Chicago, “While the City Sleeps” from Chicago V (1972): Saturdays in the Park

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Side two of 1972’s Chicago V doesn’t quite match the perfection of side one, but it isn’t fair to compare them because the first five tracks of this classic record are impossible to beat. However, the flip side is also too good to be ignored, so we’ll begin covering those songs now.

The track that opens the second side is “While the City Sleeps,” another contribution by Robert Lamm, who wrote eight of the 10 songs on this classic Chicago disc.

Even though V is Chicago’s most horn-dominated album to date, you may still find it surprising that “City” has Terry Kath’s only extended guitar solo on the entire album. Don’t get me wrong, Terry’s masterful contributions are all over the LP, but this is the only track where he really gets a chance to air his axe out.

“While the City Sleeps” repeats a device that Chicago used to great effect earlier on “Fancy Colours.” The vocalists sing in unison, instead of employing a lead singer. Peter Cetera is in the forefront of the chorus and Lamm bursts forth with brief solo vocal refrains, but it’s mostly a group effort.

Speaking of Cetera, the dude proves he can flat-out rock by using a wah-wah pedal on his bass. He is turned way up in the mix and gives the track a thick, much appreciated, bottom end.

“While the City Sleeps” also offers one of Chicago’s cooler introductions. A blowing wind starts as the song fades in and then staccato horns begin the arrangement before the band blasts off. Two verses take us to the extended instrumental break, which includes Terry Kath’s solo and the final verse.

Once again, Robert Lamm’s social consciousness is apparent. Three short verses show us two completely different moods. He begins, “While the city sleeps, men are scheming new ways to kill us – and tell us dirty lies.” The second verse gives us more of the same. However, in the final verse his optimism comes out, “While the city sleeps, men are dreaming, a world enlightened beyond this darkest age.”

This is the last Chicago album (except for parts of VII) where they are truly an experimental band. Don’t ignore this one folks; there was never another one like it.

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

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
Charlie Ricci
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