Ron Fairbairn


Chicago II

Chicago II ( Steven Wilson Remix )

Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix)

Play on Spotify

We wore the grooves out on this record. As far as the remix goes – it sounds great. Not that I could really give an audiophile’s critique. In those days we spun vinyl and now it’s mp3 through Bose earbuds.

But experiencing this album again has brought such wonderful memories back to life.

I love brass. There’s nothing like a tight horn section; Punctuation and articulation – helping to navigate  the ears through the zippy rush hour time changes and guiding us safely out the off ramps.

Chicago II came out in January 1970. I was in Grade 11 at Richmond High. I crammed in most of the tough courses into Grade 11 and so my friends, especially my musical friends, were very important and highly valued.

My friend Ron Smail lived just up the street, a few short minutes from the school. His family was musical. There was a piano in the front room and if someone wasn’t playing it, there was usually records being spun. We spent a lot of time  during “spares “, hanging out and listening to music. It was a magical time, and when I listen to this album again, I’m right back there again. There’s literally the exact same feeling going on inside.

We used to get into discussions about who was better – Chicago or Blood Sweat and Tears. There was no better through – just different.

Although Robert Lamm did the lion’s share of writing on this album, to me , Terry Kath was the driving force behind Chicago; his vocals and cutting edge guitar work gave the band an authentic edge. We never considered the music “progressive rock” – I don’t think the term was even used back then. The first album – self titled “Chicago Transit Authority “ was a blues rock based horn band. With Chicago (later to be called Chicago II in retrospect), there was a definite turn in direction to a more jazz rock style, often tying songs together in orchestral suites with seamless transitions. I was learning to play bass at the time and Peter Cetera was a bass god to me. Although I was never a pick player, I’m sure he was one of my main influences, and I loved his higher register background vocals.

Although there were “hits” that were pulled from this album, it was music made for music’s sake – by superb players that could pull it off while staying on the edge. “Make Me Smile”, “25 or 6 to 4”, and I can still remember watching Ron Smail play along with “Colour My World” – no mistakes. There was musical magic in the air. Other than transistor radios, we didn’t have portable music players and so hanging out and listening to music together was an event. “tell me you will stay, make me smile”

“but most of all we’d like to play a song or two to make you feel like all the good in you is real”

Bob Lefsetz wrote a great synopsis of the Steven Wilson Remix :

Steven Wilson’s Chicago

cartoon by Scott Fairbairn



When I was 16, I asked a friend of mine if I could play in his band. I was kind of a “folky” with nothing more than my acoustic guitar. His advice was that I should get myself a bass because, as he put it – “there’s a million guitar players out there but there’s never enough bass players”.

I headed down to the Long and McQuade music store on Granville street in Vancouver and came back with a Hofner “Beatle bass”. I couldn’t get enough of it! As basses go, the Hofner is a small bass with a shorter scale, so adapting from guitar was not that difficult. It also had the advantage of being a semi-acoustic instrument and so I developed the habit of playing it acoustically. I basically played it 18/7 (when you’re young, you do that). I believe that the better an instrument sounds unplugged – the better it will sound when it is plugged in. (more…)


The Ring of Truth

1967 was one kick-butt year.

I was 14 in 1967. Whata kickass year that was eh? Fourteen is a very vulnerable age for a boy. Not a child… but still child-like; not a ‘real’ teenager – too new at it still. Primed for anarchy, at the very least- rebellion.

We had the transistor radio. Maybe we weren’t exactly “mobile”, but our music was…and man, did we have music! It was like a sound explosion- Motown, Blues, Rock n Roll, the British Invasion, the Folk movement, Jazz…. (more…)