Customer Review

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beginnings, 7 Jan. 2001
This review is from: Transit Authority (Audio CD)
Chicago are one of the biggest-selling bands of all time in the U.S.A. Over here, they are known, if at all, for laid-back softrock balladry, but their true voice was in the way they started out, as a big-band power rock outfit.
This is the debut album of Chicago. Originally they called themselves "Chicago Transit Authority" but the real CTA, fearing possible confusion, ordered them to change the name. Well, just think now, if you called your band "London Transport", Ken Livingstone would not be best pleased, would he?
A very impressive debut it was too. Chicago leap from the traps kicking buttock like they mean business. It is obvious that this band was well organised and preceded their recording debut by playing lots of gigs. They are crisp, sharp, together and playing off each other. It is music-making of high standard, confident, brash and assertive.
At the time, Chicago were lumped together with Blood Sweat and Tears as "jazz-rock". This was not a valid comparison. Wheras BS&T really were jazzers, stretching out the frontiers in musical forms, Chicago were more akin to the Memphis Horns brand of soul music. It was power-rock with the drive and much of the melody coming from instruments other than guitars and keyboards.
Chicago were also considered bombastic ego-trippers, self-indulgently over-reaching themselves both in style and content. Verily, their first three albums were all doubles not lacking padding, and when it came to their "double live", sure enough Chicago IV was a four-record box set. But to my mind there was nothing in the field of rock music quite like early Chicago at their best. The sound, the style, the music were all distinctive and unique. It was an outstanding production job by James William Guercio.
Back in 1970, this was one of the very first records I bought. I still think it is one of the best. Nothing can match the kick as it bursts into life with Introduction. Thrill to the zap of I'm a Man. But be prepared for amazement at the audacity of Prologue and Someday, which took newsreel soundtrack from the street demos in Mayor Daley's Chicago during the notorious Democratic Party Convention in 1968 and welds it into one of the most truly powerful political statements in rock music. It still sounds awesome today, even when integrating noise, sound and speech into purportedly musical tracks is commonplace.
This album is well worth seeking out. There are few debut albums with so much good music and superlative musicianship. Catch Chicago when they were still an innovative cutting-edge outfit.
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