back together again — sometimes in radically different ways. And yeah, there’s also a big beat.

Lamm first worked with Van Eps when the producer participated in a remix project for Lamm’s 2008 solo effort The Bossa Nova Project. That sparked the idea of working together to transform a series of Chicago songs — but, when the rest of the group seemed less interested, The JVE Remixes became Lamm’s latest release, due on June 1, 2012 from Blue Infinity/Chicago Records II. A trio of Lamm solo songs also appear (“You’re My Sunshine Every Day” and “It’s a Groove, This Life” from 2003’s Subtlety and Passion; and “On The Equinox,” from his current release Living Proof), but being as these are the less well-known tracks, they simply can’t match the eye-popping surprises found elsewhere.

It starts, appropriately enough, with “Beginnings.” Applying an angular, grinding new rhythm, Van Eps then feeds Lamm’s voice through what sounds like an underwater blender. “Saturday In The Park” takes the song’s most familiar elements — bleeps of brass, the line: “change the world” — and tosses them up in the air like a jigsaw puzzle. Van Eps then uses the single word “time” as a counterpoint for his sleek, new-look “Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?” Meanwhile, “Questions 67 and 68″ takes on this spacious smooth-jazz groove. “25 or 6 to 4″ is reimagined as a tangy salsa, becoming at first almost unrecognizable, then returns with Terry Kath’s familiar thrumming riff again at its center for a second remix.

Is this going to draw fans from the electronica crowd into the Chicago catalog? Hard to say. Piss off the old fans? Likely. Either way, Lamm is ready to shake things up — something that’s desperately needed for a group that appears to have lost its way creatively.

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‘The JVE Remixes’ is available for purchase through Robert Lamm’s Web site.

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • Terry

    Lamm is the only member left in Chicago that I continue to creatively respect, although I need to admit I haven’t followed his solo career closely enough to have all that informed of an opinion.

    And of course the horn section is a defining feature of Chicago’s classic sound, but for me the tragically underrated power trio of Kath, Seraphine, and Cetera, along with Lamm’s early creative contributions, are what really make Chicago for me.

    So while an intact horn section plus Lamm is still very attractive for some fans, I can’t extract the power trio from the equation and be satisfied with an uninspired Lamm. I hope he gets his creative fix in his solo work. If he ever opened for Chicago with his own band, that might get me to go.

    • J-Jam

      Robert Lamm has a criminally underrated solo career. His solo albums are far more satisfying than anything he’s done with Chicago in over 20 years. Go to iTunes and download his albums. Start with “Subtlety & Passion”, then “Living Proof”, then “In My Head”. Don’t forget the superb “Bossa Project”.