Chicago, “Fancy Colours” from Chicago II (1970): Saturdays in the Park

Share this:

I felt bad about asking one of the contributors to this weekly Chicago series (Thanks, Becky!) if she would relinquish “Fancy Colours” and cede it to me, but I had a good reason for doing so.

Is it because this deep track is my favorite Chicago song? No, not quite, even though it’s high up on my list. It’s because with this song, which opens side three of their sophomore album, Chicago proves how sophisticated rock music can be. No garage rock here; no simple three chords with a rudimentary back beat.

After a long fade-in featuring wind chimes and Peter Cetera’s ploddingly perfect lead vocal on top of some martial sounding horns, “Fancy Colours” suddenly explodes in several directions. Terry Kath does his own thing on the wah-wah pedal, while Walt Parazaider offers up a jazzy counterpoint on his flute. Meanwhile, the brass section is also veering off onto an entirely different path. Finally, the vocalists join in. We have four separate, disparate themes and melodies, yet somehow they are layered on top of each other into a cohesive whole.

Next, Robert Lamm blasts out a bluesy organ solo. Then Kath takes a turn. Finally, the Chicago horns come back to ride the song home, once again sounding almost militaristic after drummer Danny Seraphine plays a fill that sounds like he has seventeen hands.

Although the two songs sound nothing alike, “Fancy Colours” reminds me of Yes’ “Close to the Edge.” On both, everyone involved appears to be creating their own solo track, but in the end they unite their individual muses into a cohesive whole.

Anyone who says rock music is too simplistic to be art after hearing this Lamm arrangement needs to rethink their position.

Charlie Ricci

Charlie Ricci

Charlie Ricci maintains Bloggerhythms, where he talks about music, concerts, and a wide range of other musical topics. In August 2008, his site placed at No. 87 on a list of the Top 100 music-related blogs according to Alexa, a web ranking service. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Charlie Ricci
Share this:
Close