One Track Mind: Chicago, “Naked In The Garden Of Allah” from Now: Chicago XXXVI (2014)

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Long-discussed, potentially controversial but unreleased until now, Robert Lamm’s “Naked in the Garden of Allah” will finally see release as part of an widely anticipated new studio effort titled Now: Chicago XXXVI.

The impetus for this track, available on July 4, 2014 as part of Chicago’s first new music since 2006’s XXX, goes back to the immediate aftermath of Desert Storm in the early 1990s — something telegraphed by the title but also the Middle Eastern-imbued flourishes at the beginning and ending of “Naked in the Garden of Allah.” Lamm later added lyrics in the wake of the Afghanistan troop surge in 2011. He began putting down tracks the following year, and it’s been bolstered here by a blast of Chicago’s signature horns.

Coupled with the earlier released “America,” “Allah” balances Chicago’s expected modern-era balladry with a return to more politicized songcraft. Old-guard fans will, of course, remember pre-David Foster albums dotted with topical asides like “Dialogue (Part I & II)” and “Harry Truman,” primarily constructed through the songwriting pen of Lamm.

A clearly reinvigorated Lamm tells Ultimate Classic Rock’s Matt Wardlaw that “Naked in the Garden of Allah” is a “very edgy commentary about this past 10 years we’ve spent in the Middle East, screwing everything up. So I may get some blowback from that one, I don’t know.”

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