Chicago, “The Road” from Chicago II (1970): Saturdays in the Park

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“Write what you know”: Maybe it’s an over-used piece of advice, but it works. What the guys in Chicago knew in the late ’60s was touring – nonstop touring, opening for superstars like Jimi Hendrix, hanging out backstage, writing songs, traveling and, of course, partying with groupies.

The story of “The Road” is a simple one: musician meets groupie, musician propositions groupie, musician and groupie spend the night together, musician moves on to the next gig, and groupie moves on to the next band. We only hear the musician’s side of the story, but I’ve always believed the groupie isn’t going to wind up like Karen Carpenter, wallowing in self-pity over her superstar guitarist. She’s more like the GTOs or the Plaster Casters, trying to put another notch in her lipstick case and looking forward to the Led Zeppelin show next Friday. “Our thing won’t die” – because there is no thing, and both parties understand that.

Musically, Chicago’s “The Road” is remarkable. Terry Kath, who had little formal music training, writes a good melody and experiments with time signatures throughout. (I definitely hear 5/4, 4/4, and 3/4 and maybe some others on the bridge.) The introduction borrows a little from the first line of the Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends,” and includes a rare use of the clarinet, played by Walter Parazaider. The Chicago horns accompany the melody well, and don’t overpower Peter Cetera’s voice – the real star of the song. Peter delivers the lyric convincingly and doesn’t try to sing too far out of his range, and I love how he follows the guitar line exactly at the end of each verse.

You know a band is good when they can put this much talent and polish into a forgotten song like “The Road.” And you know an album is good when even the filler tracks, like this, are outstanding.

CelticGal

CelticGal

CelticGal grew up in northern Indiana and now lives on the back cover of the 'Chicago XI' album. A fan of Chicago (the Good Parts Version, e.g. the lineups with Peter Cetera) since 1978, she is the author of 'The Famous Becky's Island Chicago Reviews' and 'Becky's Island Music Trivia Quizzes,' found at www.beckysisland.com. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com
CelticGal
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