Thursday, 24 July 2008

Chicago V (Chicagothon Part 4)

Eagle eyed readers might have noticed that I appear to have gone out of sequence and missed Chicago IV. There are two very good reasons for this, a: I don't own it and b: it's a live album of a series of shows recorded in April 1971 at Carnegie Hall, spread over no less than FOUR L.P's. Was there some sort of E.U style vinyl mountain going on at the time? Now, if I'm to survive this challenge, listening to Chicago doing extended improvisations before an audience of stoned freaks, is not going to serve me well. As well as one of the longest live albums ever pressed, it contains one of the biggest freebie posters to go along with it. An forest of trees must have been chopped to make way for this packaging.

Chicago V

The cover designers have returned to the wood grain effect with vengeance which gives the sleeve an unfortunate resemblance to the peeling pretend woody style wallpaper in Auntie Edna's parlour. A sticker on my copy promises a copy of that enormous 32" x 32" poster and a fabulous 11" x 92" 4-colour streamer of individual photos of the group. It fails to deliver on both counts.

Side 1
A Hit by Varese (4:56)
When a song is inspired by the avant-garde composer Edgar Varèse, you know it's going to be a bit of a free form jazz freak out with oodles of key changes and a chugging bass line.

All Is Well (3.51)
Indeed it is Mr Lamm, with this chilled out strum, best enjoyed whilst sitting in the garden, reading a book and supping some home made lemonade.

Now That You've Gone (5.05)
James Pankow is a bit bummed out on this paean to a lost love, fortunately for us, he's set the lament against a backdrop of throbbing bongos and general funky seventies cop show backing tunes a la Hawaii Five-O.

Dialogue (Part One) (2.56)
Terry Kath and Peter Cetera take on the role of world weary cynic and naive idealistic student, discussing the state of the nation. Remember, this is played out out against the backdrop of the war in Vietnam; it's political, certainly, but perhaps more so a comment on the individualistic philosophy, that was prevailing over the socially inclusive ideals of the flower generation.

Dialogue (Part Two)
The debate shifts up a gear into a rousing chorus of "We can make it happen, we can change the World now, we can save the children, we can make it better" it might look a bit cheesy, written out on e-paper, but Chicago were still wearing their radical ideals on their sleeve and doing it for the people; a rabble rousing finale to the first act.

Side 2
While the City Sleeps (3.55)
It's a moody opener, reminding us that the boogie man lurks within mankind.

Saturday in the Park (4.00)
"Can you dig it?" Yes, I sure can! why? because this is a cracking tune with a Billy Joel feel to the piano riff. The boys try to rally the troops again and get them off their arses and protesting against the shadowy forces of oppression.

State of the Union (6.15)
Rob Lamm's not a happy bunny, he's worked himself up into a lather on this one, he wants to "tear the system down" but hang on, don't pull the plug otherwise the ferocious jamming will stop, of course, it goes without saying, that it's hornier than a herd of rhinos.

Goodbye (6.04)
This is more of jazzy piece, that showcases some quality drumming from Danny Seraphine.

Alma Mater (4.00)
Terry Kath sings very effectively on a gentle piano led ballad which closes the deal in style.

Conclusion: this is more of a restrained offering which is easier to digest than previous efforts, however this nod towards commerciality, means that it misses some of the soaring heights of the free form freakouts that Chicago aspired to. Not so much of a 'High Five' as a 'Five have lashings of ginger beer'

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