Chicago, “Oh Thank You Great Spirit” from Chicago VIII (1975): Saturdays in the Park

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Chicago’s atmospheric and moody “Oh Thank You Great Spirit” – a Terry Kath tribute to Jimi Hendrix from 1975’s Chicago VIII – opens with what sounds like a landing spaceship gently rustling wind chimes (perhaps the same ones from “Fancy Colours”?) followed by a spooky spoken word intro with an atmospheric reverb effect.

While the intro does set the tone, the song doesn’t really get its legs until Danny Seraphine’s drum fill at the 1:17 mark. From that point on Kath’s melodic guitar playing and soulful vocals take on a very emotive feel punctuated by Seraphine’s drumming. The intensity builds to an intense “Great spirit fly … fly away,” but the magic of the song isn’t Terry’s vocals so much as what he sings through his guitar. “Oh Thank You Great Spirit” shifts from a slow melodic build to a feverish intensity that was trademark Terry Kath.

Between Terry’s “guitar-tistry,” Danny’s drumming, and Peter Cetera’s bass playing, this song was and is Chicago’s rhythm section at their best. They were showing what they could do without their trademark horn section, making a bit of a grand statement — not just in memoriam of the late Jimi Hendrix, but in hindsight almost a premonition of Terry Kath’s own impending demise a few years later.

The statement in and of itself, however, was that Chicago was so much more than just the horns. While the contributions of Lee Loughnane, James Pankow and Walter Parazaider may have been the aural “face” of the band — what fans most identified with Chicago — the rhythm section was clearly its heart and soul. This is most strikingly evident on “Oh Thank You Great Spirit.”

‘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

Perplexio

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 reviews.com.
Perplexio
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