Color My World (as made famous by Chicago)

“Colour My World” is a song written by American musician James Pankow, one of the founding members of the rock/jazz fusion band Chicago. Part of Pankow’s “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon” song cycle/suite, it was recorded for their second album Chicago, also called Chicago II (1970). Terry Kath sings the lead vocal, and Walter Parazaider performs the memorable flute solo.

The song was brought to Acuff-Rose Music in Nashville as a simple five-chord song with lyric line. A&R Tech Earl Knosher then expanded and arranged the progression, adding the colorful major 7th and 9th chords that make the song so unique. In fact, the major seventh chord that begins the song has been called, “the most famous major seventh chord in the history of music.”(citation needed) Knosher also arranged the flute solo and played piano on the first demo of the song.

The song was initially released as the B-side to “Make Me Smile” in March 1970. It was re-released in June 1971 as the B-side to the re-release of “Beginnings”; this second single reached  No.  7 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

“Colour My World” became a popular “slow dance” song at high school proms, university dances and weddings during the 1970s.

Chicago continues to perform the song, either on its own, or as part of the Ballet. Since Kath’s death in 1978 and being brought back into their set list in 1982, lead vocals were performed by Bill Champlin until 1991, when Robert Lamm took the lead. It has been sung by trumpeter Lee Loughnane since 2009.

Terry Kath – lead vocals
Robert Lamm – keyboards
Peter Cetera – bass
Danny Seraphine – drums
Walter Parazaider – flute

Make Me Smile (as made famous by Chicago)

“Make Me Smile” is a song written by James Pankow for the rock band Chicago with the band’s guitarist, Terry Kath, on lead vocals. Part 1 of Pankow’s 7-part “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon” song cycle/suite, it was recorded for their second album, Chicago (often called Chicago II), which was released in 1970. The song “Now More Than Ever”, a separate track from the same song suite, serves as a reprise of the song and appears edited together with it on many later versions, including a single edit, on several greatest hits collections, and in many live performances.

A radio-friendly edit of “Make Me Smile” was released as a single in March 1970, becoming the band’s first Top 10 record, peaking at number nine on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.[1] This version was heavily edited from the album version, with a modified introduction, abbreviated guitar solo, and with the track “Now More Than Ever” appended on the end to make a complete, 3-verse song. When Chicago released their compilation album The Very Best of Chicago: Only the Beginning in 2002, they featured a new edit of the song, with the “Make Me Smile” and “Now More Than Ever” parts segued together again, but without the numerous cuts—the full intro and the guitar solo of the former part, and the full outro of the latter part, were thus included.

Since the death of Terry Kath in 1978, the vocals for live performances of “Make Me Smile” were handled by Bill Champlin, who joined the band for the recording of Chicago 16, until he departed the group in August 2009. On shows that Champlin did not attend, Robert Lamm sang the lead vocal. Champlin’s replacement Lou Pardini has now taken over the singing of “Make Me Smile”.

Terry Kath – lead vocals, fuzzed electric guitar
Robert Lamm – piano, backing vocals
Peter Cetera – bass, backing vocals
Danny Seraphine – drums, tambourine, maracas
Jimmy Pankow – trombone
Lee Loughnane – trumpet
Walt Parazaider – tenor saxophone

25 or 6 to 4 (as made famous by Chicago)

“25 or 6 to 4” is a song written by the American musician Robert Lamm, one of the founding members of the band Chicago. It was recorded in 1969 for their second album, Chicago, with Peter Cetera on lead vocals.[1] The album was released in January 1970 and the song was edited and released as a single in June of that same year, climbing to #4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart[2][3] and #7 on the UK Singles Chart.[4] It was the band’s first song to reach the top five in the U.S.[2] In concurrence with the title, the song moved from #6 to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 the week of September 12, 1970. It has been included in numerous Chicago compilation albums.

An updated version of “25 or 6 to 4” was recorded for the 1986 album Chicago 18 with James Pankow listed as co-writer.[5] With the new band member Jason Scheff on lead vocals, the single reached #48 on the U.S. chart.[6] This version was also used as the B-side for the band’s next single in 1986, “Will You Still Love Me?”[7]

Through the 2010s, “25 or 6 to 4” continued to be a staple in Chicago’s live concert set list,[8][9][10] and in Peter Cetera’s solo concert set list.[11][12][13] In 2016, former drummer, Danny Seraphine, reunited on stage with Chicago to perform “25 or 6 to 4” and two other songs at their induction ceremony for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[14]

According to composer Robert Lamm, the song is about trying to write a song in the middle of the night. The song’s title is the time at which the song is set: 25 or 26 minutes before 4 AM.[15][16] Because of the unique phrasing of the song’s title, “25 or 6 to 4” has been interpreted to mean everything from a quantity of illicit drugs to the name of a famous person in code.[17] The 1986 music video for the song references the correct meaning at its beginning. The song was banned in Singapore in 1970 and again in 1986 because of its “alleged allusions to drugs.”[18] In 1993, the ban on this song was lifted, along with long-time bans on songs by other artists such as the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Creedence Clearwater Revival.[19]

The original recording features an electric guitar solo using a wah-wah pedal by Chicago guitarist Terry Kath, and a lead vocal line in Aeolian mode.[20]

The song’s opening guitar riff has been compared to chord progressions and riffs in other songs. In the opinion of writer Melissa Locker:

…the opening guitar riff from Green Day’s ‘Brain Stew’ bears a striking similarity to the opening stanza of Chicago’s ’25 or 6 to 4.'[21]

LA Weekly’s music editor, Andy Hermann, names it “The Riff” and describes it as follows:

It’s a descending five-chord pattern, typically played as power chords over four bars, with the last two chords sharing the last bar. The most common variant of it goes from A minor to G to F sharp to F to E, although it can also be played as Am-G-D-F-E or even Am-G-D9-F#-F-E…[22]

Hermann details the riff’s similarity to the chord progression in Led Zeppelin’s song, “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”, which came out a year before “25 or 6 to 4”, and the similarity of that chord progression to one in George Harrison’s song, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, which came out even earlier. He labels “Brain Stew”, released in 1996, as “derivative” by comparison to “25 or 6 to 4”.[22]

Peter Cetera – lead vocals, bass
Terry Kath – guitar, backing vocals
Robert Lamm – piano, backing vocals
Danny Seraphine – drums
Jimmy Pankow – trombone
Lee Loughnane – trumpet
Walt Parazaider – tenor saxophone

Beginnings (as made famous by Chicago)

“Beginnings” is a song written by Robert Lamm for the rock band Chicago Transit Authority and recorded for their debut album Chicago Transit Authority, released in 1969. Lamm also provided lead vocals. The song was the band’s second single (after “Questions 67 and 68”), but failed to chart on its initial release.

After the band’s success with subsequent singles, “Beginnings” was re-released in June 1971, backed with “Colour My World”. Both sides became U.S. radio hits, and the combined single climbed to number seven on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. “Beginnings” reached number one on the U.S. Easy Listening chart.[1]

The distinctive acoustic guitar was originally played by Chicago’s guitarist Terry Kath. In concert, Lamm has played guitar for the song, though he is primarily known as the group’s keyboard player.

The uncut album version clocked in at 7:54. The original single version was cut to just under three minutes, leaving only a fraction of the climactic second half. A later edit of over six minutes for subsequent compilation albums restores much of the second half (leaving off only the extended percussion outro). Two notable exceptions are the compilations Chicago IX: Chicago’s Greatest Hits (in its CD edition) and The Heart of Chicago 1967-1997, both of which feature the original full-length version of the tune.

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is (as made famous by Chicago)

“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” is a song written and sung by Robert Lamm while in the rock band The Chicago Transit Authority (later shortened to “Chicago”) and recorded for their eponymous debut album The Chicago Transit Authority in 1969.

The song was not released as a single until two tracks from the band’s second album, “Make Me Smile” and “25 or 6 to 4”, had become hits. It became the band’s third straight Top 10 single, peaking at number seven in the U.S.[1] and number two in Canada.[2] Because the song straddled years in its chart run, it is not ranked on the major U.S. year-end charts. However, in Canada, where it charted higher, it is ranked as both the 59th biggest hit of 1970 and the 37th biggest hit of 1971.

The original uncut album version opens with a brief “free form” piano solo performed by Lamm. A spoken verse by Lamm is mixed into the sung final verse of the album version. The single version does not include the “free form” intro or the spoken verse, and was originally mixed and issued in mono. A stereo re-edit (beginning from the point where the “free form” intro leaves off) was issued on the group’s Only the Beginning greatest hits CD set.

A 2:54 shorter edit (without the opening fanfare or piano break, starting at the trumpet solo) was included on the original vinyl version of Chicago’s Greatest Hits, but was not included on the CD version. This short edit was included on the CD version of the compilation album If You Leave Me Now. This version was used as a radio edit version. A shorter version at 2:46 (starting midway through the trumpet solo) was issued as a promotional single, which finally appeared on 2007’s The Best of Chicago: 40th Anniversary Edition.

A live version on the Chicago at Carnegie Hall box set presents an expanded version of the “free form” intro, which itself is given its own track.

Various versions of the song receive airplay; the promotional single edit is the version played on certain ‘Classic Hits’ stations and 1970s radio shows. For example, radio station KKMJ would play the promo edit version on its ‘Super Songs’ of the 70s weekend. Classic Hits KXBT would also play the promo edit, and by contrast the True Oldies Channel would play the 3:20 single version. An AM radio station in Boston (WJIB 740 which also simulcasts in Maine as WJTO 730) plays the original vinyl Chicago IX edit.