Chicago, “Motorboat to Mars” / “Free” from Chicago III (1971) Saturdays in the Park

Share this:

The problem with “Travel Suite” from 1971’s Chicago III is that it doesn’t flow together nearly as well as Chicago’s classic “Ballet for a Girl from Buchannon” from their previous record. Instead, it feels like a series of separate and totally unrelated songs edited together.

However, that doesn’t mean those individual parts don’t offer listeners a rewarding experience. Two good examples are Danny Seraphine’s brief drum solo, “Motorboat to Mars” and their hit single “Free,” which went to No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Then why, considering how I feel about the suite as a whole, am I discussing these two Chicago tracks together? It’s because, way back in 1971, my local FM rock station often played them as one. So, during my days as a college DJ, I did the same. I never think of Seraphine’s contribution without thinking of the Robert Lamm composition that follows it.

I have no problem with drum solos but too often they go on too long. (At 13 minutes, Ginger Baker’s live version of Cream’s “Toad” is a great example.) On “Motorboat to Mars,” Chicago’s great drummer played some interesting stuff and he made sure his solo didn’t overstay its welcome. At only 1:30, it fulfills your need for such fare. Just around the time you start saying, “OK, enough” about this instrumental drum track, without warning, “Free” kicks in. This short song, sung by Terry Kath, starts and ends in just 2:16.

“Free” is a fast song, with a fantastic, wild instrumental horn break in the middle and some of the most simple and unobtrusive lyrics Lamm ever wrote. His words are mere window dressing. Unlike the keyboard player’s political works, this is a lighthearted, danceable party song. “Free” is about the vibe, not the lyrics.

“Free” isn’t as well remembered as some of Chicago’s bigger classic hits of the era, but I have a great time every time I hear it.

‘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.

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