Saturday, January 24, 2015

chicago (II)

Chicago tried to do some more to color our world and make us smile with memories of love in this breakthrough ballet.  Their double album debut 'Chicago Transit Authority' had sold over a million copies; but after the real Chicago Transit Authority threatened a lawsuit, the band shortened their name to Chicago.  With five songwriters in the band, their second album 'Chicago' was easily expanded to become a double album as well.  It was recorded during August of 1969 at Columbia Recording Studios in New York and Hollywood with producer James William Guercio and engineer Robert Honablue.   The sessions featured Peter Cetera on bass and vocals;  Terry Kath on guitar and vocals;   Robert Lamm on keyboards and vocals;  Lee Loughnane on trumpet and flugelhorn;   James Pankow on trombone;   Walter Parazaider on woodwinds;   and Danny Seraphine on drums and percussion

Kath would relate:   "I just tell the guys what I want, maybe play the different parts, and then they just pick it up from there...I have a pretty good ear, but I think it's starting to go from playing in front of the amp all the time ... I just get all jacked up when we start cooking and don't think about how I'm doing anything ... I'm too busy playing to worry about the movement or the fingerboard.  I just listen to it as it's all happening ... We just didn't have time [to fix our beat up instruments]. It was the same way on the second album. 'Prelude' ( a nearly symphonic piece with strings, woodwinds and brass) was a line I had in my head. We needed another tune so I played it for Peter Matz and he arranged and orchestrated it for some other guys to play."

Cetera considers:    "My primary goal was to be melodic; McCartney was so in my head then that I’d try to think a little out of the box—like picking my spots for the upper-register stuff. Plus, Jamerson and my R&B roots were in my subconscious, so keeping a strong groove went without saying. Coming up with parts varied by who wrote the songs. Bobby’s [keyboardist Robert Lamm] tunes were fun to play; they were melodic, they had meaning, and he wouldn’t give you too much of a parameter—you would just play what you felt and he’d say, “Cool.” Terry [guitarist Kath] was more defined and opinionated as to what he wanted and didn’t want. And Jimmy [trombonist James Pankow] was really specific about what to play. But, as I say, I always tried to be melodic when the time in the track allowed for it. The only song that was given to all of us note-for-note by Jimmy was “Colour My World.” ... I’ve never been the most knowledgeable bass player; I don’t really read music and if you’re talking about chords, I don’t go much past, “Is it major or minor?” On the instrumentals, I would have chord charts to follow, and I’d just feel my way through the odd-time stuff ... I didn’t really put singing and playing together conceptually in Chicago because the bass parts were important and they were constant, so if I had to sing lead on a tune it was something separate. Fortunately, I’d been doing it since my club days ... My first sing-and-play for Chicago was “Questions 67 and 68,” which, like “25 or 6 to 4,” was really high. I remember getting nervous and blowing the top notes one night at the Fillmore East because Leonard Bernstein was in the audience! “Dialogue, Pt. 1 and Pt. 2,” my duet with Terry, was my favorite sing-and-play because it was the most free. Overall, I found the key to singing while playing is to learn both parts separately and then slowly work them together though the tune, section by section. The more you perform the song the more comfortable you’ll become, to the point where you can loosen up and expand on both parts ... We were the greatest live band; we would blow anyone off the stage, but we didn’t have experience in the studio. When we went to Columbia Studios in New York City, the pressure was on. We had limited time, so it was decided to record live. Well, we soon realized we had to do it separately: rhythm section, then horns, and then vocals. And in those days, we couldn’t punch, so if someone made a mistake we’d have to start over. This was especially frustrating for me; I was a live player, with two or three good takes in me. We were doing up to 50 takes! We’d get to the end of take 49 and someone would make a mistake and we’d have to go back and do it all again. It got better, but I never really felt comfortable playing in the studio, where you’re under the microscope."

Lamm looks back:   "I think that the original appeal of Chicago, especially the first half-dozen albums, is that it wasn’t all the same genre, because of the different writers and each of us having different influences. So you weren’t listening to two sides of just blues, you were listening to a lot of different things ... I think that there were some, I think that some of the guys in the band were uncomfortable with being asked about [the political content] in interviews, both here and abroad. My first experiences then with international music journalists were that they were just checking to make sure that you weren’t full of sh-t, about what you were feeling. They were sort of fact checking, if you will. But no, blowback in terms of hurting our career, I don’t think so ... The whole experience and methodology, we were very young and very green and inexperienced, so a lot of it came from sheer intuition and ad libbing the whole process. Because we didn’t really know anything except we knew that we wanted to make music and play together." 

 'Chicago' charted at number twenty in Germany;  six in the UK;  and number four in Canada and the US.   The album is often referred to as 'Chicago II' since most of their subsequent albums would have Roman numerals in the title. 

"25 or 6 to 4" became the group's first top five single in the US.   Lamm reveals the genesis of the song's cryptic lyric:      "I was living with a bunch of hippies up above Sunset Strip. One of the advantages of this particular house was that it was in the Hollywood Hills and I could look out over the city late at night. I wanted to try to describe the process of writing the song that I was writing. So, 'waiting for the break of day, searching for something to say, flashing lights against the sky' - there was a neon sign across the city. That song came from the fact that it was 25 or 6 to 4 a.m. in the morning when I looked at my watch - I was looking for a line to finish the chorus.   Most songs that were written, especially in the early days, whenever I got them to the band and we started rehearsing them, that's when the songs took shape - once these guys got hold of them. There was definitely a lot of raw material, I thought it was a song when I wrote the words down, I wrote the changes down and I brought the charts to rehearsal, but it wasn't really a song until they all played it."

Waiting for the break of day
Searching for something to say
Flashing lights against the sky
Giving up, I close my eyes

Sitting cross-legged on the floor
25 or 6 to 4

Staring blindly into space
Getting up to splash my face
Wanting just to stay awake
Wondering how much I can take

Should I try to do some more
25 or 6 to 4
Oh yeah

Feeling like I ought to sleep
Spinning room is sinking deep
Searching for something to say
Waiting for the break of day

25 or 6 to 4
25 or 6 to 4

The single of "Make Me Smile" combined the opening and closing segments of the thirteen-minute "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon" medley composed by James Pankow, The title refers to Buckhannon, West Virginia.   Pankow ponders:    "Relationships, if they're good, put a big smile on our faces. Love songs have always been a powerful ingredient in the song's process - the songwriting process has often taken writers to that place.  If you're a human being, you can relate to this: love is a very powerful thing. It motivates almost everything we do. So we write about it often in one form or another in our music. Not just Chicago, but all songwriters. Nine out of ten songs you listen to have something to do with that emotion, because it connects us to the world that connects us to people, and it connects us to greater things beyond this plane.  "Make Me Smile" is the evidence of the manifestation of love. Because the thought of this relationship puts a smile on my face."

Children play in the park
They don't know
I'm alone in the dark
Even though
Time and time again
I see your face smiling inside

I'm so happy
That you love me
Life is lovely
When you're near me
Tell me you will stay
Make me smile

Living life is just a game
So they say
All the games we used to play
Fade away
We may now enjoy
The dreams we shared so long ago

Oh, my darling
Got to have you
Feel the magic
When I hold you
Cry sweet tears of joy
Touch the sky

"Colour My World" was originally the b-side for "Make Me Smile"; but was charted on its own a year later, peaking at number seven on the US pop chart.  The song was written by James Pankow and features lead vocals by Terry Kath  and a flute solo by Walter Parazaider.   Pankow relates:   "I had been enamored with Johann Sebastian Bach. I still think that he is peerless in terms of his mathematical perfection in his music ... Bach constructed chordal music in which the voices never conflicted with one another or were out of sync or rhythm. His music flowed and had a groove. Bach, who created this music over two centuries ago, had just as much energy and rhythmic drive as the popular artists of today. I mean, you take your hip hop, your funk, your jazz, your pop - and that's a colloquial term for exciting, rhythmic content - he cooked just as much as modern artists of today do all those years ago ... I got sucked into this gift of Bach's and wound up experimenting with similar motion. We call this arpeggios, which are a series of notes that happen linearly in a step pattern, and notes of a scale and in sequence going from one G or scale, perhaps, to another, to another, to another. And I put a bunch of these arpeggios, these series of notes together as was inspired by listening to Bach, who did it so amazingly perfectly. And I came up with this little round, which we now call "Colour My World."   I titled it "Colour My World" because it affected a lyric that again mirrors the emotion of love. In this case, I used the emotion of love and description as a technicolor movie that takes places in my heart. It colors, it gives color and vivid definition to my life, like bringing this emotion to it.   And Bach's perfection influenced the music that influenced the expression of the emotion."

As time goes on,
I realize
Just what you mean
To me
And now,
Now that you're near,
Promise your love
That I've waited to share
And dreams
Of our moments together
Color my world with hope of loving you

full album:

Side One
1. "Movin' In"   (Pankow) sung by Kath 4:06
2. "The Road"   (Kath) sung by Cetera 3:10
3. "Poem for the People"   (Lamm) sung by Lamm & Cetera 5:31
4. "In the Country"   (Kath) sung by Kath & Cetera 6:34

Side Two
5. "Wake Up Sunshine"   (Lamm) sung by Lamm & Cetera 2:29
6. "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon" (Pankow) sung by Kath& Lamm 12:55
"Make Me Smile" (3:32)
"So Much to Say, So Much to Give" (1:04)
"Anxiety's Moment" (1:00)
"West Virginia Fantasies" (1:34)
"Colour My World" (2:58)
"To Be Free" (1:21)
"Now More Than Ever (1:27) 

Side Three
7. "Fancy Colours"   (Lamm) sung by Cetera 5:10
8. "25 or 6 to 4"   (Lamm) sung by Cetera 4:50
9. "Memories of Love"  (Kath/Matz) sung by Kath 9:12
"Prelude" (1:18)
"A.M. Mourning" (2:05)
"P.M. Mourning" (1:59)
"Memories of Love (4:01) 

Side Four
10. "It Better End Soon" (Lamm/Kath/Parazaider) sung by Kath 10:24
"1st Movement" (2:30)
"2nd Movement" (3:47)
"3rd Movement" (3:19)
"4th Movement (1:15) 
11. "Where Do We Go from Here"   (Cetera) sung by Cetera 2:53

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