Peter Steward's Web Site


Home Page Music Reviews Book Reviews Biography My Writing Sign Guestbook Contact Me


American rock/pop band

Studio Albums

Chicago Transit Authority 1969

Chicago II 1970

Chicago III 1971







Chicago Transit Authority  - 7

Introduction/ Does Anybody Really Know What Time It is?/ Beginnings/ Questions 67 and 68/ Listen/ Poem 58/ Free Form Guitar/ South California Purples/ I'm a Man/ Prologue (August 29, 1968)/ Someday (August 29, 1968)/ Liberation

This debut album from Chicago couldn't have been easy listening back in 1969, but that's exactly what makes it so engaging and the fact it was so successful speaks volumes for the style of pomp rock that was around over 40 years ago. So many styles are encompassed here from rock and blues to a pounding brass beat that gave the band such an original sound. You don't have to look any further to the bombastic blowout of Poem 58 with its Hendrix overtones encompassed in a brass casing - this was heavy and heady stuff for a niche market. This was certainly music for the Woodstock generation and today has probably as much curio as musical value although Questions 67 and 68 remains one of my favourite pieces by the band. In many ways for a debut album this was stunning in a preposterous kind of way - even at times managing to sound like an American Emerson, Lake and Palmer (just listen to Free Form Guitar to see what I mean - it approaches train wreck intensity). If this kind of album was put out today (and I guess Mars Volta get somewhere close at times) it would be viewed as rather pretentious but also slightly mind blowing).


Chicago II  - 7

Movin On/ The Road/ Poem for the People/ In the Country/ Wake Up Sunshine/ Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon (Make Me Smile, So Much to Say, So Much to Give, Anxiety's Moment, West Virginia Fantasies, Colour My World, To Be Free, Now More Than Ever)/ Fancy Colours/ 25 or 6 to 4/ Memories of Love (Prelude, AM Mourning, PM Mourning, Memories of Love)/ It Better End Soon (1st Movement, 2nd Movement, 3rd Movement, 4th Movement)/ Where Do We Go From Here?

Another mammoth album for the time, weighing in at well over an hour and another double album at a time when many records struggled to make the 30 minute mark. So was it quality or quantity? Originally entitled simply Chicago, the Roman Numeral was later added as the start of a series. It soon becomes obvious that the jazz/blues/funk influences are still there but perhaps there is a more stylised approach and less self indulgence than on the debut album. The album gave birth to a number of hit records and band favourites such as Wake Up Sunshine, Make Me Smile and 25 or 6 to 4. There are also a number of extensive individual pieces divided into sub sections. Perhaps more than any other song Make Me Smile nods back to the first album but points to a future when the band would turn towards the hit factory of ballads and more accessible music. It is interesting that the song is part of the Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon suite. There is no doubting that Chicago II is a rambling record but that doesn't necessarily detract from its overall feel which features some very tender moments. There are also hints of classical influences pushing through as well in a nicely rounded record that is every bit as good as the band's debut album


Chicago III - 6

Sing a Mean Tune Kid/ Loneliness Is Just A Word/ What Else Can I Say/ I Don't Want Your Money/ Travel Suite (Flight 602, Motorboat to Mars, Free, Free Country, At the Sunrise, Happy Cause I'm Going Home/ Mother/ Lowdown/ An Hour in the Shower (A Hard Risin Morning Without Breakfast, Off to Work, Fallin Out, Dreamin Home, Morning Blues Again)/ Elegy (When All the Laughter Dies in Sorrow, Canon, Once Upon a Time, Progress, The Approaching Storm, Man vs Man: The End

Sustaining three double albums in two years must have been a great burden to the band who were also touring non stop. And the cracks were beginning to show. There was plenty of funk about Chicago III but at times the band were trying to sound different and trying to prove on tracks like I Don't Want Your Money that they were really having a good old time. Elsewhere Travel Suite documents a feeling of homesickness with the opening piece "Flight 602" seeing Chicago trying to sound like Crosby, Stills and Nash with close harmony. Then on At the Sunrise the style is more akin to late era Beatles with a brass section. Overall it just feels as if there is too much filler material here to justify a double album.