on April 17, 2006
AND HERE IT IS - ONE OF THE GREATEST ALBUMS AN AMERICAN BAND HAS EVER CREATED (in my opinion). Listen (yes there is a song on here by that name) to Terry Kath's ferocious guitar work throughout. This dude would have gone into spontaneous combustion without that outlet I think! He can sing too, and with so much soul...what an asset to the band. And he had better be with Daniel Seraphine's whirlwind power drumming and Peter Cetera on bass, this combo moved musical mountains by force of will (all could sing well, but Cetera was the harmony master it seems, check out the synergistic energy these young dudes could pull together, WOW). I guess Robert Lamm was often in the lead vocalist spot along with keyboard duties, but they all shared the spotlight nicely, his voice and songwriting are classic early Chicago. What would Chicago be without the signature horn section dynamics (fade in/outs, precision staccato explosions of sound, harmonic counterpoint), they do it all with such power and style. This recording had an inordinate influence on the music world, and rock world especially. There is a very progressive influence here, American style. The whole big band type of horn section mixed with acid rock was ground-breaking, and many tried to do their thing with it later to less success generally. Worth mentioning are the intense contemplative lyrics on many topics, metaphysical and otherwise, that (from the story I remember) got the real transit authority to request a distancing name change. This band was pretty revolutionary in every way. Jimi Hendrix even allegedly stated that Kath was better than him (somewhat modestly, I'm sure Kath would humbly disagree). If you are looking for a new classic album to absorb, you can't go wrong with this one - IT ROCKS BIG TIME! All other readers familiar with this (who like harder rock albums) won't need any convincing, this is the foundation from which Chicago built an empire. And this remaster of the original double album is very nicely done with a nice long essay, good track notes, many pictures and original artwork (about 77 minutes). You've got to love it! I always go back to this masterpiece when I want inspiration on many levels, 5 stars barely does it justice. Peace (often the message of this political statement from the vietnam era)!
on April 15, 2003
Few bands in history have produced a greater quantity of banal pop music than Chicago, so it's always a shock to play this album and remember just how cutting edge they were, how confident, brash and aggressive they sounded, in their first release. Few albums can boast as many outstanding performances as "Chicago Transit Authority", or "CTA", and with the exception of the Beatles, no band I know of ever boasted three lead singers as fine as Terry Kath, Robert Lamm and Peter Cetera.
"Beginnings" features a great vocal by Robert, lots of 7th chords, a gradually emerging latin beat, and fantastic trombone and trumpet solos. "South California Purples", uses long fade-in, fade-out brass notes, laid down on top of the power blues bass. "Poem 58" is a guitar tour de force by Terry morphing into a rousing, sexy, blues love song. Check out the intro by Terry, joined by Peter's bass rising into the fray, my favorite moment on the album. "I'm a Man" features all three singers strutting their stuff in succession to a jumpy, twitchy layer of percussion, putting even the fine version sung by Steve Winwood and the Spencer Davis Group into the dustbin of history. "Questions 67 and 68" is perfect power-pop. These are just my favorites, but there isn't a bad cut on here.
In 1969 Blood Sweat and Tears had the hit singles and the grammys, but this was the horn band with the most guts and impact, and was the true musical and spiritual descendent of the original Al Kooper-led BST of 1967. Much, but not all of it still sounds youthful and fresh 34 years after its release. By 1972 Chicago had hit rock bottom (of musical significance, not the charts), but in this original recording, they earned the right to appropriate the name of the city that was their home.
on February 18, 2005
When most people think of Chicago nowadays, the first thing that usually comes to mind is those lovely Peter Cetera-sung ballads and catchy upbeat pop tunes. However, before the ballads and before the big hits, Chicago was a giant seven-headed monster brewing with new innovative musical ideas with a solid 'jam-band' sensibility.
Released in 1969, Chicago's self-titled debut album, "Chicago Transit Authority" (the band's original name) displays the band on-fire with a number of extended musical numbers. Tracks such as "Introduction", "Poem 58", "South California Purples", the cover of Spencer Davis's "I'm A Man" and the closing 15-minute instrumental "Liberation" all showcase solid group interplay with the band's three-piece horn section and Terry Kath's stinging lead guitar taking center stage most of the time.
Although the album initially didn't generate any hit singles at the time of its release, several years later, many of the songs did get released as singles and have since become Chicago classics. The swinging "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" (presented here in its full version complete with a two minute solo piano improvisation) and the band's now-signature tune "Beginnings" (also presented in full here, clocking in at 8-minutes) are tracks that long-time fans associate with Chicago and are still standards that the band performs live today. "Questions 67 and 68" was also a minor hit from the album and introduced Peter Cetera's high soaring vocals to the world.
"Chicago Transit Authority" is a solid group effort from start to finish and all seven band members get a chance to shine with plently of space here. However, if there is one musician from the band that truly stands out among the rest here, it would have to be guitarist/singer Terry Kath. On no other Chicago album does Kath let loose with some groundbreaking guitar work than on this one. His extended soloing in "Poem 58's" long intro as well as "Liberation" are up there with anything played from Clapton or Hendrix. "Free Form Guitar" is a seven-minute showcase performed by Kath in which he produces a plethora of sounds and feedback effects from his Stratocaster and amplifiers - a true buried treasure in the history of electric guitar playing. Terry's contributions to the music world were sadly overlooked by many and his untimely death in 1978 did nothing to errect him into 'legendary' status. However, Kath's work on this album is ample proof that he was indeed a guitar hero worthy of merit. One listen to this album is pure evidence of this.
Indeed, "Chicago Transit Authority" is still one of the band's very best efforts. After this, the band would begin to have greater success with hits such as "Make Me Smile" and "Colour My World" (from their second album) and eventually would find a niche in crafting out romatic ballads with Peter Cetera taking centerstage. However, this is where it all began.
on July 29, 2002
I agree with everyone else here that this album is extraordinary. My complaint is with Rhino's remastering job, which is simply atrocious for this album. "Introduction" begins almost a semitone flat, and is seriously distorted at times. "Beginnings" is distorted during the big climax. So is "Questions 67 & 68." Etc. The mastering engineer cranked the average levels WAY up to make the album louder, and the results are often unlistenable.
The original two-CD version is dated but okay. The one to get, alas, is the gold-CD MasterSound issue, now out of print. You can, however, get almost 2/3 of the album in the "Group Portrait" box, which is remastered very well by Mark Wilder.
Again, my single star rating applies to this remaster, NOT to the music, which earns five stars. Rhino should be ashamed of themselves.
o.k. we all know the cr*p that Chicago would come to be known for in the 80's...
Luckily, I'm just old enough to actually remember when tunes from the first few Chicago albums were still playing on pop radio (I was VERY young... but I remember - - 25 or 6 to 4 and Saturday In The Park in particular.)
This said, listening to this album is really exciting when you realize it was the roots of a revolution, something completely new, very experimental, different - - groundbreaking. In many ways a product of its era (very message oriented, experimental and political) at the same time the music came from so many different directions... and so much was happening. 10 years later what went wrong - - all theories aside (including Kath's tragic death) my guess is that it had every much to do with the changing of an era, than anything artistic... How sad! If you can associate with this album then, you were "with it", today you're probably VERY out of place with a world that has changed... No one is asking Questions 67 or 68 anymore (and the drugs that the group wrote about in a later album are no longer hip.) As for words like "Liberation", talk of revolution - - and philosophical ponderences about the superficialities of daily life... forget it. - - as for the other elements - - college appealing Jazz/Rock, a guitar hero who was even respected by Jimi Hendricks and two great lead vocalists... not to mention a tight but unique and highly experiental rhythm section - - not as "superficially" technical as Blood Sweat and Tears, but very deep and adept a creating a sound that definitely had its roots in psychadelic rock and Jazz, but was borrowing from everything from pop to Varese - - oh and all the hair... wow... its almost as if the ALBUM is as alive as ever when you listen to it, but the world has foresaken its truths.
Though listening to this album only drills in the tragedy of the big sell out (*at the expense of not becoming a starving oldies group) - - the truth is that in its early years Chicago was a machine that could created its own brand of chart friendly yet politically and musically heavy rock and pop music. - - The idea of a band being both "experimental" yet being a pop power house - - now that's something to be amazed about (of course, it was the trend with most of the groups of the era but these guys managed to hang in through the '70s and keep on doing long after Woodstack.) Will it happen again? Maybe now... and for this reason realize that this is not just a "good album" - - it is really a miracle, the soundtrack of a lifetime and the start of something great - - Just try to forget that we all know how the story ends...
on February 6, 2000
Considering the drek which passes as music these days, "CTA," if it were released today, would sound just as innovative and fresh as it did 31 years ago. If the "Chicago Transit Authority" were introduced today as a new recording artist with this disc as its first release, and if it were listened to by the hoards of people who probably don't even know that there was a group called "CTA" before they became Chicago, it would rock the music scene perhaps even more so than it did in the late 60's. Nothing in today's popular music even comes close to the genius of this work.
Aside from the three big-name tracks, "Beginnings," "Does anybody reall know..." and "Questions," this disc contains the best recording ever of "I'm a Man," which is much better than the Spencer Davis Groups' version.
on November 25, 2002
CTA ("Chicago 1") has never received the due it so richly deserves from rock critics. This album is simply one of the best creative efforts of the late 60's, and introduced a sound that has never been duplicated. This album is in my top ten of all time, though there are tracks I really don't care for (that's how good the good stuff is).
To this day I feel the power and magic my friends and I experienced when we first heard "Introduction". I play this song for my two sons whenever I want them to hear how a truly great band plays together, yet allows the individual to showcase their great talent. "Introduction", worth the price of the album by itself, remains for me a powerful example of musicians who are at the top of their art.
"Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is", "Beginnings", "Questions 67&68", "Listen", and "I'm a Man" are all great tracks, as evidenced by the early hits from this album.
Fans of Chicago in the late 70's and 80's may have never known what a great bass player Peter Cetera was (knowing only his syrupy ballads of that later era). Robert Lamm on the keyboards and Terry Kath were undeniably the best at their craft in this moment in time. The brass "section"-Pankow, Parazaider, and Loughnane-characterized the energy of this album.
But the most overlooked drummer in rock and roll history, Daniel Seraphine, made the sound complete. Seraphine was the first drummer I ever heard that proved that the drums were a true musical instrument, and not just for keeping the beat. In all my years of following the "best of" lists, his name rarely if ever appears in the list of great drummers. But I can assure you that you will be mesmerized by his playing. He is the best that ever was.
"CTA" and "Chicago II" are the best 1-2 albums ever produced. Own them and listen for a lifetime.
on February 28, 2015
Holy Smokes, MoFi hit it out of the park on this one. If your even close to enjoying the sound of this album, because you sampled it somewhere... and you have an SACD player, just freakin buy it.
The imaging is incredible, as at the same time the L and R channels are creating horn sounds, or back up singing.
Like all these, the dynamics is there, just crank up the volume a little. We are used to all those no DR recordings, we are afraid of the volume today.
The whole MOFI treatment is outstanding, and i am critical on MoFi and AF on these SACD releases.
I'm never selling mine.
on April 19, 2003
"Chicago Transit Authority" is an amazing achievement for the group Chicago for many reasons. When it was recorded in 1968, the group was given two weeks to lay down all of the tracks. For four album sides worth of material!
The performances, considering the pressure they must have been under in their first studio experience are just astounding.
And of course there is the music, which when it emerged in 1969 was like nothing else before it; and nothing like it came after. Radio staples like "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" and "Beginnings" still sound great because the music just doesn't fit any "category". It's pop; it's rock; a little jazzy; terrific melodies and great vocal harmonies; lots of feel.
The CD opener, "Introduction", is a perfect showcase for the band and a preview what lies ahead on the rest of the tracks. Great horns, terrific drumming by Danny Seraphine, and Terry Kath's unique blues-rock guitar.
Kath goes on to dominate this recording, with solos on almost every tune and long jam stretches highlighting his improvising skills. Instrumentals "Poem 58" and "Liberation" remain classics in this vein, while "Listen", "I'm a Man" and "South California Purples" are bluesy songs with some great Kath guitar placed within.
The dominance of Terry Kath on this album is my only criticism. For the record, I am NOT criticisng Terry's playing. I dig every note. But,although many call this the "greatest" Chicago record because it has the most edge, since it does not find the group really branching out in different directions yet and highlighting each and every members' talents like on Chicago II or VII, it is really not the best document of this truly eclectic band.
I hate to admit it, but "Free Form Guitar" which, if it had been a minute long or so would have been fine, but I've been skipping past this track for years as it's just tedious.
A true high point which shows Chicago at it's best with vocalists Robert Lamm and Peter Cetera sharing the lead duties and the horns really blowing is "Someday". Political rumblings aside, this is just a great tune.
Although this record finds producer James William Guercio still experimenting with mixing (the horns are put to one side), the overall sound is very live, which adds to the timelessness of this disc.
"Chicago Transit Authority" burst onto the music scene after Blood Sweat and Tears had released a couple of recordings and other "one hit wonders" such as the Buckinghams were using horns in a popular format, but anyone listening to Chicago's first release knew that this was something really new and innovative.
BS&T were great, but they were bascially a jazz band mixing in some pop angles. Chicago was a true rock band, with a top notch guitarist, three great vocalists and a really unique horn section with it's own personality, feel and sound. And of course, the songwriting: cutting-edge, high quality and truly fresh.
After "Chicago Transit Authority", Chicago left all "horn rock" bands in the dust, and for obvious reasons.
This is a "must have" disc for anyone interested in Chicago, or, seeking out all important early rock recordings.
on August 16, 2005
I don't know why, but critics seem to hail Chicago's second album as being their crowning achievement just about anywhere you read. Not taking anything away from that fine record, but yours truly thinks this album, the original Chicago Transit Authority, is the magnum opus of their collection. Maybe I'm really showing my age here, but I'm not all that wild about the sappy love ballads that are so prominently featured in their later work. I will tell you this though. When I was 21, I fully discovered the magic of the "CTA", and Jazz Rock as a whole. This record, in my opinion, rides the line between Adult Contemporary, Pop Rock, and Jazz Rock so seamlessly, that it's hardly evident that this music would be for your parents. I would venture to say that "CTA" will be the record that bridges generational gaps above and beyond any Chicago record. And since I am part of that new generation, I think I have a little of my own authority to lend my opinion. Heart wrenching ballads simply won't live as long as this artistic feat. And as a young listener of classic rock, I'm out to discover who the band "really" was. Which is why greatest hits records, and an abundance of #1 hit singles don't impress me like they used to.
I can't think of a better way to introduce yourself to the world than "CTA" has. It's a sprawling affair with an unprecedented amount of variety. Soft rock, to hard rock, to jazz rock, to crazy tripped out guitar work; these guys do it brilliantly. They grab you by the nuts with their larger than life "Introduction". Then comes their hit off the record; the beautiful "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" with a 2 minute piano solo at the beginning (something the radio single never included). Then comes another big one; the 8 minute epic "Beginnings" (I love the haunting percussion rant at the end). Another one of my favorites, "Questions 67 and 68" is also one of the choice cuts. But my all out favorite track on the album has to go to "Poem 58". That track is immaculately perfect. It boasts some of the greatest lead guitar work that I've ever heard. "Free Form Guitar" is a whole track dedicated to that crazy tripped out guitar work I was referring to. Other highlights include The Spencer Davis Group cover "I'm a Man", and the closer "Liberation".
Overall, I'm not to surprised that pop junkies around the world don't revere this album as their best. It's nice to see them at a time where their artistic roots took the front seat. A time when they weren't a romantic ballad hit machine. This is truly Chicago's quintessential masterpiece.