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

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I should hate Peter Cetera’s “Happy Man,” even though I like a lot of acoustic soft rock, because it’s not the music that I wanted to hear from Chicago. Regardless of what else they recorded, to me, they will always be the rock band with horns. Unfortunately, much of their later output featured strings and annoying synths that pushed the horns into the background.

However, while the song’s placement at the end of side two may ruin the flow of 1974’s Chicago VII for some fans, “Happy Man” fits in well on the band’s jazz-oriented first disc of this very fine, two record set. The track is more coffee-house than jazz, but its foundation is rooted in the latter. The rhythm section sets up what is almost, but not quite, a slow bossa nova beat.

The melody is nice too, but what I like most about this particular song is Cetera’s unobtrusive vocal. When he doesn’t double track his voice or overdose on the melodrama, this excellent bass player is also a very fine vocalist. “Happy Man” is the least-bombastic vocal he ever recorded with Chicago – and I’m including “If You Leave Me Now.”

This peaceful ballad also proves how inferior Jason Scheff’s pipes are compared to his predecessor’s. He always made me wish Cetera was still in the band.

‘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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  • lnh

    When I fisrt heard VII, I was disappointed. Where was my rock band?? Why so many slow pop songs?? I couldn’t even listen to the “jazz” stuff. I forced myself to listen to the jazz stuff….and I like it….most of it. Vocally, this is one of my favorite Cetera songs. He’s singing in what I refer to as his “soft-n-breezy” voice. Don’t care for his “scatting” as the song fades. Love the groove; it’s so different for them. Totally agree with what you said about Scheff!
    As always: thanks for this segment….love it!

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