Chicago, “In Terms of Two” from Chicago VI (1973): Saturdays in the Park

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It’s 1973, and you just brought the new Chicago VI album home from Musicland or Tower Records. You put on Side One, and after three minutes of dull whining, you hear some pretty good jazz-pop songs with sax solos and electric piano and horn lines and major seventh chords and minor ninth chords. It’s not as groundbreaking as Chicago’s three double albums and the horns aren’t as prominent as on the fifth album, but there’s still some decent music here.

You flip over to Side Two, and Chicago is off again with the complicated chords and the horn solos until …

What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here?

Peter Cetera has done it again: He’s come up with a complete non-sequitur song that has no relation to anything else on the album. Chicago’s “In Terms of Two” has no horns, no blue notes, no state-of-the-world or state-of-the-band lyrics. Plain and simple, it’s a country song, with a typical hummable Cetera melody that rises and falls and can stand on its own amid a guitar-based track which includes a sublime pedal steel, played by session musician J.G. O’Rafferty. (He’s a real musician, not a pseudonym for James William Guercio or Jerry Garcia, as has been rumored.)

Before we go on, listen to this isolated version of the “In Terms of Two” that omits the vocals and brings the guitars to the front. Isn’t it lovely?

Lovely, because of what can’t be hear. That harmonica. That damn harmonica. That stupid, stupid harmonica, played by Cetera himself (rather than one of the wind instrument players). Why, Peter? You took a pleasant Chicago tune with a well-played backing track and dropped this ridiculous harmonica line over it.

Leave out the harmonica, and it’s a decent, well-sung, Neil Young-like ballad. Add the harmonica, and it becomes a complete joke.

My fellow reviewers concur with me that the harmonica ruins the track. Bob Helme referred to “In Terms of Two” as “Peter’s bad rewrite of ‘Rocky Raccoon.'” Charlie Ricci said, “This dorky harmonica solo could be the worst in the history of recorded music. Even Bob Dylan’s out-of-tune harmonica solos come off way better than this does.”

It’s a shame that such a pleasant Chicago song was saddled with this odd arrangement. Did Peter Cetera have this much clout that the rest of the band, and the producers, didn’t call him on it and ask him to re-do the harmonica part or re-arrange the song? Was this the beginning of Peter’s eventual takeover of Chicago?

‘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.

CelticGal

CelticGal

CelticGal grew up in northern Indiana and now lives on the back cover of the 'Chicago XI' album. A fan of Chicago (the Good Parts Version, e.g. the lineups with Peter Cetera) since 1978, she is the author of 'The Famous Becky's Island Chicago Reviews' and 'Becky's Island Music Trivia Quizzes,' found at www.beckysisland.com. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com
CelticGal
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  • lnh

    There’s only 1 song on this album that I dislike more. I often skip both of them. Cetera’s voice is incredibly annoying to me on this song. I’d rather listen to his harmonica! Conversely, I think he sounds absolutely beautiful on “Just You ‘n’ Me”. Thanks for this feature….I enjoy it!

    • CelticGal

      You’re welcome! I’m having a great time revisiting all these old Chicago songs and I’m sure my colleagues are as well.

  • Jeff Blanks

    I love this song, for some reason–maybe it’s a break from the horns. Even the harmonica just strikes me as a lovable oddity (kind of like the backing track for that passage, which itself is kind of odd). I guess they figured that if they were going to be a musical one-stop shop, they might as well have a country song–though of course there’s also Peter’s “What Else Can I Say?”, from III. I’m surprised some nu-country artist hasn’t covered it yet.

    AIUI, Columbia Records was convinced by “Just You ‘n’ Me” that Peter should be the singer on any future single, and his writing “If You Leave Me Now” just cemented that. They left a couple of perfectly fine singles on the shelf due to that.

    Oh, and thanks for the isolated track–boy, they really did know how to record back then after all, didn’t they?

    • CelticGal

      I’m a Deadhead and would love to have heard the Jerry Garcia Band cover either song. That isolated track is amazing.

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