Chicago, “Devil’s Sweet” from Chicago VII (1974): Saturdays in the Park

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Let’s start by saying jazz-fusion normally isn’t my cup of tea, nor am I well educated in the genre. So, you may easily conclude that I have no business writing this review. I prefer more melodic jazz with a more straightforward approach. However, I do find some satisfaction in Chicago’s “Devil’s Sweet.”

This lengthy instrumental was a surprise. It unexpectedly and pleasantly appeared as a featured track – and it takes up a large chunk of side one – on Chicago’s last experimental album, 1974’s Chicago VII. The reason it was a surprise is because many fans (this one included) became concerned about the group’s future after the extremely uneven album they released the previous year. So, even though I don’t totally embrace “Devil’s Sweet,” I salute the virtuosity, eclecticism, arranging skills, and especially the willingness to try something new that Chicago composers Danny Seraphine (drums) and Walt Parazaider (woodwinds) brought to the table.

Seraphine’s playing is a highlight. While Chicago’s co-founder could rip it up with the best of them, his solo here is largely played with brushes – a nice, subtle touch most drummers don’t often employ. It’s also unusual that a percussion solo is the main reason to listen to a track, but in this case it’s true.

“Devil’s Sweet” runs over ten minutes and may seem noisy at times, so it’s perfectly understandable if you work up a total dislike for it While I would never search out “Devil’s Sweet,” I don’t hit the skip button when it comes up either. It should be appreciated for what it is and for what Chicago attempted to do.

‘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 reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Charlie Ricci
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  • James Casey

    I was already a huge fan of Weather Report by the time I picked up Chicago VII in the late seventies so I was primed to appreciate “Devil’s Sweet”. It came as something of a surprise to me, though, as I’d only ever heard the Chicago songs that had been played on the radio. This fun excursion into jazz fusion was a treat, not what I’d expected at all. Gave me a newfound appreciation for what the band had been trying to do all along, something I was later able to witness when finally getting around to listening to their previous albums. I remember showing this song to my high school band director, who had steered me towards fusion by way of Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd and Maynard Ferguson’s more pop-oriented albums. He too was smitten with “Devil’s Sweet”, which didn’t seem overly long at all in relation to the other fusion-esque stuff I was listening to. He was a real role model to me so I was always pleased to introduce him to music he had not yet been made aware of (in addition to Chicago VII he also became very smitten with Yes’ Yessongs….especially Rick Wakeman’s “Six Wives of Henry VII” suite…and Mike Oldfield’s Ommadawn)…sorry, I’m rambling. I can see how the more pop/rock oriented listener might find “Devil’s Sweet” a bit meandering but it’s worth wading through and sounds better each time.

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