Thursday, July 29, 2010

Forgotten Music Thursday: Robert Lamm - Leap Of Faith: Live In New Zealand (2005)

CD cover painting by Robert Lamm
I'm always reluctant to rank live albums near the top when compiling "best of" lists because most of them are merely rehashing old material but in 2005 an exception was made for the outstanding live CD from the eternally underrated keyboard player, Robert Lamm, of Chicago. His Leap Of Faith - Live In New Zealand surpassed many studio releases to earn a spot on Bloggerhythms' end-of-year top five.

Among the thirteen tracks are superb versions of four of Lamm's very best Chicago classics: "Beginnings," "Saturday In The Park," "25 or 6 to 4," and "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" In addition, there are seven songs from his best studio CD, Subtlety and Passion, (S&P) plus two big surprises. The first one is "Watching The Time Go By," released twice previously on Like A Brother, the album he recorded with Carl Wilson and Gerry Beckley, and on his third solo CD, In My Head. The other surprise is "All The Years" which appeared on Chicago's infamous Stone Of Sisyphus, a CD recorded in 1993 but previously unreleased until 2008.

The sound of classic 1970s Chicago reigns on Leap Of Faith. All but one of the songs features a horn section that includes trumpeter Lee Loughnane, another original member of the band. The four Chicago songs are fairly close to the original arrangements yet each contains enough of a flair to hold your interest. Lamm sings "25 or 6 to 4" live for what maybe the very first time and he handles the vocal well enough to suggest that the song would still have been a hit if he, and not Peter Cetera, had recorded the lead vocal back in 1970.

The horns are buried slightly deeper in the mix than they are on S&P, and the electric guitar is far more prominent, allowing the songs from that album to rock more than they do on the original studio versions. Lamm's vocals have more of a presence too so the lyrics are much more discernible than on the S&P versions.

Also helping Lamm out during the concert were current Chicago bassist, Jason Scheff and their drummer, Tris Imboden.

Live, solo shows by Lamm are very rare. I would love for him to take this band on the road and play a gig near me because this concert was far better than any his old band has played recently.

Unfortunately this limited addition CD and companion DVD are already out of print. The package isn't even mentioned on Lamm's website, Blue Infinity Music. The set was never in stores, never found on Amazon, or even mentioned in Lamm's biography in All Music Guide's extensive catalog listings. That is too bad because it deserved a wider release and a better fate.

Here are three YouTube clips from the show. First is "Beginnings," the CD/DVD's opening track, as well as a live version of "Somewhere Girl," originally from Subtlety & Passion. Finally, you can listen to a great live version of "All The Years."

4 comments:

  1. I love CHICAGO and hope LEAP OF FAITH becomes available on iTunes or one of the other music sites.

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  2. Interesting. I never realised that Lamm did much touring as a solo artist. He was always the 'quite one' in Chicago who wrote some great tunes but was never the focal point of the band.

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  3. It is an interesting solo release by Robert. Normally I'm quite a critic of Jason Scheff's vocals but I thought he nailed the Gerry Beckley/Carl Wilson-esque vocals on Watching the Time Go By far better than he's ever nailed trying to sound like Peter Cetera.

    I'd rank this and S&P as Lamm's two best solo releases-- no contest! None of his other solo material compares. I was a little surprised/disappointed that he didn't include material from his other solo albums. I would have loved to have heard Murder on Me or When Will the World be Like Lovers from Life Is Good In My Neighbourhood or Love of My Life from In My Head. I wouldn't have minded hearing Skinny Boy for that matter, but I'm not sure that Robert still has the range/chops to tackle that one (at least not in its original form). His voice has deepened, perhaps a bit too much to successfully pull off Skinny Boy without some substantial changes in key/arrangement.

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  4. Good write-up, great live record that shows Lamm at his best. He badly needs to bring this record back into publication.

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