Chicago, “Free Country” from Chicago III (1971): Saturdays in the Park

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Once again this week, we’re visiting Chicago’s “Travel Suite,” an extended work that takes up the entirety of side two of the original LP version of 1971’s Chicago III. Today, we feature the most unmelodic, atonal, and non-mainstream instrumental (“Free Form Guitar” doesn’t count) the band ever laid down on vinyl, “Free Country.”

It’s not a work I would ever play separately, but as part of the suite it can be an acceptable musical experience. There is no brass anywhere. The piece is nothing more than Robert Lamm’s piano and Walt Parazaider’s flute noodling around, and it is probably Danny Seraphine who adds some percussion as accompaniment. It’s basically three solo tracks stacked on top of each other.

Lamm begins with a piano solo slightly reminiscent of his introduction to “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” Then Parazaider appears in what starts with soft, tuneful playing before veering off into an almost avant garde, disjointed, piece of art. The track is not for everyone. People who like the more experimental sides of jazz and rock, (Miles Davis, Weather Report, Frank Zappa) may like “Free Country,” but if your tastes lean toward Top 40, this isn’t for you.

In addition to appearing on Chicago III, “Free Country” was also the b-side of the single “Free,” which reached No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. At 5:46, it’s too long. Both Lamm and Parazaider received composing credits.

‘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
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