Flippin' thru The Record Rack

Discussion in 'Music and Recordings' started by GuySmiley'sMonkey, Jan 8, 2023.

  1. GuySmiley'sMonkey

    GuySmiley'sMonkey Almost "Made"

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    Chicago - Chicago (II)
    Recommended by @spwath

    Where's @spwath been lurking recently? I want to find that young man and shake him by the hand for introducing me to a record that's so very much of its time and place. Recorded in 1969 and released in 1970, it spawned three top-ten singles. Given the nature of this album's music, only that particular generation would have thrown this music up the charts.
    It's rich, it's abundant, it's variegated and it's not what I'd call pop/rock. You'll see what I mean.

    Chicago.png

    Through a streaming service the album can come across as just a random selection of tunes, but there's a very obvious underlying structure. This flow and organisational integrity is most apparent when you're listening on vinyl. Each of the records' four sides have their own character and three of them are dominated by multi-sectional extended pieces of music.

    When I say that Side 1 is the most straight forward I risk understating its departure from cliched song writing and arranging. A horn section (consisting here of trumpet, tenor sax and trombone) in a rock band is nothing to write home about, but a horn section that's both autonomous and prominent...? On the first two sides of the album it shares at least as much of the spot light as the lead singer. They're a tight unit playing well arranged roles varying from atmospheric chords to extended riffs. From time to time one of them breaks from the pack and solos for a while.

    A micrcosmic glimpse of side 1 is found in the second track, The Road, which shows some of the inventiveness of the arrangements and song writing. The intro features the use of the hemiola, interleaving the rhythmic feel between groups of two and three beats played by the horn section. The ear latches unto those later moments where all instruments drop out but the lead guitar, which soulfully doubles the vocals. To concentrate on the one track would be to miss other gems such as the jazz dominated swing of Movin' In, and the eccentric ending of In The Country.

    Chicago - The Road



    Side 2 is dominated by the seven part suite Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon, three of which are instrumental only. The ending of Make Me Smile drips with honey as the notes of the horn section melt into one another. West Virginia Fantasies introduces flute to the colour palette of the album and ends up sounding a little like the track has accidentally migrated from an album by British prog rockers, Gentle Giant. The single taken from this side is the ballad "Colour My World" in which the acoustic piano takes a prominent but supporting role with its arpeggiated major seventh chords.

    The title of the opening number on Side 3, Fancy Colors, gives us a taste of things to come, rewarding headphone listeners with a hard-panned duet for wind chimes and containing brief solos for flute, Hammond organ, guitar and drums. A bit of eccentricity reappears with a "broken record" outro. The "fancy colours" aesthetic permeates the four-part Memories of Love suite. It has pretensions to classical music and, in fact, there are no "traditional" rock instruments used within it. Instead I detected violins, viola, cello, harp, flute, oboe, cor anglais clarinet, a french horn.... [and a partridge in a pair tree]. If I were to be ungenerous I'd say that Chicago were overstretching themselves here a little: The writing for the orchestral instruments wasn't entirely convincing and they did well by placing it on the third side.

    Chicago - PM Mourning



    The final multipart track of the album, It Better End Soon on Side 4, reminds us that it's 1970 as Chicago goes into "Rock against the Machine" mode, protesting against the evils of injustices of the day. The style of music changes into a new gear entirely with a funk infused first movement. Walter Parazaider invokes the name of Jethro Tull (or Ron Burgandy, if you're familiar with The Anchorman) with his multiphonic flute playing, an effect achieved by singing and playing simultaneously.

    I'll leave this photo here for the purposes of historical accuracy.

    Ron burgundy.jpeg

    Just let me get in one more musical observation before rounding things out. A cadence is a series of two or more chords that are used to close off a phrase, a bit like punctuation. It's largely because of these chord changes we know that a piece has ended or is about to come to an end. The album's final track sounds deliberately unresolved. The chords tell us to expect that the piece is going to end, but the cadence remains unfinished and we're left hanging: An appropriate ending for a song entitled Where Do We Go From Here.

    This album is very easy to love and well within my comfort zone. Where do we go from here? To the virtual pub for a post-game dissection of the highlights and head-scratching plays. In the meantime, I award Chicago II seven multiphonic monkeys being chased down the road by angry members of the 1970s establishment.
     
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    Last edited: Jan 24, 2023 at 11:51 PM
  2. Kernel Kurtz

    Kernel Kurtz Friend

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    So I had heard of this album, but had never listened to it so thought I would give it a try, and I have to say this is the absolute worst album I have ever heard in my life. It has no competition in that respect. After the first few songs I started fast forwarding through them thinking maybe there is some hidden gem in there, but to no avail. Is it supposed to be some sort of inside joke that I just don't get? My brain hurts just thinking about it LOL
     
  3. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    It's not a pop album.
     
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  4. caute

    caute Friend

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    If you're looking for a poppier, or at least more contemporary-to-the-time track from Capt. Beefheart—compared to anything off the more inscrutable and alienating (but ultimately rewarding, for some listeners) TMR—this is a rather straightforward jam from their earlier album, Safe As Milk:



    Also, I would stay away from anything Throbbing Gristle, unless you want competition for your personal worst albums lol.
     
  5. Kernel Kurtz

    Kernel Kurtz Friend

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    Hey thanks! It has a beat, and a melody. Good to know they do actually have some musical talent, I had serious doubts. :)
     
  6. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I know you’re being playful, but it takes a ton of talent to play the music on Trout Mask Replica, which was all composed, not improvised.
     
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  7. caute

    caute Friend

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    The story behind the recording of Trout is a read for sure lol.
     
  8. GuySmiley'sMonkey

    GuySmiley'sMonkey Almost "Made"

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    I'd like to hear it. You should do a review, starting up a separate thread for the purpose (to keep this one dedicated to the list of SBAF's favourite albums).
     

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