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Chicago - Chicago III CD (album) cover

CHICAGO III

Chicago

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.60 | 121 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Misguided progress

Following the minor confusion over the title of Chicago's second album (retrospectively called "Chicago II), things settled down with this the band's correctly numbered third release. Remarkably, once again we have a third full double LP here, making a total of 6 LPs in around 2 years. While the album contained a couple of singles, it was generally received with less enthusiasm than its predecessors, and in the UK signalled the start of a rapid decline in interest in the band (although this would pick up again when "If you leave me now" was released a few years later).

While the album includes Chicago's signature big band brass rock, there is a greater diversity to the music this time around. As with the second album though, we have a mix of individual tracks and longer suites composed by the band members.

The opening 9 minute "Sing a mean tune kid" may on paper offer the hope of the band venturing deeper into prog territories, but the reality is that it is a rather disappointing nod towards Motown funk. The brass certainly sounds fresh, but the off-key vocals and groovy wah-wah guitar are less welcome. Things get back on track for the three shorter tracks which complete the first LP side, although none has the appeal of the higher profile tracks from the first two albums.

Side two of the album is occupied entirely by the 22 minute "Travel suite". While led compositionally by Robert Lamm this, the longest suite put together by Chicago, is more of team effort than their other such projects. The opening "Flight 602" section is pure Crosby Stills and Nash, complete which whimsical lyrics, but it is rather spoiled by the "Motorboat to Mars" drum solo which follows. The highlights of the suite are the two longer sections, the peaceful flute led instrumental "Free Country" and "Happy 'cause I'm going home", a 7 minute acoustic tinged number which returns us to the CSN vibes.

Side three, notable for its brevity, consists of two shortish stand alone songs and a 5 minute five part suite written by Terry Kath. Although "Lowdown" was released as a single, both it and "Mother" are better seen as decent if unremarkable album tracks. Kath's "An Hour In The Shower" probably did not need to be a suite at all, the division into sections simply giving the impression of a collection of under-developed ideas.

The final side is given over to James Pankow's "Elegy", which runs to a little over 15 minutes. The piece is preceded by "When All the Laughter Dies in Sorrow", a short poem by Kendrew Lascelles (who also wrote the well known poem "The Box"). Apart from the spoken word, the first parts of the piece are reserved for the band's brass section, who decend into misguided free-form "Progress" before bringing things around for the longest section "The gathering storm" and the closing "Man Vs. Man: The End".

While "Chicago Transit Authority" and "Chicago (II)" represented exciting new sounds from a new and ambitious outfit, "Chicago III" finds them becoming over-confident, perhaps arrogant. The music here is at times highly enjoyable, but the band fail to achieve the genuine peaks which can be found on the first two albums. In this case, restricting themselves to a single high quality LP would have been advisable.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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