New CDs coming from Pumpkins and Chicago


February 4, 2006


Two of the most successful bands that have ever called Chicago home are gearing up to release much-anticipated new albums later this year.

The horn-driven pop/R&B veterans Chicago -- who formed in 1967 and left the Windy City shortly thereafter -- will release "Chicago XXX," their first album of new original material in 15 years, on March 21.

And the reunited Smashing Pumpkins -- whose exact members remain a mystery -- are reportedly working on a new disc expected by the fall.

Chicago chose an unlikely producer for its album: Jay DeMarcus, bassist for Rascal Flatts, the multiplatinum country trio that is vying for a Song of the Year Grammy for the hit "Bless the Broken Road" on Wednesday.

DeMarcus performed on and co-wrote several tracks, and he brought his Rascal Flatts bandmates Gary LeVox and Joe Don Rooney in to contribute along with Chicago mainstays Lee Loughnane (trumpet, flugelhorn), James Pankow (trombone), Walt Parazaider (woodwinds) and Robert Lamm (keyboards and vocals).

"I joke that Jay is one of those guys who loves Chicago but is so young he thinks the first Chicago album is "XVI," Lamm told USA Today. Added the 35-year-old DeMarcus: "I tried to take bits and pieces of what made them successful and move them into a modern era of music."

Chicago plans a summer tour with Huey Lewis & the News.

As for the Pumpkins, the alternative-rock superstars and their new manager Irving Azoff, the longtime powerhouse behind the Eagles, have kept a tight lid on news of their activities since bandleader Billy Corgan announced a reunion last year. But Melissa Auf Der Maur, who replaced founding bassist D'Arcy Wretzky when she quit the group, told MTV on Thursday that Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin are hard at work writing and recording new material.

Although she is in contact with Corgan, and he recently contributed to a track on her forthcoming solo album, even Auf Der Maur doesn't know whether Corgan and Chamberlin have succeeded in bringing Wretzky and original guitarist James Iha back to the Smashing Pumpkins.

"The coolest thing would be if D'Arcy was around, but I don't know where she's at and I don't think [Corgan and Chamberlin] do either," Auf Der Maur said. She added that she would be happy to return to the band if need, but she'd be "second best" to Wretzky.

Meanwhile, Iha still has not commented about whether he will return to the Pumpkins, though he recently announced plans to work with Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne in co-producing a new album by the '70s lite/folk-rockers America, who gave us "Horse With No Name."

Jim DeRogatis