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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 4 October 2010
Slowly but surely, Chicago are being elevated out of the middle-of-the-road kitsch bracket - more people are discovering their early work, much of which couldn't be further removed from Hard Habit To Break et cetera.

In the early '70s, they called this sort of music "brass rock" - a term that should be revived, as it certainly isn't jazz-rock fusion, it's not a bit like the Mahavishnu Orchestra, twin-guitar '70s Miles Davis, early (Vitous-era) Weather Report, or Frank Zappa's instrumental-oriented stuff. It's closer to Blood Sweat & Tears and such lesser-known phenomena as the Ides Of March or Heaven (who may even have coined the "brass-rock" term on their one and only [great] album).
Or Santana - because even before the Latin percussion starts creeping in on Volume VII, Chicago were mixing the same influences in the same fashion, and they had their own guitar hero in the perenially-underrated Terry Kath (odd that, since Hendrix was quite bowled over by him). I would recommend this to curious Santana fans, but I feel I may be wasting my time. To most people, this is an incomprehensible, utterly time-locked, musical genre. (I've seen reviews of both early Chicago and BS&T which argue that this music communicates absolutely nothing to later generations, and they may be right).
Chicago Transit Authority (1969) is the most guitar-heavy album of their career, with a lot of time taken up by Cream-ish extended jams (Poem 52 and the epic Liberation) and a Hendrixy atonal noise solo (Free Form Guitar. which doesn't really have enough variety of tones and ideas: Larry Coryell would've done it better). But it also introduces the mix of straight pop, jazz-tinged pop-rock and hippie politics that would occupy the next few albums.
Chicago (1970) is the most hippie-political album of their career, with a "stop the Vietnam war" song-sequence toward the end, songs about benign acid trips (Fancy Colours) and groupie encounters (The Road), interracial romances (at least I think that's the subtext of the famous Ballet For A Girl In Buchanon - two excerpts from which became hit singles) and a sleeve dedication about "the Revolution in all its forms". Oh yes, 25 Or 6 To 4 - by far the best-known song from Chicago's interesting years - is included here.
Chicago V (1972) sees them backtracking a bit - in State Of The Union they're anxious to distance themselves from the anarchist element, even though the song describes an instance of oppressive policing, and Dialogue is ambiguous as to whether we're supposed to sympathise with the "revolutionary" or the "apathetic student" depicted in the lyric. The songs are shorter, with no extended solos or ambitious bits of arranging. At worst, though, it's still a charming early '70s artifact - and the best bits remind us that they were still serious musicians. A Hit By Varese obviously stands out - as does the unfinished bonus track A Song For Richard And His Friends, which unfortunately isn't here (you have to get the separate-disc edition!)
Chicago VI (1973) is their first straight pop record - the beginning of the transition towards AOR and MOR. At least it's a nice guilty-pleasure, much like the early Billy Joel or Steely Dan albums. Terry Kath is still on hand to add a bit of vocal grit and guitar muscle where needed, and the gospel-tinged finale Feeling Stronger Every Day is irresistible. (But again, it's better to get it as a separate disc, for the brilliant Terry Kath outtake Beyond All Our Sorrows, not included here).
Chicago VII (1974) is mainly another very '70s adult-pop record, like its predecessor, but it also contains the last gasp of their progressive, musicianly aspiriations. It opens with an instrumental suite including some damn fine flute, guitar and drum solos, and there are other, more fragmentary instrumentals punctuating the record (Hanky Panky and Mongo-Nucleosis could and should both be taken into the standard jazz repertoire, with minor modifications). Of the vocal numbers, Kath and Lamm's contributions stand out, but there are unexpected bonuses in the famous Beach Boys collaboration Wishing You Were Here, and Jimmy Pankow's vocal Song Of The Everglades, which features some splendid Kath guitarwork.

There's an obvious problem with this box set - Chicago III is missing, which is nearly unforgivable! It may not have yielded any hits, here or there, but it's the most musically ambitious, most consistently compelling album they ever made. The one album that could definitely convert a skeptic: in its way the only Chicago album you really need.
So buy that one first, and then if you want more, think about buying this. (But bear the "no bonus tracks" situation in mind!)
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on 16 September 2010
I first heard of Chicago when 'If you leave me now' was a hit. And I must admit I loved that song, especially the horn section. So a couple of years later I bought Chicago Transit Authority, thinking it might be more of the same. At first I was shocked! It was fairly heavy Jazz Rock, and not at all what I expected. But it grew on me, and has become my all time favourite album (though I do flip past Free From Guitar).

The other CDs in this collection aren't quite as good - how could they be - but Chicago (aka Chicago II), and Chicago V are still excellent (Chicago IV was a 4 Album live set). The one change I would have made to this collection would have been to drop the rather weak Chicago VI and replace it with Chigago III.

For anyone who thinks Chicago were a middle of the road AOR band, I'd recommend this collection highly. An absolute bargain - especially when you consider that Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago and Chicago VII were alll originally double albums.
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on 26 May 2011
Wonderful Music,

All bar Chicago 3 from the best period of a unique band.

Unfortunately the transcription from the albums has lost so much of the dynamism of the original. What were the "engineers" doing I would have rather paid more for better quality.
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on 4 March 2014
Having owned the original Chicago Transit Authority for many years, but not having heard any other Chicago albums I was keen hear how they had developed. These low cost boxed sets are a great way of exploring music of my youth. I was a bit disappointed that there was less of the rock, jazz, brass sound than CTA had promised Nethertheless some good tracks on the other albums.
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on 15 July 2010
Represents the ONLY Chicago records worth a second listen with the original line up, at the helm Robert Lamm & the superb Terry Kath on lead guitar - after his early death the band died in the middle of the road.

Chicago III seems to be missing ?
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on 20 July 2012
I was thrilled to hear the music that i grew up with however was aprehensive it would not live up to my memories ,I am pleased to say it surpased my expectations ,as it sounded even better as the sound quality and equipment has improved beyond all expectations.Thank you for this amazing experience of hearing something I thought was lost forever
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on 23 December 2010
Originally I had all the Chicago's albums on vinyl, then began to build up a CD collection but still hadn't attained four of the albums in this set.Chicago II was clearly the best of the set by far with the others just having a smattering of brilliant tracks. Chicago X which isn't in this set is simply Chicago's best album ever in my opinion. Chicago III is an unfortunate ommission but luckily I have the CD. I also have the 1990's Chicago Box Set of 4 CD's which I found quite representative of their best but minus one or two very good tracks. However I made up for this by getting this magnificant set. Now I can sit back and enjoy Chicago to my fullest content. Chicago II with 25 to 6 to 4 (right !) and Chicago X are the pick of Chicago's albums (in my opinion). I don't want to tread on anybody's toes here. Pity this set didn't include Chicago III and X for everybody else but there's always a volume 2 to look forward to.

Peter
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on 1 May 2011
I remember buying Chicago V when it came out...wore that record out! Great songs and when it comes to guitar players, Terry Kath is one the most talented players EVER! Such amazing ability and confidence! Love this Original Album Series stuff Rhino does! That cut Free Form Guitar from CTA is just plain scary as hell!! Terry had balls for sure!!
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As of February 2014 the second volume of Chicago Volume two has been released.
It contains the albums
The albums are

"Chicago IX : Greatest Hits" (1975),
"Chicago X" (1976), "
Chicago XI" (1977),
"Chicago 16" (1982) and
"Chicago 17" (1984).
Original Album Series Vol. 2

The set is wonderful and is worth buying for the Greatest Hits set alone.
All of which are included on the volume 1 set ..
BUT and here is the weird thing
the other four albums include the following 'Greatest Hits'
"If You Leave Me Now" "Baby, What A Big Surprise," "Hard to Say I'm Sorry","Stay The Night," "You're The Inspiration" and "Hard Habit To Break".
Each and every one stunning in their own right.

Worth a punt?
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on 16 March 2013
This item I purchased for my Brother who is delighted with it. He says the music is excellent and with Prime it arrived on time and well protected with the minimum amount of packaging to do the job.
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