Chicago V – What to Listen For

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More Chicago V

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  • An incredible Triple Plus (A+++) side one backed with an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two – quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is especially rich, full and warm, with big bass, lively brass and multi-tracked vocals that are breathy and clear
  • 4 stars on Allmusic and one of their best sounding albums, the last to be recorded at Columbia’s famed 30th Street studios
  • Their first Number One, and The Biggest Selling Album of 1972 (!), spending nine weeks at the top of the charts

Most pressings don’t reproduce the percussion harmonics, the leading edge transients of the horns, or the big, open space around Peter Cetera’s vocals that we know is there, but a Hot Stamper copy such as this brings out all those qualities and more.

The presence here puts the vocalists right in the room with you, and when the band kicks in, the sound really starts jumping out of the speakers.

The Brass Is Key

The brass on any Chicago album has to have just the right amount of transient bite yet still be full-bodied and never blary. In addition, on the best of the best pressings you can really hear the air moving through the horns.

Most copies suffer from dull highs and smeary, compressed brass. This is a sound we cannot abide. The lively copies with real bite to the brass and plenty of ENERGY in the music are the only ones for us. Finding them is not easy but we came across a few that made the grade and are proud to offer them here.

More often than not the brass lacks bite and presence, but these sides had the Chicago horns leaping out of the speakers. What is a Chicago record without great horns? Without that big bold sound you may have something, but it sure ain’t Chicago.

What do the better Hot Stamper pressings give you?

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t back there somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

One More Sonic Note

We always notice during our Chicago shootouts that the songs on their albums tend to be hit and miss sonically (especially when it comes to the more multi-layered and dynamic tracks).

But on the hotter copies the production missteps don’t seem to be nearly as problematical.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

A Hit By Varèse 
All Is Well 
Now That You’ve Gone 
Dialogue (Part One) 
Dialogue (Part Two)

Side Two

While The City Sleeps 
Saturday In The Park 
State Of The Union 
Goodbye 
Alma Mater

AMG Review

With four gold multi-disc LPs and twice as many hit singles to its credit, Chicago issued its fifth effort, the first to clock in at under an hour. What they lack in quantity, they more than make up for in the wide range of quality of material.

The disc erupts with the progressive free-form “A Hit by Varese” — which seems to have been inspired as much by Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Tarkus (1971) or Yes circa Close to the Edge (1972) as by the Parisian composer for whom it is named.

Fully 80 percent of the material on Chicago V (1972) is also a spotlight for the prolific songwriting of Robert Lamm (keyboards/vocals). In addition to penning the opening rocker, he is also responsible for the easy and airy “All Is Well,” which is particularly notable for its lush Beach Boys-esque harmonies. However, Lamm’s most memorable contributions are undoubtedly the Top Ten sunshine power pop anthem “Saturday in the Park” and the equally upbeat and buoyant “Dialogue, Pt. 1” and “Dialogue, Pt. 2.”

Those more accessible tracks are contrasted by James Pankow’s (trombone/percussion) aggressive jazz fusion “Now That You’ve Gone.” Although somewhat dark and brooding, it recalls the bittersweet “So Much to Say, So Much to Give” and “Anxiety’s Moment” movements of “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon” found on Chicago II.

30th Street Studios

CBS 30th Street Studio, also known as Columbia 30th Street Studio, and nicknamed “The Church”, was an American recording studio operated by Columbia Records from 1949 to 1981 located at 207 East 30th Street, between Second and Third Avenues in Manhattan, New York City.

It was considered by some in the music industry to be the best sounding room in its time and others consider it to have been the greatest recording studio in history. A large number of recordings were made there in all genres, including Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue (1959), Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story (Original Broadway Cast recording, 1957), Percy Faith’s Theme from A Summer Place (1960), and Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1979).

Recording studio

Having been a church for many years, it had been abandoned and empty for sometime, and in 1949 it was transformed into a recording studio by Columbia Records.

“There was one big room, and no other place in which to record”, wrote John Marks in an article in Stereophile magazine in 2002.

The recording studio had 100 foot high ceilings, a 100 foot floorspace for the recording area, and the control room was on the second floor being only 8 by 14 feet. Later, the control room was moved down to the ground floor.

“It was huge and the room sound was incredible,” recalls Jim Reeves, a sound technician who had worked in it. “I was inspired,” he continues “by the fact that, aside from the artistry, how clean the audio system was.”

Musical artists

Many celebrated musical artists from all genres of music used the 30th Street Studio for some of their most famous recordings.

Bach: The Goldberg Variations, the 1955 debut album of the Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gould, was recorded in the 30th Street Studio. It was an interpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations (BWV 988), the work launched Gould’s career as a renowned international pianist, and became one of the most well-known piano recordings. On May 29, 1981, a second version of the Goldberg Variations by Glenn Gould was recorded in this studio, and would be the last production by the famous studio.

Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis recorded almost exclusively at the 30th Street Studio during his years under contract to Columbia, including his album Kind of Blue (1959). Other noteworthy jazz musicians having recorded in this place: Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck.

In 1964, Bob Dylan and record producer Tom Wilson were experimenting with their own fusion of rock and folk music. The first unsuccessful test involved overdubbing a “Fats Domino early rock & roll thing” over Dylan’s earlier, recording of “House of the Rising Sun”, using non-electric instruments, according to Wilson. This took place in the Columbia 30th Street Studio in December 1964. It was quickly discarded, though Wilson would more famously use the same technique of overdubbing an electric backing track to an existing acoustic recording with Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence”.

And in 1972 Chicago V was recorded there.