Chicago
Chicago Transit Authority


5.0
classic

Review

by CheapPurple USER (7 Reviews)
July 22nd, 2014 | 67 replies


Release Date: 1969 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A landmark album fusing rock and jazz, Chicago Transit Authority was a progressive rock masterpiece way ahead of its time, one that would never be matched again, by Chicago or anyone else.

In 1967, Walter Parazaider (saxophone), Terry Kath (guitar), Danny Seraphine (drums), James Pankow (trombone), and Lee Loughnane (trumpet), fellow students at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, started a band with a grand ambition: to make rock and roll music with horns. Robert Lamm, a student at Roosevelt University, was also added on as a singer and keyboardist, and the group called themselves "The Big Thing", becoming a successful cover band of Top 40 hits, while also writing original material behind the scenes. Realizing the need for a tenor voice to complement Kath and Lamm's baritones, local tenor singer/bassist Peter Cetera was recruited into the group. In June of 1968, the band moved to Los Angeles, where the band changed their name to the "Chicago Transit Authority" upon the recommendation of band manager - and later producer - James William Guercio. With a record contract from Columbia secured, the group went to New York in January 1969 to spend four days in the studio to record their debut album. Much musical ground would be broken over those four days, and the music industry would change forever.

Personnel

Peter Cetera - Bass, Lead Vocals on Tracks 4, 9, 11
Terry Kath - Guitars, Lead Vocals on Tracks 1, 9, 12
Robert Lamm - Acoustic piano, Hammond organ, electric piano, maracas, Lead Vocals on Tracks 2-6, 8-9, 11
Lee Loughnane - Trumpet, backing vocals, claves
James Pankow - Trombone, cowbell
Walter Parazaider - Woodwinds, backing vocals, tambourine
Danny Seraphine - Drums, percussion

"Jeez, your horn players are like one set of lungs and your guitar player is better than me." - Jimi Hendrix to Walter Parazaider

The first thing you notice about Chicago Transit Authority is the heavy incorporation of horns, unlike anything ever before heard in popular rock music. The first track is aptly titled "Introduction", because it is an introduction to an entirely new style of rock music that hasn't been matched before or since; unfortunately, not even Chicago could match this sound in their many following albums, but that is not for this review to discuss. From the opening track of their debut, Chicago made it clear that they were playing a style of music that was distinctly their own - an innovative combo of rock, jazz, pop, RnB and classical. Aside from that, the band played with confidence and swagger, not holding anything back. In fact, the fact that they decided to record a double-lp as their first record indicated that they were oozing with confidence, and they played like it.

If Miles Davis was playing jazz that was leaning towards rock, then Chicago was doing the opposite; they were playing rock music that was leaning towards jazz. That perhaps explains why their sound would get mellower and more jazzy as the band progressed towards straight-up jazz fusion, but in 1969, Chicago was clearly a progressive rock band, highlighted by Terry Kath's searing guitar jams and solos which take on a life of their own on the second lp. On Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago display a real wild psychedelic side with their horns, with lengthy jams that allow for much interplay among the band members, the first of which appears on "Beginnings", the track where this album really takes off and doesn't look back. The previous track, "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is"", became a chart topper in its edited form, reaching #7 on the billboard charts, but is really the most uninteresting song on the first lp. The rest of the first lp is rounded out by "Questions 67 & 68", "Poem 58" and "Listen", all of which have excellent horns, but Terry Kath steals the show with his excellent guitar work, particularly on "Poem 58", which also contains Seraphine's best drumming on the album.

The second lp is much more open and experimental, allowing for Terry Kath to showcase his magnificent guitar work and freestyle jamming ability, very likely what Mr. Hendrix was referring to in his comment earlier in this review. Starting off with the off-center avant-garde of "Free Form Guitar", Mr. Kath makes it clear that he has taken over, and his domination continues on the piledriving blues-rocker "South California Purples", which contains a Beatles reference about 4-and-a-half minutes in, but never mind that, the bluesy guitar, heavy bass and pounding drums and organ make this track a highlight of the second lp. The lone cover on the album, a pulse-pounding version of the Steve Winwood-penned "I'm a Man" - which sounds like it was recorded live - showcases the true power and energy of the group. After listening to this track, it's a hard to make a case that anybody played with more intensity and passion in the late-60's than Chicago. The organ and guitar fantastically complement each other, and this recording easily makes for the heaviest song Chicago has ever put out on record (Chicago as a heavy metal influence" In the late-60's, anything was possible). The next two tracks, "Prologue" and "Someday (August 29, 1968)", are politically-charged tracks that slow down the album quite a bit and allow your brain to rest for the epic finale, the 15-plus minute extemporaneous free for all "Liberation." The track starts with a bass and drum tempo that slowly builds up until the guitar cuts in like a buzz saw. Much experimental distorted guitar follows as Terry Kath proceeds to blow all of our minds. The drums are showcased late in the song, but the last impression the listener will have of "Liberation" is Terry Kath's awesome axe-work, very Hendrix-like.

Even if this record is not perfect, Chicago Transit Authority is clearly Chicago's finest hour, an astonishing musical journey through the virgin territory of progressive-jazz-rock. For any fan of progressive rock and jazz fusion, or anyone who wants to expand his or her musical horizons, give this album a try. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.

This review is dedicated to the memory of the late, great Terry Kath (1946-1978), one of the greatest guitarists to ever grace the stage. A unique talent that will be forever missed.



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user ratings (138)
Chart.
4.3
superb

Comments:Add a Comment 
CheapPurple
July 22nd 2014


22 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

A landmark album way ahead of its time. I know most people think of Chicago as a soft rock top 40 band, but they were much more than that at one time, before they let Peter Cetera take most of the songwriting responsibilities. Please listen to this album if you haven't, it will truly change your opinion and perspective of Chicago and their place in rock history. Chicago for Rock Hall of Fame!

Friday13th
July 22nd 2014


6959 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yes, this album is definitely underrated. I think their next one is almost as good, but they did go downhill.

RogueNine
July 23rd 2014


3969 Comments


Like I was saying on plug last night, this site needs more Chicago love.

manosg
Staff Reviewer
July 23rd 2014


11741 Comments


I actually haven't checked anything by these guys. Is this a good place to start?

Digging: Leonard Cohen - Live In Dublin

Judio!
July 23rd 2014


8451 Comments


Just an fyi, italics don't show up in the review summary. Might want to fix that.

RogueNine
July 23rd 2014


3969 Comments


This is most definitely a good place, manosg.

manosg
Staff Reviewer
July 23rd 2014


11741 Comments


Great, thanks Rogue, I'll give this one a spin!

KILL
July 23rd 2014


81232 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

hell yes you rock review dude

PunchforPunch
July 23rd 2014


6780 Comments


is this the same chicago that wrote 'if you leave me now' ?

KILL
July 23rd 2014


81232 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yes and no

CheapPurple
July 27th 2014


22 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Hey, I do like some later Chicago stuff, they have always remained jazzy, but their later stuff is very shallow compared with their first three albums. I wonder if they felt pressure from the record company after recording this album to have a more commercial sound. Many a great band have been ruined by pressures from corporate.

CheapPurple
July 27th 2014


22 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Hey, I do like some later Chicago stuff, they have always remained jazzy, but their later stuff is very shallow compared with their first three albums. I wonder if they felt pressure from the record company after recording this album to have a more commercial sound. Many a great band have been ruined by pressures from corporate.

CheapPurple
July 27th 2014


22 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Darn lag causing me to double post, sorry about that guys. I'll shut up now.

Cygnatti
August 31st 2015


32837 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

this is so so sweet like what happened to this band

RogueNine
August 31st 2015


3969 Comments


RIP Chicago after their first 10 albums.

SharkTooth
September 6th 2015


14119 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I WAS WALKING DOWN THE STREET TODAY

emptykev10
October 19th 2015


57 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Classic album, I'm glad I took the chance to listen to it



Sabrutin
December 6th 2015


6234 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Poem 58 just rules so hard.

KILL
December 7th 2015


81232 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

dude every tune is a rocker

Sabrutin
December 7th 2015


6234 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Liberation



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