So I'm listening to Chicago Transit Authority-- which has been one of my favorite albums since I was about 14 or 15. This was the first and only time Chicago recorded live in the studio as a group. I've read interviews with sound engineers and the guys in the studio saying that recording this album was a nightmare. Getting 7 guys to come together "just so" required an obscene amount of takes.
When this album was released, no one outside LA and Chicago had heard of these guys, and even those from Chicago may not have even realized it was the same group they had known as "The Big Thing."
These were wet behind the ears guys, younger then than I am now. They gave up their royalties so they could get this double LP debut released back in 1969.
They weren't popular yet, they didn't have over 100 million record sales worldwide yet, they weren't the hit machine they would become in the mid-70s and into the early-80s. They were just making this music for the love of the music and because they believed not only in themselves but in the music they were creating.
I could be wrong, but I believe this album didn't chart until after their 2nd album was released a year later.
On one of the days that this album was being recorded, most of the band was taking a break. Guitarist Terry Kath, opted to just stick around the studio and mess around on his guitar. I mean he just went totally apeshit. One of the sound engineers decided to roll tape on it and caught one of the most brilliant "love songs" ever. It's not so much a song, as it is Kath making love to his guitar in a 6+ minute free form jam that at times sounds more like a motorcycle wreck than anything resembling music. But what comes through his intense free-form jamming is a level of energy and passion for his guitar that no structured song could ever really capture.
Chicago's first 3 double LP studio albums and their 1971 4 LP (3 CD) Live at Carnegie Hall album contain some of their best, and most experimental music. It was all recorded before a concerted change in the band, a change that saw them shift from experimenting to trying to score hits. There are diamonds in the rough of some of their later albums. But Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago II, Chicago III, and Live at Carnegie Hall all have a certain magic to them... and there's just something about this debut, the start of something magical, 7 guys making music they love for the sake of the music, not for the sake of selling records.
I may have expanded my musical horizons, I may listen to a lot of other groups now-- but it never fails, I always come back to this album. Days, weeks, years may pass but I know I can always come back to this CD and experience some monstrous aurgasms!
*This post originally appeared on July 21, 2004 in my Livejournal blog.