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

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In 1971, the year Chicago III was released – and before global warming became a controversial political topic – the trashing of Mother Earth was seriously on the minds of young, politically minded Baby Boomers. Back then, people less inspired to keep their precious planet healthy weren’t as angered by the youthful activists as the deniers are today. Instead, they were more amused by them.

Perhaps it was because the Boomers’ parents did everything they could to survive a horrible depression and the devastating war that followed it. To the so-called Greatest Generation, saving the environment must have seemed trivial by comparison.

Chicago’s third studio album was the band’s most jazz-oriented to date and “Mother,” the song that opens Side 3 of the original double LP, is a perfect example of the era’s political activism and musical eclecticism. “Mother” is Robert Lamm’s obituary for planet Earth and is exactly the kind of song that was very much in vogue at the time.

Never one to shy away from turning his political beliefs into great music, he couldn’t be more pointed here with his closing lines: “Our Mother has been raped and left to die in disgrace. She is gone.” Lamm’s lyrics lean a little more toward doomsday thinking than is necessary, but he gets his point across.

I’m sure this outspokenness from Chicago’s excellent composer is sincere – and I agree with him on this issue – but I always found it a bit hypocritical how he and other rock stars would pontificate on this subject while sucking up gobs of electricity to power the largest amplifiers the world has ever seen.

A bouncy, electronic, keyboard opening precedes Robert Lamm’s vocal accompanied by some great harmonies. Then the horn section takes over for a few bars before James Pankow contributes an uptempo, jazz, trombone solo and, with an assist from the wonders of modern recording technology, a competing solo layered on top of his first one. Finally, Lamm and friends return with the last verse before the arrangement slows down, allowing Pankow to take an additional turn on his horn.

While this Chicago track is a mostly a showcase for Lamm and Pankow, it also proves the importance of sidemen. Bassist Peter Cetera and drummer Danny Seraphine are superb once again and the unselfish Terry Kath – who could have easily set himself up as the rock star hero of the band – contributes outstanding rhythm guitar work, especially on Pankow’s final solo.

‘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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