Chicago, “I’m a Man” from Chicago Transit Authority (1969): Saturdays in the Park

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Chicago Transit Authority showed some pretty big balls for a debut album. The idea of recording extended songs with complex arrangements on an introductory project is unheard of now — and was probably frowned upon back in 1969 when the album came out, as well.

Chicago swung for the fences repeatedly on this first album, as the two prior tracks “Free Form Guitar” and “South California Purples” suggest. Furthermore, the inclusion of a cover a popular rock song seems the height of hubris, yet Chicago’s version of the Spencer Davis Group’s “I’m A Man” backs it up with an undeniable spirit, passionate playing and stellar arrangements.

On “I’m A Man,” everyone gets a piece — starting with Peter Cetera’s deep-pocketed picked bass and Danny Seraphine’s Elvin Jones-like drumming. Robert Lamm, not to be outdone, chimes in with a fiery Hammond organ part which recalls the original Steve Winwood arrangement, but in no way attempts to copy it. Guitarist Terry Kath’s contributions cannot be underestimated. His volume pedal work and sustained guitar lines are vicious, though they’re almost eclipsed by his growling lead vocal on the first verse.

Kath (and, for that matter, Cetera and Lamm) acquits himself well next to a vocal very much in the style of that provided by a young Steve Winwood. The lyrics — sung by Kath, Cetera, and Lamm — are mumbled and spit out with an authentic verve, so much so that one easily forgets what the original lyrics were.

In most songs, the aforementioned elements would be enough, but Danny Seraphine’s jazz-tinged drumming melds perfectly with the horn section/cum percussion section’s tambourine, shaker and claves work out. Chicago’s take on “I’m a Man” seems to be a weird pick for a drum solo, but all the diverse elements converge to make a classic.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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  • Zoran Nenad

    Fantastic sounds by CTA.

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