Friday, 25 July 2008

Chicago VI (Chicagothon Part 5)

We move onto 1973 and Chicago, deliver another Billboard chart topping album, recorded at their manager's Caribou Ranch Studios in Colorado. They push the boat out on the cover design which has intricate bank note etching going on (ooh! feel the texture) plus a picture of the guys. It's a single album within a gatefold sleeve that has a sepia tinted photo of them standing in a field looking cold and slightly miffed at having to do a photo shoot. The inner sleeve continues the Victorian lithograph style, which is a nice touch, with a steam train image flip sided with a Rubenesque statue of liberty type of gal. Jazz percussionist Laudir DeOliveira was also roped in to deliver some ace conga action.

This was also the year when some of the band were cast in the cult movie 'Electra Glide In Blue' which was co-incidentally produced and directed by Chicago's long term manager James William Guercio, who strangely never made another feature film. This is an absolute classic of Seventies alt-Hollywood cinema, made in a period, when the creative forces were let off the leash for a few years, which led to a fascinating period in stateside cinema. The critics panned it at the Cannes Film Festival (but hey! what do critics/bloggers know anyway!) but it's reputation slowly but steadily grew on release. I remember seeing it late at night in the Film4 cult slot, presented the Alex Cox of Repoman fame and it blew me away.

Side 1

Critics' Choice (2.49)
I'll be the judge of that, this is a strange opening number being a thoughtful piano ballad sung by Robert Lamm. Pleasant but it doesn't grab me.

Just You 'n' Me
James Pankow delivers the first powerful piece of the album, written after having an argument with his future wife Karen. A real rattlesnake jive powers this one along deservedly reaching number four in America

' Dear
Terry Kath let's rip on slide guitar on this bluesy break written by Lamm.

A mellow track that doesn't really take off, Jenny's more of a wallflower than a belle of the ball.

What's This World Comin' To (5.00)
The funkiest and most energetic so far with funky horns and all three vocalists making their presence felt.

Side 2

Something in This City Changes People
The arrangement of the tracks on this album is a bit odd, as we lead in with another downbeat piano led tune.

Hollywood (3.54)
Funky tune, funky town!

In Terms of Two
Smooth ole Peter Cetera delivers a country tinged tune complete with harmonica, that's pretty darn catchy.

Digging those wah wah guitar effects! I can imagine Family Guy's Glen Quagmire spinning this little ditty, whilst in pursuit of getting some 'giggity giggity goo' action with his latest potential conquest. Let me slip into something more comfortable 'alll riight'

Feelin' Stronger Every Day (4:21)
Peter Cetera and James Pankow co-wrote the lead out the concluding track which eases us out with catchy number, that leaves us on a feel good high. It was the other hit single from the album getting to number ten on the U.S charts.

Conclusion: I've got mixed feeling about this one, the various music styles show a band at a crossroads. On the one hand it's easily digestible, due to the more straight forward style, but you can sense the clouds on the horizon as the songwriting panders more towards commercial airplay. They could have become a blues type band (Free) jazz rock group (Steely Dan) or even a country rock outfit (Gene Clark) instead, the soft rock genre was beginning to surface.

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