John Van Eps with Robert Lamm
Robert Lamm Songs: The JVE ReMixes
Blue Infinity/Chicago Records II
Simply put, this record represents a grand slam accomplishment. If the goal was to appeal to diehard Chicago fans at the point-of-sale, only to alienate those very fans upon delivery, then it's a base hit. If the objective was to create a novelty record through taking the group's timeless and much-loved classics and then slicing, dicing, and mutilating said classics until they're virtually unrecognizable, then this puts two men on. If the intention was to produce a record that sounds so butchered, jarring, and directionless that the listening experience becomes downright unpleasant, well, then bases are loaded. And if there was an artistic vision to bridge the gap between music audiences, old and new, while ultimately appealing to neither, then this is truly a grand slam, indeed.
The veteran rock band Chicago reportedly declined to offer a collective stamp of approval for this project. However, given his past working relationship with the platinum-selling act, acknowledged producer and "mixologist" John Van Eps did succeed in connecting with the group's co-founder, keyboardist, and songwriter Robert Lamm. Hence, the project moved forward as a Lamm tribute, featuring his personally penned Chicago staples as well as a few of his solo tracks.
The concept of revamping such signature hits as "Beginnings," "Saturday in the Park" and (two versions of) "25 or 6 to 4," and bringing them into a more contemporary format may seem intriguing (to some) on paper. However, in execution, this falls short. The placement and rearrangement of samples, snippets, and sound bytes are so far removed from what most fans will recognize as Chicago's music that Eps and Lamm likely could have used excerpts from War and Peace on tape and offered an equally effective Lamm tribute.
Overall, the record possesses an ambient late '90s, electro-sounding cocktail lounge-type vibe, which in and of itself is sorta cool, I guess. But in an attempt to perhaps be a little too hip, the arrangements of most of the tracks are so random (schizo) that they lack any continuity or flow.
There are a few moments when the Eps/Lamm partnership works and their vision becomes rather clear. In that regard, "Questions 67 & 68" and "Another Rainy Day in New York City" certainly hit the mark. Oddly, this concept seems to work best with Lamm's lesser-known solo tracks, as "You're My Sunshine Everyday" is perhaps the highlight of the record.
In short, this one certainly deserves an "A" for effort, but in execution it merely merits a "C+."