Top Artists – Chicago

Chicago II – 360 Original or Red Label Reissue?

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Both can be good. I did the shootout and often tried to guess the label for the copy I was hearing, for fun more than anything else. I have to admit that my batting average was not much better than chance. 

The 360s tend to be a little fuller and smearier, but plenty of red label copies sound that way and some 360s don’t, so trying to match the sound to the label was even more pointless than usual.

When comparing pressings in a shootout it’s too late for the label to have any predictive value. We’ve already bought the records, cleaned them up and now just want to know what they actually sound like — not which ones might be the best, but which ones are the best.

The time for guessing games has passed. Of course, if we do actually figure out what the right stampers are, this helps us next time around. (more…)

Chicago III – We Give Up, For Now Anyway

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Don’t hold your breath for a Hot copy of this album — we just attempted a shootout and came up empty-handed. I doubt we’ll ever find a copy that does what we want it to.

AMG Review

Chicago’s third effort, much like the preceding two, was initially issued as a double LP, and is packed with a combination of extended jams as well as progressive and equally challenging pop songs. Their innovative sound was the result of augmenting the powerful rock & roll quartet with a three-piece brass section — the members of whom are all consummate soloists. Once again, the group couples that with material worthy of its formidable skills.

TRACK LISTING

Sing a Mean Tune Kid
Loneliness Is Just a Word
What Else Can I Say
I Don’t Want Your Money
Travel Suite: Flight 602
Travel Suite: Motorboat to Mars
Travel Suite: Free
Travel Suite: Free Country
Travel Suite: At the Sunrise
Travel Suite: Happy ‘Cause I’m Going Home
Mother
Lowdown
An Hour in the Shower: A Hard Risin’ Morning Without Breakfast
An Hour in the Shower: Off to Work
An Hour in the Shower: Fallin’ Out
An Hour in the Shower: Dreamin’ Home
An Hour in the Shower: Mroning Blues Again
Elegy: When All the Laughter Dies in Sorrow
Elegy: Canon
Elegy: Once Upon a Time
Elegy: Progress?
Elegy: The Approaching Storm
Man vs. Man: The End

Amazing Demo Discs for Bass – Peter Cetera and Chicago

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First in a series of Demo Discs for Bass.

Talk about beefy bass; this album is the poster boy for rock solid bottom end. When you have a copy of Chicago’s first album with a hot side three you have a Bass Demo Disc LP that’s going to rock your world, not to mention the foundation of your house. (How they managed to get the bass so right and screw up so many other things I will never know.)

Not many musicians qualify to be placed on the list of Most Underrated, but if there were any justice in this world Peter Cetera’s name would be found right up at the top. Meaning that he can’t even get credit for being the most underrated!  (more…)

Chicago and The Hottest Stampers – Are You a Thrillseeker Too?

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When it comes to sound, I’m a Thrillseeker. I want to hear it LOUDER and BETTER, with more ENERGY and EXCITEMENT, and the reason I spent so many hundreds, even thousands, of hours working on my stereo is that that kind of sound doesn’t happen by accident. You have to work your ass off to get it. And spend a lot of money. And dig through a lot of dusty record bins buying LPs until you find one that sounds the way you want it to.

I don’t play records to drink wine and smoke cigars. I play records to ROCK. Whether the music is rock, jazz or classical, I want to feel the power of the music just as you would feel it at the live event. To me that means big speakers and loud levels. We played Chicago VII as loud as we could… (more…)

Chicago V – What to Listen For

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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. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Chicago Transit Authority

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Listening in Depth

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The average copy of this album is an unmitigated DISASTER. The smeary brass alone is enough to drive anyone from the room. To a list of its faults you can confidently add some or all of the following: 1) blobby, blurry, out of control bass; 2) opaque veiled mids; 3) rolled off highs, or no highs, whichever the case may be, common to virtually every pressing you find 4) plain old distortion; and, last but not least, 5) the kind of compressed, lifeless sound that manages to make this groundbreaking album boring — and that’s not easy to do.

The music ROCKS! It’s the crappy records Columbia pressed that suck.

360 or Red Label

In our most recent shootout we found that both can be good. We tended to prefer sides three and four on Red Labels in general — none of the 360s we played had the same kind of low end weight for I’m A Man.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Introduction
Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

A tough one right off the bat. If you have an aggressive sounding copy you’ll know it pretty quick. Grit and grain in the vocal on this track will have you running for the nearest exit. Conversely, you still need presence without smear or the brass won’t have the bite of the real thing, and a Chicago album without good brass is pretty pointless.

They really put their best foot forward with this cut — a true sing-along anthem. (more…)