Chicago’s two musical eras were bridged by the sweet, complex ‘Just You ‘N Me’

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Released as part of Chicago VI this week in June 1973, Chicago’s “Just You ‘N Me” sounds, at least on first blush, like every slow-jam that Chicago seemed somehow destined to do.

Except that, rather than getting closed in by a wall-of-David Foster-fiddles, the tune lifts off at its middle into a jazzy interlude. Of course, at the time, no one knew what the future held for Chicago. Critics lambasted the band for trading in magnum opuses for the pureed digestibility of pop music.

Well, as they say, you ain’t seen nothing yet. In retrospect, this track is a canny melding of Chicago’s first and second styles, incorporating some of the improvisational elements that defined the band’s double-album days with the easy-listening vibe of its chart-topping later period.

Plainly romantic, and still passably experimental, “Just You ‘N Me” draws a straight line to where Chicago is headed — that sound you hear, as the song fades, is “If You Leave Me Now” coming around the bend — only, thankfully, blessedly, they’re not there yet. If only Chicago had continued to make ballads that strived for this level of inventiveness.

“Just You ‘N Me” would become one of two Top 10 compositions for James Pankow — along with the more muscular “Feeling Stronger Every Day,” which was co-written by Peter Cetera. (Muscular, and Cetera in the same sentence? Yeah, we’re talking a long time ago.) “Just You ‘N Me” provides a steady bridge to their earlier persona as inspired fusion-minded hipsters.

Recommended for those who grew up listening to the blow-dried 1980s-era version, but want to explore backward.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, 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 U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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