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Chicago - XXXII: Stone of Sisyphus PDF Print E-mail
Written by J.R. Taylor   
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XXXII: Stone of Sisyphus
[Rhino]

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There weren’t many established artists who tried to cash in on grunge. That was a disappointment. We didn’t get anything to match Carly Simon going new-wave, or Barbra Streisand trying to make a dance version of a John Cougar Mellencamp album. Maybe the corporate types had finally wised up. Jumping on a bandwagon doesn’t do anything for the artist, and mostly serves as an aberration in the catalog sales.

Chicago learned that the hard way with Stone of Sisyphus. The band made the album in 1993, and was really excited to have some new product with a harder edge. They couldn’t get Eno, but producer Peter Wolf had done wonders for the like of Wang Chung and Kenny Loggins. He was certainly sympathetic to how the men of Chicago (in their post-Peter Cetera period) wanted to bust out of the soft-balladry scene and rediscover some of their early pop innovations.

What they ended up with was a Chicago album that could’ve been made by The Tubes. The executives at Warner Bros weren’t impressed. What would've been Chicago XXII became a crappy big-band album of old-timey covers. The lost album would go on to be bootlegged amongst Chicago fans, to the point that the overdue release of Stone of Sisyphus now seems more like a reissue.

The detailed liner notes have veteran frontman Robert Lamm sounding baffled at the album’s cold reception. He’s right. Stone of Sisyphus isn’t nearly as innovative or weird as you might have been told. There are plenty of power ballads on the album. None of them are very good, although Jason Scheff is at least getting all dramatic about watching his father playing bass with Elvis.

You’ve also got some faux reggae kicking in by the third track, and abortive funk on the fourth. Is there rapping on the fifth track? Of course. Chicago can still claim that they weren’t trying to sound like anybody beside themselves. Too bad that trying to sound like Chicago in any form was the worst idea that a band could’ve had in 1993.

Stone of Sisyphus isn’t an embarrassment for the band, though. It’s an embarrassment for a few music journalists who once killed some column space by treating the record like it’s some kind of big deal. It isn’t. The most interesting part is when Chicago dares to rage against the big corporate-rock machine in “Plaid.” To be fair, the machine really would let them down. It’s hard to imagine what those Warner Bros executives were thinking. The Tubes were really kind of commercial.
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