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Chicago: Chicago Transit Authority 50th anniversary Remix

Doug Collette By

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In what is perhaps a tacit admission of limited sales potential (and in turn the low profit margin on music in physical formats), on the 50th Anniversary Remix of Chicago's debut album (often known as CTA, there is no info in any form detailing the technical process of this sound enhancement. A single sentence on the Rhino label's site is identical to that which appears on the band's own web-page, one that might well have appeared somewhere within the replication of the original artwork on the digi-pak of the single compact disc (for due attention, perhaps, just below the prominent display of the credit to the band's management).

"In celebration of the album's 50th anniversary, Chicago worked with mixing engineer Tim Jessup to remix the entire album" may suffice in some minds and likewise, to most ears, when it comes to proper effort for the work done on a bonafide classic album. But the engineer who also worked on the Isle of Wight live recording from the Chicago: VI Decades Live (This Is What We Do) (Rhino, 2018) might well deserve as many kudos as Steven Wilson who did similar work, albeit on his own, for Chicago II (Rhino, 2017). Both technical experts achieve the ideal end of such effort: allowing musiclovers to hear the songs and performances anew,

To be fair to all involved, James William Guercio's original production proffered healthy clarity of its own and his audio only became more polished over time. Advances in technology in the hands of professionals are virtually guaranteed to enhance the sound and render it superior to, in this case, the 2002 reissue. But to Jessup's credit, he does little if anything to distract from the musicianship itself. Rather, he provides more space within which to hear, for instance, the parallel lines of Terry Kath's guitar, Robert Lamm's organ and the woodwinds/trombone/ trumpet of respectively, Walter Parazaider, James Pankow and Lee Loughnane on "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?."

There's wallop to the drums and an edge to the guitar altogether greater than that of the 1970 mix noted on the back cover here and while that leaves less precedence for the harmony singing—fashionable at the time of folk-rock and the first wave of singer/songwriters—that too is a purposeful shift away from Guercio's no doubt deliberate streamlining of the septet's sound in its early form. Jessup and the band obviously also took great care throughout to highlight, without overstatement but with proportionate accuracy and impact, the tightly-fused rhythm work of drummer Danny Seraphine and bassist Peter Cetera: both sound equally vigorous and muscular in their playing. And it's not just on the percussive intro to "I'm A Man:" hear the rhythm section's rock-solid riffing in tandem with Kath on "South California Purples."

But the very existence of that latter tune, along with "Free Form Guitar," plus the topical inclusions near the end of the album in the form of "Prologue, August 29th, 1968," "Someday (August 29th, 1968)," revive early criticisms of Chicago Transit Authority and the double album successors by the group. The debut would've constituted a formidable debut had it only consisted of about half its dozen tracks including the Spencer Davis Group cover (not coincidentally, most of the cuts comprising this hypothetical LP are at or near the beginning, not pure coincidence, but purposefully sequenced at the time of the original release as a means of enticing airplay from impatient radio programmers and deejays). The progression of cuts would effectively proffer the inherent songwriting potential within the ensemble (sans overt commercialism of later years) plus the tightly-knit ensemble playing the group had honed before it began recording.

No doubt such reconfiguration was the furthest thought from the collective mind of that the current configuration of Chicago and Tim Jessup were trying to convey by collaborating on the 50th Anniversary Remix. Yet as implausible (and impractical) as that idea may sound, it is exactly the kind that comes to mind in revisiting a classic such as Chicago Transit Authority. Such is the transportive power of truly great music.

Track Listing: Introduction; Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?; Beginnings; Questions 67 And 68; Listen; Poem 58; Free Form Guitar; South California Purples; I’m A Man; Prologue, August 29, 1968; Someday (August 29; 1968); Liberation.

Personnel: Terry Kath: guitar, vocals; Robert Lamm: keyboards, vocals; Peter Cetera: bass, vocals; Danny Seraphine: drums; Lee Loughnane: trumpet: James Pankow; trombone; Walt Parazaider: woodwinds.

Title: Chicago Transit Authority 50th anniversary Remix | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Rhino

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