Monday, August 28, 2006

Chicago - Live at the Fillmore August 1969

Before the hits, before Peter Cetera made his name nearly synonymous with "prom ballad"-- before Chicago was even "Chicago" they were the Chicago Transit Authority.

After relocating from the Windy City to LA and becoming the house band at the Whiskey, the CTA started making a name for themselves opening for and touring with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and a handful of other big names of the era.

In August 1969 someone had the foresight to lay down tape and capture directly from the soundboard, one of the CTA's shows at Bill Graham's famed Fillmore West.*

This is one of the earliest known soundboard live recordings of this band-- a band that was still young & hungry. They were still very much a hard rock band with horns and not the pop band they would later become.

The mix is imperfect, as are the performances but that's what makes them so enjoyable. Chicago's debut album had a raw energy to it that producer Jimmy Guercio would seemingly "polish" out of them on their later recordings.

This live bootleg captures that rawness and energy. On the guitar heavy tracks like Poem 58, Liberation, and It Better End Soon Terry Kath's guitar is pushed to the front of the mix. On songs like Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? Robert Lamm and Peter Cetera's vocals are pushed closer to the front of the mix.

If anything, when compared to live bootlegs from recent years, this set speaks volumes of the change in direction this band has taken over the years. Chicago Transit Authority in 1969 was a band that had something to say and wanted to make sure their message was heard whether it was the anti-Vietnam message of It Better End Soon or the historically significant Someday which chronicled the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. In this music can be heard a band that was trying to make a difference and still had the youthful idealism to believe they could effect that change or at least play some part in changing the world... The Chicago of 2006 is a band wresting on their laurels sleepwalking through sets weighed down by insipid saccharine ballads and their various hits over the years.

If Chicago were remembered for what they once were-- the band that played a kick ass ballsy concert at the Fillmore back in 1969 and not the tired old nostalgia act they've become, they'd surely be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame today. Instead after fourteen years of elgibility they've not even so much as been nominated for a place in the famed hall.

*the image is the handbill from the exact concert this bootleg was recorded at (thanks Google)

Related Links
Poem 58 (15MB) (temporary link)
It Better End Soon (12MB) (temporary link)
25 or 6 to 4 (10MB) (temporary link)

Articles and Reviews
Chicago Transit Authority (wikipedia)
Chicago Transit Authority (AllMusicGuide)
Chicago Transit Authority (Review Revue #1)
Chicago Transit Authority "Multiple Aurgasms" (Review Revue #2)
Chicago II (Wikipedia)
Chicago II (AllMusicGuide)
Chicago II (Review Revue)


BarBarA said...

Excellent! and Thanks for the links!!!

25 or to Fooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Dantallion said...

I've never been a fan of Chicago - old or more recent. I think it was just the overall sound that never quite clicked with me. However, listening to a couple of the mp3's you post, even I have to admit how extraordinarily tight these excellent musicians were.

For the record: Hunters & Collectors is amazing - thank you!

Perplexio said...

barbara: Glad you enjoyed them.

dantallion: While there are other groups I like more than Chicago these days, they've been a constant in my life. I've been a fan of them since I was 11 years old. I developed an emotional connection with their music. That being said their music isn't just music to me any more, it's like an old friend that's always there for me when I need them to be.

But from a musical standpoint, there early material never ceases to totally floor me in its tightness, excellence, and brilliance.

As for H&C, I ordered their 1990 compilation Collected Works back in 1999. Initially it didn't do much for me, but it must have gotten under my skin because every few years after that I'd give it another chance. Now they're one of my favorite bands.

Charlie said...

Chicago is not the only band who received horrible press during their heyday. Some of those other burned acts are now in the Hall Of Fame. Three notable bands that come immediately to my mind are Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, and Creedence Cleerwater Revival. The critics reviled them all but history, revisionist or otherwise, has caused attitudes to change. All are now very highly regarded today by fans and critics alike.

It is true that the ballad era cemented what many critics already thought of Chicago's early music. My contention has always been that if the ballad era never happened that today Chicago may be as well regarded as those bands I mentioned above, but unfortunately now we'll never know.

Danny Seraphine once said in an easily available online interview, "I think if Chicago had stayed true to what they really were, today they would be like the Grateful Dead, with huge gigantic followings. I really believe that, because Chicago had a huge following, and we may have maintained a level of success by having all these hit singles, but I think what we sold was a loyal following." I think his quote also applies to critical acclaim.

Charlie said...

Here is the link to the Danny Seraphine interview. For those who don't know who he is Danny was Chicago's fabulous original drummer beginning in 1967 and he stayed until 1990.

M. B. said...

"I think if Chicago had stayed true to what they really were, today they would be like the Grateful Dead, with huge gigantic followings. I really believe that, because Chicago had a huge following, and we may have maintained a level of success by having all these hit singles, but I think what we sold was a loyal following."
What else could i say????
Danny just said all!!
It's true, Chicago could be like Zeppelin, like The Allman Brothers, like Santana doesn't happened....
Today they are an act for "romantic people" who remembers some ballads because of special moments in their life. Well, Ok!
You should do hear this live to forget all romanticism and... pay attention to your head because Terry "wha - wha" pedal don't joke!
It came inside your ear to polish your mind, and then you can really say: "LIBERATION".


Scott Parker said...

When I stumbled upon this set in 2006, I thought I was in heaven. Already I had turned my attention back to the Original Years (1967-1977) and this concert was, and is, gold. To hear CTA young and hungry, working things out musically (It Better End Soon didn't yet have the 'preach' segment) was awesome. And the sound quality was excellent considering what it is. Chicago should release this on CD. Check that: I already own it. Chicago: release *other* stuff from back in the day. Sure, it doesn't sound as good as you'd like it to but dang, it's still worth buying for fans.