And now for something completely different. Very different. So different, no verbal description can adequately summarize what producer John Van Eps has done to hits originally performed by the band called Chicago, specifically songs composed by keyboardist Robert Lamm. One description comes from publicity for the album:
“You might call it deconstructing the songs and rebuilding them from the ground floor up using their DNA. Eps even snipped lyric lines, juxtapositioning words to change meanings. You might even say Eps eviscerated these songs, gutted them like fish.”
Such violent verbs are appropriate. Few listeners familiar with “Beginnings,” “Saturday in the Park,” “25 or 6 to 4,” “Questions 67 and 68,” or “Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?” will be able to readily relate what Eps has done to these songs to what we’ve been hearing all these years. The term “remix” implies re-working original tracks with a fresh and original approach based on established melody lines with perhaps punched up instrumentation, kicking in more modern rhythms, sandwiching samples from more than one song, or re-organizing verses and choruses. Eps went far, far beyond remixing. He threw out the baby and the bathwater, ripped the baby’s decomposed corpse to shreds (pun intended), and then assembled alien creatures built on a piece from here, and a bit from there. Furthermore, he did all this with the full compliance of the songs’ composer.
According to Lamm, he worked with Eps “strictly through email and file sharing, actively reviewing, refining, and some ways I was the Producer, and John was the Artist. I have so much respect for him as a person and a musician." After all, the two had written and worked together on two of Lamm’s solo albums, Life Is Good in My Neighborhood and In My Head. Apparently, the rest of Lamm’s first band did not share this interest which is why only Lamm’s songs got the Eps treatment.
The set opens with “Beginnings” in which Lamm’s voice was run through various electronic sequencers uttering a few phrases from the original song. We hear no horns. Then, “Saturday in the Park” includes bouncing phrases of “people, people,” “change the world,” and short bits of other lyrics interjected in a percussive brew that does, this time, include short samples of the horn section.