Chicago, “Italian From New York” from Chicago VII (1974): Saturdays in the Park

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Many Chicago fans consider 1974’s Chicago VII to be “The Jazz Album.” I think of it as “The Everything But the Kitchen Sink” album, because Chicago throws almost every type of American popular music across the four sides. From straight-out jazz to acoustic folk, from salsa to funk to rock to gospel, you’ll find it here. It might be easier to list the musical styles not included on this album – classical, maybe; country, possibly; and how did Peter Cetera not shoehorn in some polka?

Robert Lamm’s unusual “Italian From New York” kicks off the second side of Chicago VII with weird electronic sounds he plays on an ARP synthesizer. (VII is the first Chicago album that includes instrumental and vocal credits for each song, which is a great help to us reviewers.) It sounds like R2-D2 gone out of control, and also reminds me of the sounds of a modem trying to dial into the Internet circa 1999. The synth sounds are then joined by Laudir de Oliveira playing a steady conga rhythm.

The song’s hook – a six-note bass, guitar, and electric piano riff that echoes the rhythm of the title – shows up next, and will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. The Chicago horns play a theme in unison next, and every time they finish their line, the ARP comes back. Terry Kath leaves the riff at 2:08 for a noisy and atonal guitar solo. If you’re keeping track, that’s six different musical ideas going at the same time, which gradually drop out until R2-D2 gets the last bleeps in at the end.

You won’t find “Italian from New York” on anyone’s list of Top 10 favorite Chicago songs, but it’s an enjoyable listen that proves just how versatile this band was in the ’70s.

‘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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  • Preston Frazier

    A fun and daring song.

  • Peter M

    I’m hoping the reviews of this album never ends…the best are yet to come! Looking forward to “Life Saver”, “Skinny Boy” and “Woman Don’t Want to Love Me”…some of my very favorite Chicago deep tracks ever.

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