Even as Chicago continues work on its first new material since 2006, Robert Lamm marvels over the changes that have swept through the industry.
“The change in the music business for Chicago as a band has certainly slowed down the demand for new product,” Lamm tells WATD. “This goes back, really, even to the 1980s, when we had successes with Chicago 16, Chicago 17, Chicago 18. What we were running into, even then, was radio stations were telling us: ‘We’re already playing so much Chicago,’ you know? They were basically playing a dozen Chicago songs every day.”
Lamm says they weren’t going to make room for new songs, no matter how good they were. Over time, the impetus to go back into the studio dried up, and eventually Chicago was without a label. “That kind of took the wind out of the band’s sails, in terms of recording,” he adds.
Chicago has only put out two new albums since 1991, along with a belatedly released group of early-1990s recordings dubbed XXXII: Stone of Sisyphus in 2008. Something has changed more recently, however, as the newly rejuvenated band issued a series of songs, including “America” and “Crazy Happy,” in advance of its long-awaited new studio effort.
Meanwhile, Lamm has seen his own solo career take flight: After putting out just three albums away from Chicago before 2000, he has issued nine since — including some where he updated and expanded on earlier music.
Lamm says that prodigious output illustrates the idea that music hadn’t left him — even if the industry turned its back on his band. “I realized: I am a songwriter, and if I can’t place my songs with Chicago, I’ve got to do something with them. So, I kind of developed a solo career.”
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