Chicago, “Bethlehem” from What’s It Gonna Be Santa? (2003): Saturdays in the Park

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Rhino’s What’s It Gonna Be Santa? seemed like a warmed-over money grab after the 1998 release of Chicago XXV: The Christmas Album. Sure, this 2003 project added six songs, overseen by 13/Hot Streets producer Phil Ramone, but only the Jason Scheff-sung “This Christmas” and Keith Howland’s “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” are worth the price of admission.

Bill Champlin and his wife Tamara composed “Bethlehem,” one of the new tracks for What’s It Gonna Be Santa, but it’s at best forgettable. Ramone’s production is a step backwards from the Roy Bittan’s work on Chicago XXV. The horn arrangement by Champlin seems lazy. Frankly, there is little else going on musically.

Meanwhile, Champlin’s falsetto seems strained and the vocal by trumpeter Lee Loughnane is downright painful. Only Jason Scheff’s voice offers some level of comfort. Bill Champlin is said to have always pushed new music on the band. This is once case where Chicago should said no.

‘Saturdays in the Park’ is a multi-writer, song-by-song examination of the music of Chicago. Find it here at Something Else! each weekend.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at
Preston Frazier
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  • J-Jam

    Funny, I actually enjoyed this one.

    • Uplandad

      Me too. “Bethlehem” is to me a warm, tender, and very subtle Noel. It is on my short list of essential songs for every December.

  • Preston Frazier

    A few people have mentioned how much they enjoy the song. I enjoy all the other Champlin sung Christmas songs. This one just doesn’t work for me. The funny thing is I just heard his demo for the song where he does all the vocal stacks and it’s much better the the Chicago version.