Chicago, “Lifesaver” from Chicago VII (1974): Saturdays in the Park

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Picking up right where “Hanky Panky” left off, “Lifesaver” continues the segue from the jazz to the pop portion of 1974’s Chicago VII.

As with “Hanky Panky,” Chicago’s rhythm section leads the way, starting with Danny Seraphine’s perfect groove, followed shortly thereafter with Peter Cetera’s solid bass playing before Robert Lamm and Terry Kath join in on organ and rhythm guitar respectively, followed by the horns literally swinging in with a fun chart.

When Robert Lamm’s voice comes in, an effect is used to make him sound like he’s on the other end of a long-distance phone call which fits in perfect with the lyrics:

Just when I found myself
Back against the wall
You saved my life with a telephone call
Far across the sea, you thought of me
I never thought I’d ever see
The happy days you brought to me

Robert’s voice has held up well over the years and he still has decent range, but the one thing his vocals have lost with the passing of time (perhaps a lingering effect of the hard-living and grueling tour schedules of the past catching up with him) is its versatility. Once upon a time, Robert Lamm was a bit of a vocal chameleon giving us songs like “Beginnings” and “South California Purples” on Chicago’s debut, the Muppet-esque vocals of “I Don’t Want Your Money” on Chicago III and the long-distance phone call vocals of “Lifesaver” (and later the soulful gravel of “Skinny Boy” … but we’ll get to that later) on Chicago VII.

Part of the appeal of “Lifesaver” is that it’s fun. This is a stark contrast to the pretentious seriousness of Chicago VI. Hearing the band loosen up again after the whiny appeals for critical acclaim on VI was refreshing and welcome, and perhaps one of the reasons why Chicago VII tends to hold up to the test of time better than its predecessor.

“Lifesaver” is the sound of a band that is in the moment again. They’re enjoying the music they’re recording. There’s not even a whiff of the critical pandering that pervaded Chicago VI, and weighed it down with unnecessary seriousness. It also continues the smooth transition from the jazz to pop portion of the album – a transition that would continue with “Happy Man.”

‘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.



Perplexio also maintains a stand-alone blog called The Review Revue, where he explores music, movies and books. He spearheaded 'Saturdays in the Park,' our weekly multi-writer, song-by-song series focused on the music of Chicago. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelse
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