Thursday, March 23, 2006

Robert Lamm - Live at the Knitting Factory 4-23-05

In his 39 years with Chicago Robert Lamm has proven himself to be an accomplished songwriter with such classics as Beginnings, Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?, 25 or 6 to 4, and Saturday In the Park to name just a handful of his more recognizable songs.

Those outside Chicago's cadre of die-hard fans may not be aware that Lamm has also released a handful of solo albums including 1973's Skinny Boy, 1993's Life Is Good In My Neighbourhood, 1997's In My Head, and 2003's Subtlety and Passion not to mention a trio project he recorded with Gerry Beckley (of America) and the late Carl Wilson (of the Beach Boys) in the years leading up to Carl Wilson's death in 1997 (the trio album, Like a Brother, was released posthumously in the summer of 2000).

Despite his outside efforts, Lamm's live performances as a solo artist can be counted on a single hand, his performances on US soil can be counted with a single index finger. And this live bootleg is that index finger (or, if you prefer, middle finger).

This small and intimate live performance was given to celebrate the release of Lamm's Leap of Faith: Live in New Zealand CD. Opening for Lamm and the small band he put together was the Howland-Imboden Project a small jazz side-project of Chicago guitarist Keith Howland and drummer Tris Imboden (with special guest bassist, Jason Scheff).

To lend a certain air of familiarity to the Chicago material, Lamm's performance was augmented by a 3 piece horn section led by Chicago trumpeter, Lee Loughnane. Jason Scheff lent his voice and bass chops to Lamm for some excellent background vocals (particularly on Watching the Time Go By-- while Scheff is no Carl Wilson, he did handle the Wilson b/g vocal parts respectably).

The set focused heavily on a mix of material from Lamm's most recent solo album, Subtlety and Passion and some of Lamm's better known Chicago material (including Beginnings, Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is, Saturday In the Park, and 25 or 6 to 4) with a small smattering of tracks from his Life Is Good In My Neighbourhood and In My Head albums.

Perhaps the biggest treats were 25 or 6 to 4 which Lamm sang lead on, possibly for the first time since he recorded the demo back in 1969. In addition to Lamm's vocals there's some fiery guitar work shared by Hank Lindenman and Chicago's own Keith Howland. The other "treat" is All the Years which not only appeared on Lamm's Life Is Good In My Neighbourhood album but also would have been the opening track on Chicago's ill-fated unreleased Stone of Sisyphus album.

The bootleg also includes what I believe were the songs Lamm performed during his sound check, another take of All the Years as well as When Will the World Be Like Lovers which was initially recorded by Chicago for Chicago 18 but ended up not making it onto the album. It did however later appear on Lamm's Life Is Good In My Neighbourhood album.

Perhaps what makes this live set so enjoyable is that it hearkens back to Chicago's much more creative period in the seventies and shows that Lamm still has the songwriting chops which made him the premier songwriter for Chicago in their seventies heyday.

(see also Michael Fortes review on the Rasputin Manifesto)


starbender said...

I honestly haven't heard any of his solo music, But I Luv'd Chicago. What a great band!

Ben Heller said...

I sometimes wondered whether they thought "If You Leave Me Now" was a bit of a millstone. For most people, that's all they ever remember, and especially when you consider they had such a diverse repertoire.

Shannon said...

I am with Starbender here... I wish I was more informed on the subject, all I know is that I love chicago.. hope that's ok..=)

Perplexio said...

Starbender: Yeah they are/were. Lamm put out a solo album in 2003 titled Subtlety and Passion which hearkened back a bit more to their 70s sound. This live performance featured a lot of the songs from that CD that if you didn't know better you'd swear were Chicago songs.

Ben: But if it weren't If You Leave Me Now it probably would have been Colour My World. All If You Leave Me Now really did was replace Colour My World as the song most people identitified most with Chicago.

Shannon; Of course that's okay. :-) But much like I did with Starbender, I highly recommend Lamm's solo work. Especially his 1993 Life is Good in My Neighbourhood album and his 2003 Subtlety and Passion album. For non-Chicago albums they sound a lot like Chicago.

M. B. said...

I onestly don't like any album by Robert but I have to say that I like his style very very much.
We should don't forget he is the composer of many of Chicago's beautiful songs and he is an expert of music. He could/can give you whatever you need, from jazzy tunes to funky, to more rock 'n' roll.
When I see Robert I immediately think at the band, I think at the elegance because he's elegant just like the group itself.
I like his dressing style and I like his humor...
I remember what he said about the Chicago logo in the "LIVE BY REQUEST VIDEO".
After a question about - where did this logo came from -(it's really one of the most famous logos), he reply: "from a man who worked at the Coca Cola Company" or something...
I liked the way he said that, and if you thought about the argument of the speaking you will realize that both logos are really similar.
I definitely admire him and I think there's something in common between us. Probably the fact that we are heartbreakers, and we like women very much.
I don't want to be like Superman, I just want to be like Mr. Robert Lamm!