Chicago, “Hot Streets” from ‘Hot Streets’ (1978): Saturdays in the Park

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“Hot Streets,” the title cut from the 1978 album of the same name, shows that the ground-breaking jazz-rock side of Chicago is not quite dead.

The track begins with a synthesizer whir and the horns come charging in with a complex line. Robert Lamm sings lead on his composition, and his vocal is relaxed and jazzy. The lyrics seem open to interpretation. I’ve always felt the following to be about the still-raw death of guitarist/vocalist Terry Kath, the best musician that Chicago had or ever will have:

“A child of the skies
A robin on the wings I can fly
A prisoner of time
A dimensional crime lost am I”

Is Terry Kath the now-child of the skies, free at last to soar? Could Robert Lamm be the prisoner of time, unable to shake the tragic death of his colleague? Pretty deep stuff, if you ask me, and quite welcome on an album of mostly very commercial love songs, ready to be “boss, hit-bound singles” as Kath would say.

Following these lyrics, woodwinds player Walter Parazaider enters with a jazzy flute solo. Parazaider is (as here and most instances) an effective soloist on this instrument; saxophones, well, let’s leave that one alone. Following this jazz interlude, the horns come back strong with a classic unison solo that is one of Chicago’s trademarks. The time shifts here and throughout the song are incredible.

Bassist Peter Cetera’s work is astounding, as is the work of drummer Danny Seraphine. As I’ve mentioned before, do not ever let anyone tell you Peter Cetera is not an amazing bassist. The initial horn line is repeated and Robert sings of perhaps his lover saving this unstable state of things.

After yet another tempo shift, Chicago’s short-term lead guitarist Donnie Dacus enters with a lengthy solo. Dacus wisely does not try to ape Terry Kath, but instead seems to be channeling Moonflower-era Carlos Santana. As Carlos would in that era, Dacus gets in some nice, jazzy octave runs towards the end of his solo. While not a fan of Mr. Dacus, in my opinion this is his best guitar solo with the band. I can’t help but think what amazing playing Terry Kath would have come up with for the guitar solo.

This is my favorite track on Chicago’s Hot Streets album, a wistful look back at the ground-breaking jazz-rock style of the original band in its early days.

‘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 [email protected]
Bob Helme
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