Title: “Chicago V”
Release date: 1972
Favorite track: “Saturday in the Park”
Most Chicago songs are a healthy dose of jazz rock.
I enjoy many of the tracks on “Chicago” — which features “25 or 6 to 4” — “Chicago III” and “Chicago VI.” The reason I purchased “Chicago V” first of their albums is because it features the legendary song “Saturday in the Park.” Side note: Don’t be confused by the lack of a “Chicago II” and “Chicago IV” (“Chicago” and “Chicago at Carnegie Hall,” respectively, are often dubbed these titles in an effort to maintain consistency).
Along with Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September,” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy,” “Saturday in the Park” was one of the first songs that inspired me to expand my music taste beyond my generation, and ultimately collect vinyl records.
My father played much Chicago in the car when I was a child, so I imagine that’s where my love of the band was planted. It wasn’t until much later, however, that it bloomed.
I can remember truly hating “dad music” back then. It’s ironic, really, because now I can’t seem to get enough of it.
Just buy me a “World’s Greatest Father” or “No. 1 Dad” mug, because dad music is my comfort zone. Since childhood, I’ve also picked up a coffee addiction. Thanks, Dad.
The opening track, “A Hit by Varese,” is musically eventful with only a few lyrics mostly spoken in the last minute. It’s more jazz than rock.
Keyboardist and singer Robert Lamm wrote the first and many of the songs on the record.
The second track, “All is Well,” falls back into Chicago’s staple style — a relaxed jazz rock. While the music isn’t juvenile, the band’s sound is effortless.
“Now That You’ve Gone” is one of only two songs not written by Lamm. Trombone player James Panko wrote it. It’s the most dynamic on the album, frequently changing rhythms, instruments and pace. It’s not a boring listen.
“Dialogue” is separated into two parts and features two perspectives. Terry Kath and Peter Cetera sing and play the two differing opinions in the musical conversation. One of the perspectives is worried about the state of the world, while the other is blissfully ignorant. It ends in the chant, “We can change the world now.”
The seven-minute song certainly feels unbelievably relevant today.
Are you optimistic ‘bout the way things are going?
No, I never ever think of it at all
Don’t you ever worry
When you see what’s going down?
No, I try to mind my business, that is, no business at all
“While the City Sleeps” and “State of the Union” add in some rhythmic blues-rock flavor. The two tracks sandwich my favorite.
“Saturday in the Park” is likely the most played on the record. Lamm’s vocals are wonderfully soothing as they paint a picture of a joyous scene. It makes me wish every day was the Fourth of July.
“Goodbye” swings the album back in the jazz direction. I enjoy the warmth and coziness of the song.
My favorite lyrics belong to the concluding track, “Alma Mater.” It’s not a bad message to carry into 2019.
We must set brand new goals
We must not lose control
Of the possibility of a new discovery
— “Alma Mater”
“Chicago V” features an album cover resembling the wood paneling in one of my childhood homes. The font looks as if it were etched into the wood.