The late 1960s was an odd time for the music industry. Psychedelia had just passed, but the lessons to be learned about artistic and conceptual albums was there to be observed. This is the product of that time, but is not your average Hippy album. Instead, it is a classic in its own way and is a fine representative of the Jazz Rock and Progressive Rock scene that it would largely influence. Chicago initially called themselves The Chicago Transit Authority, but shortened their name to Chicago after the release of this album after being pursued for legal action. Let’s take a listen to this debut album, which should be very interesting to hear.
We begin with Introduction which begins with some brilliant organ sounds and Jazz horns, launching into a wonderful and excellent song with some Blues style singing in it. A very dynamic and catchy piece, this sounds really excellent. It’s basically Jazz music updated for the late 1960s, and is very nicely delivered. It goes into a Progressive Rock sort of structure here, with many rolling drumbeats and other interesting song structures that sound really amazing. The horn sections sound like a proto-Disco thing before this track briefly halts, and then continues with more excellent playing. The differently structured sections rise and fall within an instant, and this is a very precise and amazing listening experience. Some of the bass guitar playing here is really excellent, before a glorious section that speeds up enters here. A wicked guitar solo follows, and this piece sounds awesome and precisely done. It sounds a bit like Jimi Hendrix meets Jazz in a way, but is totally original all the same. Towards the end, the Jazz based horn sections and playing is infectious, sounding unlike anything else. Some drum fills then enter, and this piece goes back into the song section, before concluding. Excellent tune, it ends in a semi-King Crimson sort of way. Brilliant stuff.
Next along is Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? which begins with Jazz style piano and a good sense of melodicism on that. The piano section continues for some time, with some intricate and awesome playing. This playing continues until horn sections enter, and this piece becomes really awesome. It changes approach entirely with the horns, before launching into a section of singing and melodic instrumentation here that is really awesome and amazing sounding Pop/Rock structured music in a Jazz way. Really very cool, it does sound grand and socially conscious lyrically, and is a really excellent listening experience from start to finish. A glorious and beautiful tune from start to finish, it ends with drum rolls and blaring horns aplenty.
Beginnings is next, beginning with some gorgeous 12 string guitar strummed here, before some excellent sounding drum rolls come along and other instrumentation enters, and we are underway. The singing then enters, sounding a bit like Van Morrison but without the whininess here. This piece does sound incredibly good here, and puts some of their competition to shame here. Lyrics about romanticism and the feelings that one has with a lover, this is really incredibly awesome. A really excellent tune, it goes into a very excellent section with awesome bass guitar playing and a load of awesome drum rolls. This is an outstanding effort by Chicago, it just sounds really fine and dramatic here, with every single bandmember here putting in 100%. A trumpet solo then emerges in the second half, just sounding amazing. Multiple horn sections then intertwine, and chanted singing and smooth percussion is thrown into the mix. Very energetic and Jazzy sounding, this piece sounds really cool. It then follows into a Salsa sounding musical section, which is very odd and quite different here. With some whooping going on, this is a really cool way to finish this album. Really cool tune, it fades out nicely.
Questions 67 and 68 may refer to 1967 and 1968 respectively. It begins with a pounding drum roll, and the group launches straight into the action. Some super shredding Jazz style guitar is here, which makes the piece very nicely flavoured. The singing here then emerges, which is really joyous and uplifting. A really great piece of music, the songs here are gloriously good. This is a great piece of music from this era, being Jazzy, interesting and timeless. In the middle, an instrumental section powers on, going into a medley of sorts that sounds fantastic. The instrumental is just as good as the singing, and sounds fantastic. The singing section then returns, sounding top. An excellent piece of music with some nice lyrics as well, it slows down at the end, before concluding with an elongated piano note.
Next along is Listen begins with an odd intro, sounding like a piece of music that is more like the 1970s, rather than 1969. Great to hear that Chicago predicted this musically. This tune is really awesome stuff, with wah-wah guitar, awesome bass guitar playing and a really fine sound to this piece. A very good and really interesting guitar solo is here, sounding very fantastic. The piece then goes back into the song section towards the end, and finishes up with an awesome funky bassline and surrounding instrumentation to impress. Very, very good.
Following is Poem 58 which begins with some really good Fender Stratocaster funk styled guitar parts, before the rest of the band plays catch up, but they eventually do so marvelously. This also has some overdriven guitars, to the point of distortion. It sounds super surreal and clever listening, and not at all out of place with the rest of the 1960s. This eight and a half minute long instrumental is really excellent, and some of the electric guitar work here is awesome and memorable. The guitar solos here are really insane, and will surely give Rock fans a crossover listen to this masterful album. Some of the drumming here is just as good, showcasing a band and an experience that few could ever match. The guitar riff in the middle of the track is really great, with all other instrumentation surrounding it. It reaches an amazing climax, before everything else cuts out and we have just bass guitar. Horns of anticipation follow, along with the rest of the band. The guitar and vocals then enter, and this piece of songcraft is really worth our time. Eventually, an awesome pseudo-Deep Purple sounding guitar solo begins to play, and this piece sounds really divine. It has then a repeated guitar riff, which drives this piece nicely towards the end. A really fine instrumental, and worth your time for sure. It finishes with bass guitar driving this piece along, before concluding. Excellent.
Free Form Guitar is another lengthy piece at over six minutes long. It begins with a weird bunch of sounds, before going into a piece of music that sounds a bit like the experimental John Lennon albums that were recorded in the late 1960s. To be fair, very few would find this track at all a decent listen, and sadly, this drags down the album a fair bit. The guitars here sound beyond awful as a solo instrumental section, and it does not sound well thought out. Quite possibly good for tripping, but not for anything else. The guitars keep on going for some time, but to be fair, this is definitely worth skipping. It’s awful, and does not fit in with the rest of the album. Nice try Chicago, but definitely could have been removed. Eddie Van Halen’s solo section in his live performances are far better than this, listen to that instead. After six long minutes, this piece finally concludes. Awful, don’t listen to this track.
South California Purples begins with some laughter and a false start, before this piece has some good guitar riffing and it gets underway. This is a much better piece than what was the previous track on this album, and it sounds fresh and nicely worked on. Really cool, the bass playing in particular is worth taking a note of, just sounding spot on and excellent. This six minute long piece is a nice mish-mash of songcraft and instrumentation that sounds really cool and awesome. A really great sounding piece which launches into a loud and heavily overdriven guitar solo, this is wonderful and enjoyable. Really enjoyable and pleasurable listening on this track, the guitar solo sounds very amazing here. A vocal excerpt from I Am The Walrus and what sounds like some Black Sabbath as well is here, just to spice things up. Really cool tune, this does sound incredibly amazing. Excellent tune, definitely worth hearing, it ends with an expressive guitar solo and horns. Awesome.
Next is I’m A Man which is a seven minute long piece, beginning with some great bass guitar, some interesting percussion and a Jimi Hendrix-esque wah-wah guitar sound. This sounds really timeless and extraordinary, and is powerful and incredible listening. There are some descending harmonies in the refrain in the chorus. Really cool and different, this sounds totally brilliant and well thought out. It goes into a drum and percussion piece towards the middle that sounds terrific, a really top piece of music here, followed by a drum solo that sounds really nice. This continues on and sounds really amazing, supported by some other great instrumentation here. One of the greatest drum solos you can hear in Rock music, this demands listening. After some counting is shouted, the other instrumentation then enters, before going back into the song section. Really cool and amazing, this is a must listen from fans of music from this era. It finishes up with chanting and some further wild guitar playing and keyboards. Excellent tune.
Following is Prologue, August 29, 1968 which is less than a minute long. It begins with some loudspeaker announcement and is followed by a crowd chanting. It’s over fairly quickly, leading into the next song. Volatile music for a volatile era.
Someday (August 29, 1968) continues the chanting, with some different sounding instrumentation that eventually emerges. This is a grand and excellent tune that is quite short, being only four minutes long. A great listen once again, this is a short and sweet Pop sort of song. In the middle, the crowd chanting re-emerges, before this song resumes. It is seemingly a strong statement that is about social issues, and just sounds really excellent. It ends with an awesome drum groove and piano, very nice indeed.
Liberation is the very last track here, and also the longest, at nearly 15 minutes long. It begins with some loose sounds as the band gets ready for the performance. It does eventually begin with a counted intro, and sounds really great from the start. There are some wonderful drum rolls here, in addition to other awesome instrumentation. A very Jimi Hendrix sounding guitar solo then enters this piece, sounding extraordinarily good. The bass guitar playing here is also excellent, driving along this instrumental. Sure, this may be a lengthy listen, but it does sound fantastic. A really excellent and artistic effort, this sounds really cool and amazing. A really great listen, it changes structure and tempo in the first half, followed by bombastic drum rolls. A lively and extraordinary piece of music, this still sounds incredibly good to this day. This piece, again, does sound a lot like Jimi Hendrix, but with a different set of arrangements. A very genuinely good and classy instrumental with some excellent playing on it, this builds up in a crazy way towards the middle of this piece. It then launches into an organ based section that sounds very nicely driven. Nice listening here, there are some incredibly great parts and fills here to keep this piece going. The song then goes quieter, before launching into a guitar led break, which sounds different. Keyboards join in on the mayhem, and some atonal horns enter in as well. This is the Jazz music equivalent to an LSD trip, it sounds super weird in that respect. Eventually, drums enter to shift the mayhem aside, and a beautiful electric guitar sound then enters. This sounds lovely and tranquil. Horns then enter, and the piece has some further drum rolls to indicate the musical changes. Towards the end, this piece gets powered up and lively, with some super quick guitar playing, before a full on instrumental jam is performed. A drum solo finishes this off, followed by the rest of the band. Excellent work.
This is a very good album that would be near perfect without Free Form Guitar. Unfortunately, that guitar solo is not good enough, and brings the quality of this album down somewhat. But, if you can overlook that particular flaw of this album, then you have a brilliant mash up of Jazz, Rock, Progressive Rock and Pop styling that still sounds great today. If you like the sound of this sort of thing, Chicago will have an eternal place in your music library. Fans of the group should check out re-releases with extra hits on them.
Dynamic and Jazzy.
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