Chicago, “Alive Again” from Hot Streets (1978): YESterdays

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I was totally disappointed in Hot Streets, Chicago’s first album with a new guitarist, when it debuted in 1978. However, it has grown on me considerably over the years. While I still wanted the band to be Chicago Transit Authority again, I knew it could never be. When that realization sunk in, I liked it a lot more.

We all knew poor Donnie Dacus would be compared to Terry Kath, even before we heard him play. It wasn’t fair then and it still isn’t. He replaced a man who should be a legend. Fortunately, on this album Dacus proved he belonged – for now, anyway.

The new guy started off with a bang. On Hot Streets opening track, “Alive Again” he sings backup to Peter Cetera’s lead vocal and does a fine job with his first guitar solo – but the important thing is the song’s exuberance.

The entire group feels Kath’s presence, and it shows. You may have expected a serious work about their beloved, late bandmate but he never seemed like the type who would want Chicago to be forlorn over his passing. He would have preferred to be celebrated in this way.

“I originally wrote ‘Alive Again’ as a love song,” composer James Pankow wrote on Chicago’s website, “but ultimately as recognition of Kath’s guiding spirit shining down from above.” We all wish Kath was still earthbound, making music for all of us today – but as Pankow alluded to, in a lot of ways he’s still here.

‘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.

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