Tuesday, July 24, 2007

'Cause I can play this here guitar, Pt. 15

I saw a guitarist once, in a little club, in 1969, who knocked me on my ass. I wrote about him over 2 years ago here:
Chicago Transit Authority, Fall 1969, The White Room, Anaheim, CA

On their first pass through LA, they played The Shrine Friday night. My girlfriend saw them, heard them say that they were playing in OC Saturday night, and made me go. In a tiny room, on a stage 12 inches high, horns blasting, they created a sound totally new at the time. This was the Chicago of "25 or 6 to 4", not "Color My World." This was the Chicago of Terry Kath, and Peter Cetera before anyone told him he was a star. This was a bunch of guys living in a ratty house in Hollywood, playing their asses off, making new music.

In the '60s, as previously, ALL bands started out as Top-40 bands. Think I'm wrong? Look at The Beatles' and Stones' first albums: full of great covers. The great bands eventually wrote their own music, but still, it was common to cover other artists' great songs. The Spencer Davis Group's first 3 hits (Keep On Runnin', Gimme Some Lovin', and I'm A Man) were all popular with bands of the time.

CTA, later shortened to Chicago, started off as an eclectic R'n'B/Rock band, using sharp instrumental skills and the somewhat unusual addition of a horn section to create some tough, hard rock, but with jazzy influences and sensibilities. None of us at the time had heard anything like them.

Here they are doing their cover of "I'm A Man", originally a vehicle for young Stevie Winwood's weary beyond his years full throated blues singing. Instead it became a rave-up for Terry Kath, today's under-appreciated guitarist. Sadly, 2 things kept Kath from guitarist superstardom: Chicago's descent into maudlin pop noodling, and his shooting himself dead. Sadly, both fatal incidents.



Here's a promo video for the Spencer Davis Group version: compare, contrast:



And here's more Chicago live, with Kath on lead vocals. Dude could sing, too. Sad...