Robert Lamm made a fine impression with composing eight of the 10 tracks on 1972’s Chicago V. While “A Hit by Varèse” may be my favorite because of its all-out weirdness as a lead off track, the songs “Dialogue (Part I)” and “Dialogue (Part II)” are undeniable classics.
Lamm doesn’t hide his political leanings, casting Chicago guitarist Terry Kath and bassist Peter Cetera in this early ’70s conversation about America and the state of the its union. The foundation of the song, Cetera’s McCartney-like bass playing and Kath’s tried-but-true rhythm guitar, move along swiftly as Danny Seraphine plays just a tad before the beat. Lamm’s work on the Fender Rhodes ties the back beat down, while the horns build and build.
Then there’s Lamm’s lyric …
“Don’t you see the starvation in the city where you live
All the needless hunger all the needless pain?
I haven’t been there lately, the country is so fine
My neighbors don’t seem hungry ’cause they haven’t got the time
Thank you for the talk, you know you really eased my mind
I was troubled by the shapes of things to come
Well, if you had my outlook your feelings would be numb
You’d always think that everything was fine…”
In under three minutes, “Dialogue (Part I)” moves from doubt to optimism. However, before they do, the percussion and drums all but take flight. Part II of “Dialogue” builds on the optimism and energy embodied by Kath’s guitar. He rips off an impassioned wah-wah- guitar solo, as the entire band builds momentum.
With an optimistic, hippy mantra, the concluding “Dialogue (Part II)” makes all but the most cynical believe. James Pankow’s horn arrangement here actually swings, giving the song an even bigger energy. Together, “Dialogue (Part I)” and “(Part II)” made the pop charts, reaching No. 24 – albeit in edited form – and further cemented my view that Robert Lamm was and is Chicago’s greatest writer.
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