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)