Chicago, “What Else Can I Say” from Chicago III (1971): Saturdays in the Park

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And now for something completely different from Chicago …

Is it fair to judge a song because it sticks out like a stylistic sore thumb from the rest of the album? Nearly everything else on Chicago III has elements of rock, jazz, or blues, or two of those — or all three of those. “What Else Can I Say” is an anomaly, country a Peter Cetera ballad that comes out of nowhere, twangs along for three glorious minutes and disappears leaving you scratching your head wondering how it got on the album.

You could drop this song as recorded onto Déjà Vu or Harvest or Workingman’s Dead and it would fit right in. But what’s it doing here?

Does it matter? I love “What Else Can I Say.” It’s one of the prettiest melodies Peter ever wrote and sung, and it’s masterfully arranged with just guitar, bass, piano, and light drums. Someone (not Jerry Garcia, unfortunately!) is adding pedal steel lines, and Terry Kath plays his solo with a country-like sound effect.

The result is stunning, and I never can hear it without a smile on my face. A 1971 Billboard magazine capsule review agreed with me, calling it one of the album’s best. Many Chicago fans skip this one, preferring to get back to the jazz, and that’s fine, too.

This isn’t the last time Cetera would come up with one of these outlier songs. He’ll do it again on future Chicago albums with varying results — but most aren’t as good as this one.

‘Saturdays in the Park’ is a multi-writer, song-by-song examination of the music of Chicago. Find it here on Something Else! each Saturday.

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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