Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Chase
Back in the 1960s rock artists weren’t afraid to show their influences and their roots; that’s why even the big artists and bands of the era performed cover versions of songs by their contemporaries, as well as “oldies” (from the 1950s), blues and sometimes jazz and country.
Led by Al Kooper’s swaggering Blood, Sweat and Tears experiment, a number of bands in the late 60s-early 70s lathered on the horn sections and “soulful” white-boy vocals to create a new kind of rock music. Is it really “jazz rock fusion,” as some people call the music by BST, Chicago and others? No – but it is a form of pop-rock that was pretty popular at the time.
So today let’s spin Ennea, the second album from the rock-horn band Chase that appeared in 1972. This band was created and led by Bill Chase, a jazz artist who played lead trumpet with Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton and later, in Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd. Inspired by Kooper’s work with BST, and perhaps encouraged by Columbia/CBS/Epic records president Clive Davis, Chase assembled his pop-rock unit by combining veteran jazz horn players with talented rock players. The self-titled debut album from 1971 was a success, and the single “Get It On” cracked the Top 40.
Then we get to Ennea, recorded the next year as a followup. Chase (the band) was growing both artistically and physically (they started with six members, by the time the second album’s sessions were finished there were nine). Bill Chase wanted to push the boundaries farther than Chicago and BST had, and as a result much of Ennea is pretty much over the top, beginning with the title (Greek for “nine,” the number of dudes in the band). “Swanee River,” the album opener, is Chase’s brash and brassy rewrite of the Stephen Foster classic and perhaps the only song on the entire album that doesn’t come off as completely silly.
“So Many People” was the single from the album, designed to capture attention when it was played on the radio. Written by Paul Williams (“Old Fashioned Love Song” for Three Dog Night, “Rainy Days and Mondays” for the Carpenters, etc.) the song was one of those scattershot social commentaries that managed to mention greedy socialites, racists, warmongers and the Martin Luther King assassination in less than three minutes! Needless to say, this one wasn’t a hit.
The band had an incredible guitarist named Angel South, and he wrote “I Can Feel It,” which is one of the better tunes on Ennea. Vocalist G. G. Shinn, late of the southeast Texas roadhouse heroes the Fabulous Boogie Kings, joined Chase (the band) midway through the recording sessions, replacing former lead vocalist Terry Richards who sounded a lot like BST’s David Clayton Thomas.
Flip the Ennea album over to Side 2, and you are entering the six-song suite “Ennea” with titles and lyrics based on Greek mythology. Hoo boy – the less said about this, the better. Being kind, you could say this suite wasn’t “radio friendly,” but why be kind – this is irritating to even listen to once. Jumping off the deep end like this, Chase unsurprisingly didn’t score with their second album. Bill Chase would retreat and regroup, and he would move away from rock with the mostly instrumental Pure Music in 1974. While working on a fourth album later that year, Chase and a few members of his band would die in a plane crash.
I’ve included some of the less irritating tunes from Ennea, and as a bonus you have “Get It On,” the sole chart hit from Chase, and perhaps the band’s finest moment.