Chicago, “Manipulation” from ‘Chicago XIV’ (1980): Saturdays in the Park
The Grammy-nominated Chicago XIV starts off strong enough with “Manipulation.”
This Robert Lamm-composed track is solidly in the rock vein, as timekeeping congas by Laudir de Oliveira and the relatively straight-forward and almost-steady drums from Danny Seraphine jump out of the speakers. Lamm has more of a writing and keyboard presence on this song than he will on the next three Chicago albums, adding funky and solid clavinet, touches of Fender Rhodes piano and sprinkles of synthesizers.
Equally upfront is guitarist Chris Pinnick. Replacing gone-and-forgotten Donnie Dacus, Pinnick employs a rhythmic approach similar to Terry Kath – yet with the precision of a L.A. session pro. Pinnick would be a touring member with Chicago for a few more years, but this was the only studio album he will played on for more than a song or two.
The song’s aggressive stance is further backed by the filtered bass of Peter Cetera. Indeed, new producer Tom Dowd gets some life out of a band that seemed all but dead on the prior album.
Still, there are hints of storm clouds on the horizon. “Manipulation” has a total lack of harmony vocals. In fact, most of Chicago XIV demonstrates the band’s vocal-harmony short comings. The horn chart, while aggressive, also feels like an afterthought – like something Jerry Hey would do in his sleep, then dismiss as not interesting enough for one of his projects.
“Manipulation” may well be the odd man out of songs on the worst-selling Chicago album at the time. It’s also strangely fitting that the album’s Grammy nomination was for John Berg’s artwork, and not for the music.