Sunday, 12 May 2019

Chicago - Chicago III (1971)

  

Released January 1971

This was Chicago's third consecutive double album and, like the others, is a veritable cornucopia of musical styles - jazz, funk, rock, soul, psychedelia and country rock all merge together, backed by the now trademark brass. Chicago really were a most inventive group, yet an awful lot of their stuff went under the radar, comparatively. The "chocolate box" nature of the album's musical diversity makes for a challenging, but ultimately interesting and rewarding listen.

TRACK LISTING

1. Sing A Mean Tune Kid
2. Loneliness Is Just A Word
3. What Else Can I Say
4. I Don't Want Your Money
5. Flight 602
6. Motorboat To Mars
7. Free
8. Free Country
9. At The Sunrise
10. Happy 'Cause I'm Going Home
11. Mother
12. Lowdown
13. A Hard Risin' Morning Without Breakfast
14. Off To Work
15. Fallin' Out
16. Dreamin' Home
17. Morning Blues Again
18. When All the Laughter Dies In Sorrow
19. Canon
20. Once Upon A Time
21. Progress?
22. The Approaching Storm
23. Man vs. Man: The End                                  

"Sing A Mean Tune Kid" is a nine-minute piece of funky brass punch. This is rally quite innovative, decidedly uncommercial stuff for early 1971. The are clear Sly & The Family Stone influences at play here. "Loneliness Is Just A Word" is a short, soulful jazz funk number, while the country-ish rock of "What Else Can I Say" has clear Band influences. The Beatles are in there too. The Electric Light Orchestra were quite influenced by this sort of thing in the mid seventies as well. The heavy, chunky "I Don't Want Your Money" also has The Beatles meeting The Band over a punchy brass backing. There is a bit of Canned Heat about it too.


The next part of the album is formed of a group of songs called the "Travel Suite". Despite that, there is no obvious connection between them. The breezy, melodic country rock of "Flight 602" is so CS&N you would almost think it was them. Country rock was very de rigeur in 1971, so, also, were drum solos and guess what? We get one! "Motorboat To Mars" drums its way into the soulful, funky groove of "Free". The musical variety on this album is stunning, you can never relax into a particular frame of mind or mood while listening to it. "Free Country" is a gentle interlude of piano and flute ambient doodling that, unfortunately goes on a few minutes too long, clocking in at nearly six minutes. It could easily have been left off the album, to be honest, but maybe paring it down was never in their minds. "At The Sunrise" is a McCartney-esque short and appealing number. "Happy 'Cause I'm Going Home" is a very early seventies slice of semi-instrumental, flute-driven indulgence. It's ok, with some captivating passages, but again, it goes on far too long. So ends the first half of this double album, which could have functioned effectively as a single album in its own right. It's a sunny day. I'm off out.

Back again.

The album's third quarter is somewhat "Abbey Road" in its composition - a couple of regular numbers before we get to a medley of short snippet tracks. Of the regular numbers, "Mother" is a pounding, brassy mid-pace rock song, a bit proggy in places. The trumpet/trombone interplay in the middle is superb. "Lowdown" is a staccato, bassy, rhythmic rocker with some sublime percussion and organ parts followed by an excellent wah-wah guitar solo. Five very short tracks now follow, under the generic heading of "An Hour In The Shower". There is quite a lot of Blood, Sweat & Tears influence on this part of the album. All the tracks merge into each other in a very "Abbey Road" fashion. "Dreamin' Home" sounds very Beatles-esque.

The final "Medley" is entitled "Elegy" and is pretty much made up of pointless indulgence, such as the cacophony of traffic and roadwork noises that is the appalling, unlistenable "Progress?". Yes it makes a point, I suppose, but sonically, it is Chicago's "Revolution 9". "The Approaching Storm" is funky instrumental jam, but, again it is pretty inessential.

Listening to this album in two halves is not a bad idea at all. It makes it easier to appreciate, in my opinion. Otherwise it runs the risk of becoming sensorily tiring. Is definitely a creation worthy of respect and attention, however. In fact, listen to the first three quarters and forget the last one!

B-

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