Chicago’s third single, “25 or 6 to 4,” was released in the summer of 1970, and it is flat awesome. It proves just how hard a horn band can rock, and it makes supposed bad-asses like Van Halen sound like pussies. Sixteen years later, under the influence of heaven knows what, the band and producer David Foster decided to update “25 or 6 to 4” for a new generation on the album Chicago 18, but the result was one of the World’s Worst Songs.
The reason couldn’t be simpler: the new “25 or 6 to 4” has absolutely none of what made the original so great. New lead singer Jason Scheff is not particularly offensive on it, but he’s neither Terry Kath nor Peter Cetera, either. Foster chose to bury the iconic horn section in an ocean of drum machines and other then-cutting-edge electronics. If you’ve ever hammered the gas pedal in an underpowered car and been frustrated when the thing refuses to speed up, you’ll understand what it’s like to listen to the martial beat and slowed tempo of the remake compared to the original. And where Kath’s powerful solo is purposeful and unrelenting, whoever played on the remake (Foster, Michael Landau, and Buzz Feiten are credited on the album) can only get off the same scratchy, meandering noise that’s on dozens of records made in the same era.
The 1986 remake of “25 or 6 to 4” is as badly dated to the mid 80s as a cylinder recording of a barbershop song is dated to a hundred years ago. The best thing you can say about this stiff, cold performance is that it fits the video, which is set in the year 2036.