Live In Japan


Chicago Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


This, not 1971’s At Carnegie Hall, is the Chicago live document to get from the band's excellent early years.

Recorded over three dates in Osaka during the tour to promote Chicago V, this two-CD set was released in Japan only in 1975 and stayed unreleased in the States until 1996, when Chicago released it themselves on a nice two-disc set. Why it took so long to come out, I'll never know; perhaps the lack of a Roman numeral after the title means it's not an official part of the discography, but maybe we can swap this out for, say, Chicago 13.

Anyway. The nature of Chicago's seven-man band means the songs were well arranged to begin with, so there's not a lot of room for enhancement in the live setting, only longer solos. As such, there isn't much on here that's truly necessary or that will make you prefer this over the studio arrangements, for the most part.


But what's here is fun and loose, much looser than the Carnegie Hall week, which seemed like the band was trying to be Serious in such a stately setting and forgot they were, y'know, a rock band. In Japan, it all came back to them, and the two discs run through all the hits from the first three albums and about half of Chicago V, plus a version of "Mississippi City Delta Blues" that wouldn't make it to an album until Chicago XI many years later.

The songs not in the band's repertoire for years are the most fun, especially the forgotten tracks "State Of The Union" (some great rhythm work here) and "A Hit By Varese," with its tricky yet catchy arrangement. Of course, "Saturday In The Park" and "Dialogue" are here from that album, as well as a version of "Lowdown" sung in Japanese (props to Peter Cetera for learning how). 

Not much from Chicago III is here, unsurprisingly, save for a rollicking take on "Free" and "A Song For Richard And His Friends," the Nixon jab ("He's got to go!" quips Robert Lamm to the audience, which doesn't seem to care, obviously) written around the same time period. However, the entire "Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon" is present, bookended of course by "Make Me Smile" and "Color My World" and some other stuff in between. "25 Or 6 To 4," my personal favorite Chicago song, is saved for the encore and gets a wonderful rock treatment, far more exciting than the Carnegie version.

In fact, most of these songs are more exciting, louder, and looser than their Carnegie counterparts, owing both to the nature of the shows and the acoustics at the hallowed hall, which is not suited for amplified instruments (or wasn't at the time, anyway). Only "Beginnings" sounds like the guys are going through the motions, while "Dialogue" isn't a terribly exciting opener and the godawful free-form piano noodling that drags on for six minutes prior to "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is" should have been left in Japan in 1975, never to see the light of day again. 

This disc can be tricky to find, but fans of the band – especially the fertile early Terry Kath years, before the guys went all soft – will find much to love here and a truly representative document of a Chicago live show of the time.

Rating: B

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