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)
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)