45 Yeas Ago: Chicago Collect Their Carnegie Hall Shows for Four-LP Set
As a band, Chicago routinely took on challenges without blinking. Their first three albums were all two-record sets. Those 12 sides of vinyl spawned 10 chart hits, including five nestled in the Top 10. By the end of 1971, they were one of the biggest bands in the States.
Earlier in the year, they staged a week of concerts at the legendary Carnegie Hall. From April 5-10, Chicago held court at the venue, recording the dates for a live release that would become their fourth LP. This time around, they got even bigger. Their fourth album was released as a four-LP box set, compete with a poster and booklet. Even though their record company wasn't sure a release of that size was a good idea, producer James Guercio fought the label to take a chance on the four-record set.
Released in late October 1971, Chicago at Carnegie Hall captures the band in front of an enthusiastic audience, performing expanded versions of songs from their first three hit records. "Success speaks for itself," says DJ Scott Muni as he introduces the band. Horns blare as they launch into "In the Country" from their second album. Check out Danny Seraphine's powerhouse drumming and the blistering guitar of Terry Kath to hear how tough Chicago could be.
From the first groove on side one through the last on side eight, the band covers a lot of ground, hitting on key tracks from the three studio albums, including "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?," "Beginnings," "Make Me Smile" and "25 or 6 to 4," which, in the live setting, takes on a whole other dimension with Kath's searing and manic guitar work.
Like its predecessors, the album was a hit, climbing to No. 3 on the chart and selling a half-million copies right off the bat. Still, the band wasn't as enthusiastic about the record. “There’s a lot of good material, but there’s a lot of stuff that I was unhappy with and I didn’t think should be released," recounts horn player Lee Loughnane in the band's official bio. "There was a history behind that record. The story, the marketing, all of that stuff went into it. The program, the pictures of the building, the diagrams, all of that was part of the charisma, and it worked."
Other members were even less reserved in their feelings. “I hate it,” noted trombonist James Pankow. “The acoustics of Carnegie Hall were never meant for amplified music, and the sound of the brass after being miked came out sounding like kazoos.” None of that seemed to matter to fans. And as keyboardist singer Robert Lamm acknowledged, it was a milestone on the band's long career. “That was an exciting week," he said. "To actually play in Carnegie Hall.”
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