CHICAGO — Chicago V

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CHICAGO - Chicago V cover
3.01 | 7 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 1972

Filed under Jazz Related Rock


A1 A Hit By Varèse 4:55
A2 All Is Well 3:49
A3 Now That You've Gone 5:06
A4 Dialogue (Part One) 2:58
A5 Dialogue (Part Two) 4:14
B1 While The City Sleeps 3:57
B2 Saturday In The Park 4:00
B3 State Of The Union 6:10
B4 Goodbye 6:07
B5 Alma Mater 3:54

Total Time: 64:02


- Peter Cetera /Bass, Vocals
- Danny Seraphine/Congas, Drums
- Terry Kath /Guitar, Vocals
- Robert Lamm /Keyboards, Vocals
- Lee Loughnane /Trumpet, Backing Vocals, Percussion
- James Pankow /Woodwind, Percussion

About this release

Columbia ‎– KC 31102(US)

Recorded & Mixed at Columbia Recording Studios, New York, NY

Thanks to js, snobb for the updates


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In all fairness, regardless of what you might think of them, you gotta hand it to these blue collar guys regarding their stamina and intestinal fortitude in the early going. In the span of three short years they'd offered up to the fickle public a daunting dozen (that's TWELVE for the metric-minded) sides of shiny black vinyl containing top-quality studio material as well as an elaborate box set of live performances, to boot. Compare that level of output to today's stingy standards when you're lucky if your favorite jazz act releases a lone CD of new music every other year! I envision that when Chicago's megalomaniac producer James Guercio gathered the ragged pack together to plan out LP #5 he got a lot of "I got nothin'" looks from all but golden boy Robert Lamm who, like the nerdy kid at school you loathed and perhaps bullied, announced proudly that he'd been doing his homework diligently and had a slew of tunes in his Superman spiral notebook ready to take into the rehearsal hall. However, in this case I suspect that the rest of the road-weary warriors in the troupe were too burned out to be resentful that little Bobby'd been spending his offstage time writing songs while they freely indulged in the wild & crazy rock & roll lifestyle in city after city. They'd never gone wrong following his lead before and, besides, his proclivity for composition took the pressure off the others, Terry Kath and James Pankow in particular, to deliver the goods. They raise the curtain on this album (I would've called it "Chive" for grins) with the slithering, reptilian groove of "A Hit by Varese," a great example of why this group is rightly considered a pioneering force in jazz/rock fusion. They expertly mix a heavy rocking, churning sensation into a jazzy motif and the spirited improvisational solos rising from each of their talented horn players during the extended middle section are exceptional. The way they slowly but steadily build to a manic state of aural affairs is invigorating and, while not all that complicated, it lacks nothing in the intensity department. The sarcastic lyrics should appeal to everyone who delights in such wit, too. Lamm cries out to be spared the torture of being bombarded ever and anon with tired "oldies" bled to death over the radio waves. "Can you play free or in three or agree to attempt something new?/the people need you, a seed that will lead to a hit by Varese," he pleads with tongue planted firmly in cheek. (For the uninformed, Varese was a non-conformist, avant garde composer whose weird stuff influenced the likes of Zappa and other eclectic dudes of note.) The mellow "All Is Well" follows right on its heels and it's a smooth, flowing romantic tune that no doubt pleased the suits at Columbia at the listening session, eliciting sighs of relief after hearing the rebellious opener and frantically putting their vacations on hold. Still, it alternates coyly between 6/4 and 4/4 time signatures and the superbly-scored, horn ensemble-led bridge segment is admirable.

Pankow's only contribution is next, the uneven "Now That You've Gone." It begins with a rolling drum pattern from Danny Seraphine that evolves into an energetic waltz where the horns set the pace tactfully in that they don't overwhelm the track. The song structure is too fragmented to be cohesive and/or memorable but Walter Parazaider's unrestrained sax ride is a delight. The two-parted "Dialogue" is the best thing about this record. It's a very unique number that encompasses everything that made this band stand out from the herd. That is to say they didn't neglect their dedication to their craft while continuing to broadcast their strong and sometimes controversial political beliefs. Here Robert allows us to eavesdrop on a theoretical conversation being carried on between a child of the 60s (Kath) and one of the early 70s (Cetera) through which Lamm expresses what he considers a dearth of moral conviction in the up and coming generation. Terry: "When it's time to function as a feeling human being, will your bachelor of arts help you get by?" Peter: "I hope to study further, a few more years or so. I also hope to keep a steady high." It's a riveting exchange about priorities that still rings true today (I saw them in concert recently and they played it to an enthusiastic response). Everyone in the group donates their time equally to make this song work on multiple levels and the "gospelized" finale is an unexpected treat.

"While the City Sleeps" sports an engaging introduction and then swings seamlessly between a bluesy 4/4 beat and a peppy 7/8 format kicking beneath the paranoid ensemble vocals that warn us "men are scheming new ways to kill us and tell us dirty lies." (Gee, Bob, ya think?) It's nothing all that special but Kath does deliver a powerful guitar lead backed by an ominous wall of ascending horns. Next is their eternal (some might say infernal) summertime pop hit, "Saturday in the Park," that, after all these decades of being cruelly overplayed ad nauseum, ironically embodies the complaint that Robert issued on the opening cut. He created the very thing he detested so vehemently! Despite being woefully dated in more ways than one ("Can you dig it?") I can't discount or demean the tune's spiffy horn arrangement or the hopeful stop-and-smell-the-roses message of "listen, children/all is not lost/all is not lost" that the Nixon-shrouded world so needed to hear in '72.

"State of the Union" is a funky rocker that's fairly straight ahead in its approach and I must confess that something obvious occurred to me at this juncture: Mr. Cetera was a damned decent bassist before he went all Englebert Humperdink on us and morphed into a schmaltzy lounge crooner. If you lend an ear to what he's doing so consistently you'll agree. He shines brightly throughout this whole album and I just wanted to bring that to your attention. (No need to thank me, just mail a generous check to the "Let's build a rest home for senile jazzers" fund.) Lyrically Lamm appears to be really ticked off and it presents quite a contrast to the "free and easy" attitude he copped in the previous song. The same fella who just moments ago praised a "man selling ice cream" is now willing to bust a cap in the benevolent street vendor's skull if it'll help him "tear the system down, down to the ground." Odd. Lee Loughnane's dizzy trumpet solo is worth mentioning, by the way. "Goodbye" is another highlight of the proceedings. Its jazzy ambience and feel reminiscent of Miles Davis' "Maiden Voyage," it shows the band wasn't about to cut any corners when it came to their art and, even when exhausted, they were determined to keep their integrity intact. This "I hate L.A." tune has many interesting turns and detours to enjoy along the way. Kath brings up the rear with his simple "Alma Mater." It's a gospel-choir- gathered-'round-the-upright-piano kind of ditty that works mainly due to Terry's soulful voice and the refreshing, bare bones approach they wisely chose to employ. They didn't add what it didn't need.

Chicago V was their first single-disc album and also their first to reach #1 on the US charts where it stayed for over two months. They recorded this sucker in just over a week and that's an indication of how meticulous their preparation was in rehearsal because there's nothing haphazard about it. Very tight, very clean and likely well below budget. Despite what must've been constant pressure to crank out AM hits like cheap soap bubbles, the boys in the band remained true to their renegade roots and stubbornly flew their freak flag high for the most part. I realize that he didn't figure heavily in the creation of this particular disc but as long as Terry Kath was alive he wasn't going to let them knuckle under and turn into the commercial pop machine they would eventually become after his tragic demise. He was their fusion policeman of sorts and God bless him for that. This ain't a bad one to own because at this point in their career they were still the vanguard of horn bands, pushing the envelope and entertaining their loyal fans with challenging material.

Members reviews

Sean Trane
After closing a first chapter with the then-record-breaking 4-disc set At Carnegie Hall, Chicago settled down a bit and came back with a SINGLE disc affair?.. Yup, that's right! I kid you not!! A one-disc release. With its Carved-in-wood logo, you could expect roughly the same kind of excellent brass ?rock and to some extent, that's what the fans will get, but not just that. This fifth release is completely dominated by keyboardist Lamm who wrote ll but two tracks, although there is no apparent reason for that since the line-up hasn't changed and the songwriting was more equitable between the main four songwriters.

Opening on the immense A Hit By Varese (this is one of the more complex tune of theirs), this fifth album gets as strong a start as previous albums, but alas the following inaptly- titled All Is Well (sounds AOR-ish, with Cetera singing) and the better but not that good Now That You're Gone, the proghead is wondering what's happening to his fave brass-rock group. He's surely relieved with the two-part Dialogue, a great track, where Kath and Cetera sing in dialogue, the second movement they sing together; a bit of a cheesy concept, but the music behind it is quite fine. The side-closing While The City Sleep is a great with Kath's excellent guitar solo, magnified by the horn section behind him.

The flipside starts on the awful hit that will push Chicago down the AOR road. Saturday In The Park will sell many thousands and get much airplay (his was not unusual for the band), but somehow this is the point where things changed for the band. Fortunately for me, the great State Of The Union track rectifies the line (Kath's guitar in the middle of the sound is excellent), confirmed by the other long track (6?mins max) of the album, Goodbye, where the great instrumental interplay is at the service of the song. The closing Alma Mater is a disappointing Kath-penned slow track best forgotten, IMHO.

While the fifth album still holds some superb Chicago-signed tracks, one can only be slightly disappointed by the AOR influence creeping its head out front, and that despite being a single disc, the presence of some weak tracks is a bit alarming. Nevertheless 5 remains a good album, but is nowhere near as essential as its predecessors.

Ratings only

  • Fant0mas
  • Lynx33
  • historian9
  • PinkFloydManiac1973
  • Drummer

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