Chicago: Now – Chicago XXXVI

First album of new material in eight years.

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The prospect of a new album from a soft-rock group who’ve been doing the rounds since 1967 is an ominous one. How without edge, how embarrassingly out of touch and granddad-dancingly paunchy could it possibly be?

Low expectations may help but it so happens that Now is as strangely heartening, sweet and refreshing an experience as you could possibly wish for. It helps that Robert Lamm and co haven’t forgotten their way around a verse, a chorus, and a tune, and don’t mind putting in the old-fashioned yards on the arrangements.

Idealistic thinking pervades Now, from the cod-muezzin synths and pacifistic good wishes of Naked In The Garden Of Allah to America and its call for the country to ‘make laws that help us all’. Trite, maybe, but boosted by the sheer, joyous musicianship – the brassy, EWF boost of the title track and blue-eyed, sanguine, brassy funk of Something’s Coming, I Know.

Now is an album not of this time, despite its title, but listening to it, you can once again believe it’s the sunny 1970s, LA holds sway and world peace is possible if only we could just all get together.

David Stubbs

David Stubbs is a music, film, TV and football journalist. He has written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire and Uncut, and has written books on Jimi Hendrix, Eminem, Electronic Music and the footballer Charlie Nicholas.