I'm 50: Chicago III

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Monday, January 11, 2021
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CHICAGO III

How does a band follow a breakout hit album packed with classic tracks destined to live forever? Chicago found out in 1971 with the release of double-album, Chicago III. The group's response to scaling the charts and radio playlists with such tunes as "25 or 6 to 4," "Make Me Smile" and "Colour My World" was 23 new songs spread across two LPs. It was Chicago's first of many efforts titled with a roman numeral. The record was also the outfit's third double-album in less than two years. Coupled with constant touring, to say the band was burnt out would be an understatement.

Not that any of that exhaustion was apparent on Chicago III, which officially hit record shop shelves on January 11, 1971. The group stretched out and flexed its considerable abilities to traverse a wide swath of sounds and styles. From electrified blues akin to the Jimi Hendrix Experience to back porch Americana the would make the Grateful Dead proud to Chicago's own horn-blasted jazz-rock flute jams ("Happy 'Cause I'm Going Home" is among the band's finest deep LP cuts), the album is an epic musical journey.

Chicago III was also a hit. The album rocketed up the Billboard 200 to peak at #2 for the week of February 20, 1971. The only record able to keep Chicago from the top spot: the massive Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack. The album's two single both broke the top 40, with "Free" reaching #20 on the Hot 100. "Lowdown" made a respectable showing with a peak position of #35.

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