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- Posted on Nov 14th 2011 5:00PM by Chris Epting
Lamm, who co-founded the band (and composed such hits as 'Beginnings,' '25 or 6 to 4,' 'Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?' and 'Saturday in the Park') took some time recently to talk about the new release and explain why its duets weren't part of the original plan.
This is the band's third holiday album. Was it tough to keep things fresh the third time back to the well? Was that the reason behind the interesting duet choices?
The duets were actually an afterthought, believe it or not. We'd been touring with the band America. Those guys are just so great, I thought I'd ask if they'd want to do a little something on the album. No big deal. Then, when we were recording in Nashville, we learned that Dolly Parton was working right down the hall. And Jason Scheff, our bassist, who is, like, our most gregarious person in the band, wandered down and sort of coaxed her in. So from there, it just seemed like a good idea to build upon. As for keeping it fresh with song selections, the challenge, as always, was to try and find decent holiday songs. When you really get down to it, there's a fairly limited number of great ones and a plethora of pretty bad ones. I tend to shy away from ballads and keep it to the mid-tempo stuff. I don't like anything too smarmy. All that said, we love how this turned out, and it definitely feels like our best holiday record.
Did you have a favorite holiday song growing up?
The one that always got me, and still does, is the Judy Garland version of 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.' That just gets me every time.
Was it fun working with Phil Ramone again?
We've worked with him for so long -- it's always the best. For all the great producers we have worked with, we have such chemistry with him that it gets no better. The great thing about Phil is, as successful and amazing as he is, he remains so open to what a band wants. He'll always let you give something a shot -- never stifles the process. He's the best.
Beyond this new album, how hard is it to evolve when you've been around so long and have such an identifiable sound?
Part of the reality of being in Chicago is we sound the way we sound. In fact, at this point, it's hard not to sound the way we sound! The few times we wandered outside that, like when we did a hip-hop tune back in the '90s, everybody looked at us as if to say, "So where is the Chicago stuff?" But the current lineup is really amazing. Everyone is so fertile in their musicality, and we're pushing each other and writing new songs, and it' a terrific time in the band's growth. Also, I'd add that recording this new holiday album reminded us once more of just how much fun it is to record together, so it really had a positive effect on us.
You recently played for Bill Clinton at the Little Rock Statehouse, where he called Chicago "one of the most important bands in music since the dawn of the rock and roll era."
He's a good guy. We've known him a while, and he's always been gracious with us. He gets the music.
You must hear from a lot of people that your music has been the soundtrack to their lives.
It's great when people say that. What's funny is, I'm not the guy who reflects on things in the past. I'm impatient and always looking ahead. But I will say that playing the concerts, I get a thrill whenever I look out and see that people know the words and the rhythms. This happens all over the world, and it makes me really proud, because the only thing that I think could cause the reactions we get are the quality of the songs. That's what it will always be about for us -- the quality of the songs.