Album Reviews

Robert Lamm: Time Chill: A Retrospective/Peter Cetera: The Very Best Of

Robert Lamm
Time Chill: A Retrospective
Omnivore Records

Peter Cetera
The Very Best Of Peter Cetera
Varèse Sarabande

Robert Lamm came to fame as one of the main songwriters with the band Chicago. Noted for his vocal prowess, he wrote and sang many of the songs greatest hits. Yet unlike his former creative partner Peter Cetera, Lamm’s solo career has been relatively low-key, and he wasn’t a particularly active solo artist until recently. Time Chill rounds up several highlights from the last eighteen years.

The instantly noticeable thing about Time Chill is how Lamm is not trying to replicate the Chicago sound, which makes for a more adventurous listen than one might initially expect. “4 Bells,” which kicks off the set, blends a techno-pop melody with Beach Boys harmonies; it’s a startling number, one that sounds otherworldly yet so familiar, as if it were a Smile outtake. That connection isn’t without merit, either; Lamm had a long history and relationship with them, and Lamm recorded an album with Carl Wilson that was released a few years after Wilson’s passing; “Standing At Your Door” is taken from that collaboration, which also featured America’s Gary Beckley.

What makes Time Chill so refreshing is Lamm’s willingness to experiment with his sound. He released an album of Brazilian-inspired songs and covers of Antonio Carlos Jobim; “Send Rain” is an original number from that record, and its gentle melody and simple rhythm shows he understood the musical genre he was exploring. Furthermore, one discovers Lamm’s willingness to explore electronica/techno-pop sounds, thanks in part to his ongoing collaboration with producer John Van Eps The remix of “Everyday, It’s Always Something” blends a soulful number with an accompaniment fitting for Vince Clark, while “It’s a Groove, This Life” turns an already good song into something much more moody, a rainy-day jazz pop number befitting of Elvis Costello. Surprisingly, the only low point is the remix of “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?,” which doesn’t quite gel with the updated, generic computer-generated accompaniment.

That misstep aside, it’s interesting to see a well-established musician take a few chances when he doesn’t have to, irrespective of what might be commercially wise. In that way, Time Chill is impressive, and leaves the listener wanting to seek out the rest of his obscure but worthy solo discography

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Unlike Lamm, former Chicago vocalist Peter Cetera’s solo career followed a more traditional trajectory. After the massive Eighties pop success of Chicago, Cetera decided to set out on his own; his distinctive voice was such that considering the success of his band, his solo career’s success almost seemed to be assured, and for the most part, it was.  The Very Best Of Peter Cetera is, surprisingly enough, the first major compilation of Cetera’s solo career—in many cases, the first time many of his well-known “single versions” of his hits have been gathered in one place as well. Cetera and his post-Chicago hits really don’t stray too far from that band’s well-built formula. Indeed, who didn’t initially make the mistake of thinking “Glory Of Love” and “The Next Time I Fall” weren’t new Chicago songs? While Cetera’s solo career wasn’t without hits, like Lamm, he kept a low-key profile, offering songs for soundtracks—in some cases, said song being the best things from the film, such as Three Men And A Baby‘s “Daddy’s Girl” and “After All,” his duet with Cher for Chances Are. Numbers such as “Big Mistake” and “Save Me” (the theme from Baywatch, even!) might not be as well known as his biggest hits, but they don’t take anything away from The Very Best Of Peter Cetera’s mellow, friendly, enjoyable Adult Contemporary vibe.

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