Chicago Transit Authority


Columbia Records, 1969

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


What kind of band bursts onto the scene with a double album? Honestly, how ballsy can you get?

When Chicago burst onto the scene, horns had almost no place in rock/pop music like this, double albums were still rare, and jazz was undergoing a shift thanks to Miles Davis. More importantly, nothing in music really sounded like this. Audacious, at times pretentious, and entertaining, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Chicago Transit Authority sounds like little else in the band's catalog and is one hell of a debut.

Every song on the first album is good, from the establishment of the sound in "Introduction" (featuring the line "We've all spent years preparing") to the wonderful acoustic "Beginnings" to the straight pop of "Questions 67 & 68" and "Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?" Overplay of that last song has diluted its impact; in this setting, the song is redeemed. 

The band had played live and has the ability to jam; as with most jam bands or jazz ensembles, the tendency to meander off course doesn't always result in compelling music. "Beginnings" would have been better without the percussion jam at the end and "Poem 58," while strong at the beginning, runs a tad long. 

But remember that the band was staking new territory here, attempting to fuse a three-piece horn section with a pop/rock band instead of just grafting on the brass and hoping for the best (which would happen in the 80s, but let's not bring that up). The fusion of the two works well in the cover of "I'm a Man," the short "Listen" and the beginning of "Liberation," which runs on FAR too long and ends the album with a thud. "Free Form Guitar" also is truly annoying; use this time to relieve yourself or make a sandwich before the bluesy "South California Purples" comes on.

One can't help but admire a project like this. The sense of adventure so prevalent at the time (especially in 1969) in music and the original concept of this band helps elevate Chicago Transit Authority to a must-hear status, even if it doesn't hit home 100% of the time. 

Rating: B

User Rating: C-



© 2005 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.