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Chicago - Chicago III CD (album) cover

CHICAGO III

Chicago

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.60 | 121 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars After releasing two double album for their first two releases, you'd think this septet (line-up unchanged) would've calmed down, right? Well they did! By recording yet another double album, this time called three (not to disturb their fans too much) and yet it's another beauty. Graced with Star Spangled Banner that's seen better days, still recorded in NYC and still under Guercio's directions, they decided not to change a winning formula, even if the group becomes more vocal about its anti-war sentiments (see the flag on the cover, but already the It Better end soon suite on the previous album) and some themes are barely veiled such as hailing "Canada has being just a little freer" (draft dodgers), etc? Songwriting- wise, we see Cetera gaining more confidence but certainly not getting better in that craft, but for the rest, Kath, Pankow and Lamm are still the triumvirate, Seraphine and Parazaider appearing as also-rans.

The layout is a bit the same as on their second album: the first side is a collection of unrelated songs, while the other three sides are occupied by mini-suites, some sidelong, others not and more solo tracks are filling up the space. Unlike the second Chicago album, the first side holds a really good tune in the 9-mins+ Sing A Mean Tune Kid, a hard-driving and often changing rock song with plenty of good guitars. Two other tracks (Loneliness and Money) are average Chicago tunes, but standing out like a sore thumb is Cetera's AOR What Else Can I Say. Nothing I wish! The flipside fares much better with the Lamm-penned sidelong Travel Suite. Starting on the lovely Beatle-esque Flight 602, soon followed by a short drum solo leading us on Mars, where we're Free. Then comes a rare Parazaider track, Free Country, which an almost atonal piece where his usually-rare flute takes a good part of the track, then the group are witnessing the Sunrise (from Mars I suppose?) before feeling Happy, 'Cause I'm Going Home, which shuts the brackets sonically a bit as it had started (West Coast & Beatles) with another superb flute thing and excellent drumming from Seraphine. Quite a fantastic trip allowing our spacey progheads to wallow in a daze.

The third side starts on two unrelated tracks, the brilliant Mother (Pankow's trombone is featured) and the average Cetara-penned Lowdown (actually of the three songs he's written so far, this is the only sounding like Chicago, instead of AOR), before the 5'30" Kath- penned An Hour In The Shower mini-suite, which is not Kath's best track, but still maintains a high Chicago standard. The closing side is the Pankow-penned Elegy, starting on a recitation of wisdom, before the brass section takes away the theme in a cheesy Canon-like manner. A flute gradually takes the listener from a gentle mood to a completely atonal "mess" where a sledgehammer and trombone car horns all get flushed down the toilet. Strange stuff and I doubt BS&T ever pulled anything this experimental. Approaching Storm is the killer track on this suite, with a dynamite guitar role and a dramatic never- ending end.

Understandably a shorter album in its duration (especially the second disc) than its two predecessors, Chicago shows that it is completely unrivalled in the brass rock category, even if this writer prefers Warm Dust, there is no doubt that Chicago punches the hell out If or BS&T by KO on the third round.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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