Sunday, January 4, 2015

Chicago, The #5 Artist of the Seventies*

The legendary group at #5 formed in 1967 when several students at DePaul University got together.  The co-founders were guitarists Walter Parazaider and Terry Kath, drummer Danny Seraphine, James Pankow on trombone and trumpet player Lee Loughnane.  Keyboardist and singer Robert Lamm was recruited from Roosevelt Univeresity  Originally, the band called themselves The Big Thing, and soon after forming, added bassist and singer Peter Cetera.  

In 1968, the group moved to Los Angeles, and through the help of manager James William Guercio, signed with Columbia Records.  After signing the contract, the band changed its name to Chicago Transit Authority.

The band released their self-titled debut double album in 1969, and people took to them from the beginning (pun intended).  They scored three big hits, and the album went Platinum (it has since gone Double Platinum.)  But when the real Chicago Transit Authority (the mass transit organization in the city of Chicago, Illinois) threatened legal action, the group shortened their name to the one we know now--Chicago. 

So they were already in high gear when the 70's rolled around, and just the kind of act you would think would be ranked high.  They kept up their unique blend of rock and jazz right up to 1979 and beyond.  Through the incredible and diverse talent in their rather large group, Chicago was able to seamlessly change direction as they so desired and as conditions warranted.

In 1970, the group released the album Chicago, which was later known as Chicago II, another double album.  The highlight of the album is a seven-part, 13-minute suite called "Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon".  By now, Chicago had already transcended the continents, with the album reaching #4 in the U.S. and #6 in the U.K. and selling over three million copies.  The first single from the album, "Make Me Smile", is included in that suite, and it reached #9.  

The album was nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards, and has sold over two million copies.  The single "25 Or 6 To 4" peaked at #4 in the United States and #7 in the U.K.

Chicago scored another hit from their first album with "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" at #7.

Their debut continued to pay dividends as Chicago released the single "Beginnings".  It also went to #7.

As great as that song was, disc jockeys turned the single over, and on the "B" side was this all-time classic--"Colour My World", which was included on Chicago II.

We also want to feature two other songs from the album. This is "Poem For The People".

And then there's this great tender track--"Memories Of Love".

Chicago also re-released their first single, "Questions 67 And 68".  The first time around, in 1969, it stalled at #71.  In 1971, it still only made it to a highly underrated #24.

On the flip of that single was another song from Chicago Transit Authority, the Top Track* "I'm A Man", a remake of the Spencer Davis Group song from the 60's.


The group then released their third album, and the pattern of naming their LP's by roman numerals continued.  Chicago III went Platinum and was a #2 album.  Neither single, "Free" or "Lowdown", however, cracked the Top 15, but both are solid tracks.  The salute to Chicago continues with "Lowdown", another great example of the early sound of the group.


Chicago produced some of the most unique music of the decade, and really of all-time.  This is "Loneliness Is Just A Word".


Chicago also gave us this tasty track--"Travel Suite:  Flight 602".

Yet another great song on this amazing album is "The Approaching Storm".

Chicago's next release was a live album (Chicago at Carnegie Hall) that also went Platinum.  It was the biggest-selling boxed set by a rock group to that time, a record Chicago would hold for 15 years.


The following year, the group released the album Chicago V, a #1 album in both the U.S. and Canada.  The album has now sold over two million copies and made them superstars.  The single "Saturday In The Park", is not only one of The Most Important Songs of the Rock Era*, but a solid member of The Top 500 Songs* club.  It landed at #3 and sold over one million copies. 

They had the ability to play great rock, jazz, jazz fusion, and ballads, and it is truly amazing that this one band could do all of that.  The legendary group shows their talent in spades with "A Hit By Varese".

Chicago released another single, "Dialogue", which stalled at #24.  So they went to work on Chicago VI, which they released in 1973.  The first single, "Feelin' Stronger Every Day", was one of the best of their career, although it only made it to #10. 

With Chicago VI, percussionist Laudir de Oliveira made his debut for the group, and Cetera began to assume the lead vocalist role.  The group scored their second consecutive #1 album, another that sold over two million copies.  And the group chose a magical single for the follow-up--"Just You 'N Me" rose to #4 in the U.S. and also went Gold.

Another of their best album tracks is right here--"Something In This City Changes People".

In 1974, Chicago VII became the band's third consecutive #1 LP and sixth straight Top 5 album.  "(I've Been) Searching So Long" peaked at #9, but it should have been much higher--many radio stations had it as a #1 smash. 

Chicago VII sold over one million copies, and spawned another hit, "Call On Me", #6 overall and a #1 Adult hit.  

More diversity here from Chicago on "Song Of The Evergreens".

The group made it an amazing four straight #1's with their next release, Chicago VIII, which also went Platinum.  The first single, "Harry Truman", peaked at #13.

Chicago hit it big with "Old Days", #3 on the Adult chart and #5 overall.

Two of America's best all-time groups, Chicago and the Beach Boys, combined for the single "Wishing You Were Here".  It peaked at #11, making it easily one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.  Most radio stations that played it took the song to #1, and the song did reach #1 on the Adult chart.

In 1975, Chicago teamed with the Beach Boys for an amazing tour of America to promote the album.  Later in the year, Chicago released Chicago IX--Chicago's Greatest Hits, their fifth straight #1 album that sold a whopping five million copies. 

The following year, Chicago released their album Chicago X.  "Another Rainy Day In New York City" made it to #2 on the Adult chart.

"If You Leave Me Now" spent three weeks atop the U.K. chart and two weeks at #1 in the U.S., and earned the group a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group.  The great song was also nominated for Record of the Year at the Grammys, and Chicago X was nominated for Album of the Year.  It also became the group's third Gold single. 

Chicago X sold two million copies and reached #3 on the Album chart, giving them nine straight Top 5 albums.  The group captured an American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo or Group.  In 1977, Chicago released the album Chicago XI, which included the single "Baby, What A Big Surprise", a #4 song.

The group's latest reached #6 on the Album chart and went Platinum.  But then, trouble began to arise.  They split with longtime manager Guercio.  In January of 1978, Kath died playing a foolish game of "Russian roulette" with a loaded gun.  Devastated, Chicago soldiered on, and eventually heard over 30 possible replacements for Kath.  They hired Donnie Dacus, and the band released the album Hot Streets, one of their only albums not titled with a Roman numeral.  Chicago brought in producer Phil Ramone for the album with excellent results.  The lead single, "Alive Again", made it to #14. 

Hot Streets gave Chicago their 12th consecutive Platinum album.  The single "No Tell Lover" jumped to #5 on the Adult Contemporary chart and #14 overall.  

In 1979, Chicago released the album Chicago 13, but Dacus left the group shortly afterwards.  The album did not contain any big hits and broke their streak of Platinum releases, but did go Gold.

Chicago continued to be a major force in the 80's, in fact, producing the top-selling album of their career, and they have recorded and toured through 2014.

In 1992, Chicago was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

Chicago sold over 20.5 million albums in the Seventies, and registered an incredible 29 hits.  Officially, only 13 reached the Top 10, but only because trade papers didn't factor album sales into their single charts.  Incredibly, "If You Leave Me Now" was their only #1 song of the decade.  Chicago scored 19 hits on the Adult chart, with 12 Top 10 songs and four #1's.

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