On April 27, 1974, Chicago scored their third consecutive No. 1 LP, doing so with what remains the final double album of their career to date.
Produced by James William Guercio, a gentleman so ubiquitous behind the boards for Chicago’s albums during the ‘70s that it would’ve been traumatizing to fans if they didn’t see his name, Chicago VII was definitely an LP that found the band getting particularly jazzy. That’s because they’d been throwing some extended instrumentals into their live performances, and it’s clear that someone very, very carefully selected the phrase within the album’s Wikipedia page to describe how that decision went over with concertgoers: “While audiences’ reactions varied, Chicago greatly enjoyed the experience.”
Indeed, Chicago was still enjoying the experience when the time came to record Chicago VII, but it’s been said that both Guercio and Peter Cetera had some concerns about doing an entire album’s worth of jazz-influenced tunes. In the end, between not wanting to waste the jazz material and writing a bunch of new pop/rock material, Chicago opted to go ahead and release a double album, their first since 1971’s Chicago III.
While it wasn’t as critically adored as some of the band’s albums, there’s little doubt that Chicago VII is a diverse effort within their catalog, if only because of the aforementioned jazz content, which was definitely not what anyone - including, as noted, at least one member of the band - was expecting from Chicago at the time. It also contains several hits for the band, including “(I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long,” a No. 9 hit penned by James Pankow, “Call on Me,” a No. 6 hit written by trumpeter Lee Loughnane, and “Wishing You Were Here,” a Cetera-penned tune that climbed to No. 11. There’s also a top-notch Terry Kath tune, “Byblos,” and “Happy Man,” another Cetera song, but one which ended up being covered by Tony Orlando and Dawn. (It’s worth noting that Cetera thought enough of the tune to cover it himself on his solo album One Clear Voice.)
As we mentioned, Chicago VII was the third consecutive studio album by Chicago to top the Billboard 200, but what we did not mention is that they’d continue their streak a year later with Chicago VIII. They’ve been around so long that you might sometimes forget just how huge Chicago was in the ‘70s, but maybe now that you’ve read this, hopefully you’ll never forget again, because they were downright massive.