Chicago, “Brand New Love Affair, Parts I and II” from Chicago VIII (1975): Saturdays in the Park

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I’m going to be honest: I’m in the vast minority of fans who really like 1975’s Chicago VIII. A lot. At the time of its release, the band labeled the effort as “a return to rock and roll.”

Who better to embody that mission than Chicago’s ridiculously talented lead guitarist/vocalist Terry Kath? Not only is his guitar work all over this album, he also has more lead vocals than any studio project since Chicago III, when he and keyboardist/vocalist/main composer Robert Lamm were clearly driving the band bus.

It is now 1975 and things have shifted a bit: Due to label pressure, Chicago is aiming for hit singles spiced with some choice deep-cut material. Trombonist James Pankow, now clearly the band’s leader, is the go-to guy for the precious hit singles. Pankow, never a terribly prolific writer, finds almost all the material he contributes to Chicago VI, VII and VIII makes the Billboard Top 100 singles chart, the Holy Grail of the music industry. Those aforementioned albums sell like hot cakes, due in no small part to Pankow’s hits.

In a tip of the hat to Robert Lamm’s “Dialogue Parts I and II,” Jimmy’s “Brand New Love Affair, Parts I and II” contains two distinct sections, as did Robert’s composition. The first part begins with sustained, tasty electric piano chords from Lamm; drummer Danny Seraphine lays down a slightly swinging, jazzy ballad tempo; and Terry Kath leads with a magnificent, heartfelt vocal about a love affair gone wrong:

“What I’d give to erase the pain
Will we ever make the grade?”

The horns come in with unison chords, Lamm switches to some tasty Hammond B-3 organ punctuation and Chicago drifts on a jazzy cloud. “Part II” kicks in with an abrupt chord from Terry’s wah-wah guitar and percussionist Laudir de Oliveira provides some tasty conga work. We’re now solidly in rock and roll land and the horns kick in with a wicked, bluesy unison solo straight from the greasy bar scene the band cut their teeth on.

Bassist/vocalist Peter Cetera then takes the lead vocal, singing in a raspy, gritty R&B voice sadly missing from his solo work:

“Come together my friend and celebrate the new day
All tomorrows will be a love affair with you my lady”

The lovers have patched things up, the happy ending is celebrated with more horn section goodness, which is repeated as the song fades. Pankow often talks about “casting the songs for the best vocalist.” Who better to break your heart than the tragic Terry Kath? Who better to celebrate the bright future ahead than Peter Cetera?

A true miracle that speaks of the musical environment in 1975: This song reached No. 60 on the coveted singles chart. Enjoy Jimmy Pankow at the peak of his powers and Chicago – road weary and dying for a day off – still manages to address both their jazz roots and rock and roll side in a single composition. I could do without the obtrusive and unneeded stings here and there, but I’ll take this over most of the post-Kath/post-Guercio singles.

This edition of Chicago was tragically nearing the end of its life, so enjoy!

‘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.

Bob Helme

Bob Helme

Bob Helme, a contributor to our weekly song-by-song series on Chicago called Saturdays in the Park, is a father of two with an MBA who still plays jazz part-time. Contact Something Else! at
Bob Helme
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