Top Artists – Chicago

Chicago – Chicago Transit Authority

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  • An amazing pressing of the band’s debut album with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on all four sides!
  • These sides boast some of the best sounding, boldest arrangements for a horn-based rock band we’ve ever heard
  • Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?, I’m A Man and Questions 67 and 68 are simply incredible here
  • 4 stars: “In April of 1969, the four sides of Chicago Transit Authority unleashed a formidable and ultimately American musical experience… an unheralded synthesis of electric guitar wailin’ rock & roll to more deeply rooted jazz influences and arrangements.”

It’s difficult to find copies that do this big production music justice, but we got hold of a hot one here. If you’re a fan (and we think you should be, of the early band at least) you won’t believe how good this album can sound on the right pressing. All four sides here are rich and full, punchy and solid, with great energy and dynamics. This is a Truly Killer Copy from start to finish!

Huge Sound Can Be Yours!

We love this album here at Better Records. It’s amazing that this hard-rockin’ band from 1968 could be the same band that gave us “You’re The Inspiration” and other power-schlock ballads in the ’80s. Have they no shame?

Fortunately, this isn’t your Mom’s Chicago. Here, with their freshman effort, the band stands on the threshold of becoming True Rock Legends. Even today the album still sounds fresh. Who can argue with the brilliance of tracks such as Beginnings, I’m a Man and Questions 67 and 68? This is as good as the band ever got, man! It’s all here.

All four sides boast some of the boldest arrangements for a horn-based rock band ever. These boys have no problem standing toe to toe with the likes of Blood Sweat And Tears. If you don’t find yourself turning the stereo up during ‘Beginnings’, this music is not for you. The energy they bring to their cover of Spencer Davis’ ‘I’m A Man’ positively puts the original to shame. They jam its rock and roll groove, then take it places nobody else would even think to go. (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 – Chicago VIII

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side two and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side one, this copy had some of the best sound we have ever heard for Chicago’s 8th album
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • Not a favorite with the critics, but that did not keep the fans from buying plenty of copies, sending the album straight to Number One
  • Harry Truman was the first hit single, followed by Old Days (which went all the way to #5)

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Chicago – Chicago VI – Our Shootout Winner from 2016

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

The background vocals on these sides are super-breathy and clear, a far cry from the typically smeary, dark voices we heard on most of the pressings we played, all originals in this case.

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.

The sound of the brass on any Chicago album is key — it 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…)

Chicago – Chicago VII – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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More Chicago VII

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

This is the BEST Chicago VII we’ve ever played! Three of the sides rated better than A Double Plus (A++), which is LIGHT YEARS AHEAD of the typical pressing of this album. Finding great sounding Chicago records is not easy, which is why you rarely see them on the site. (Most copies of the second album are so bad sounding they defy understanding. I’ve heard Edison cylinders with more fidelity.) But some of their records are very well recorded, this being one of them, and even though the shootouts for double albums are twice as hard (duh), for Chicago we do them, and for only one reason: WE LOVE THIS MUSIC.

(Well, parts of it anyway. Chicago and consistency have one thing in common: they both start with the letter C.)

How can you write a better song than (I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long? That track, with its huge buildup of strings and wall to wall big band brass just KILLS. It’ll send shivers up your spine at the live music levels we were trying to play it at. It actually has some real dynamics built into the mix, which is not something pop songs are supposed to have.

Wishing You Were Here (with Beach Boys vocals no less) is another one we love, along with Happy Man. These are some great Chicago songs, and the production is first rate all the way.

If you have a Hot Stamper. Most copies suffer from dull highs and smeary, compressed brass. We can’t abide that sound. The lively copies with real bite to the brass and plenty of ENERGY to the music are the only ones for us. Finding them is not easy but we came across a few that made the grade and proudly offer them here.

Let’s Get Down to Brass Tacks (more…)

Chicago – Chicago II – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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More Chicago II

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

Chicago-Loving Audiophiles of the World, gather round, this is the week we took on one of the toughest challenges in all of Analog Rockdom — Chicago II.

Ever played one? Then you know that the average copy of this album is an unmitigated DISASTER. The smeary sub-gen brass alone is enough to drive you from the room.

To a list of the album’s faults you can confidently add some or all of the following: blurry out of control bass; opaque veiled mids; rolled off highs, or no highs, whichever the case may be, common to virtually every pressing you find: plain old distortion; and, last but not least, the kind of compressed, lifeless sound that manages to make even the best songs on the album tedious.

And that’s not easy to do — this one album spawned not one, not two, but three still-catchy tunes that get played plenty these days.

360 Original or Red Label Reissue

Both can be good. I did the shootout (TP) 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 all 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. In the case of this album probably around 2013 or 2014.) (more…)

Chicago – Chicago Transit Authority – Our Shootout Winner for 2008

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More Chicago Transit Authority

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This is the BEST SOUNDING CHICAGO RECORD we have EVER heard, and that includes not just this first album, but ANY Chicago album. This is the kind of album that most audiophiles would be sorely tempted to give up on. Who can blame them?

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: blobby, blurry, out of control bass; opaque veiled mids; rolled off highs, or no highs, whichever the case may be, and common to virtually every pressing you find; plain old distortion; and, last but not least, the kind of compressed, lifeless sound that manages to make this groundbreaking album boring — and that’s not easy to do. This music ROCKS! It’s the crappy records Columbia pressed that suck. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Chicago II

Chicago II

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,   

Received my Chicago 2 Hot Stamper last night. Played side 4 A+++ first. Didn’t expect it to sound so amazing. Reminded me of my Miles Davis Kind of Blue where you say zero distortion, zero compression. No shrillness, no muffled vocals just clear music. All instruments come through with clarity. Relatively quiet too. And this goes for most of the 4 sides of the album. I played the hell out of my CTA and Chicago 2 back in the day when they came out. Never sounded anything like this. Thanks for a super record.

Steve E. 

Letter of the Week – My Aim Is True, Led Zeppelin II, The Original Soundtrack, Deja Vu and Chicago Transit Authority

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

Story for you — last Saturday evening, a designer of a new world-famous tonearm, the owner of an elite high-end audio salon in California and I met for dinner with a well-known reviewer for one of the big audiophile rags, then went back to one of their houses to listen to records I had been asked to bring. About 90% of the two dozen records I had selected were White Hot Stamper versions of classic rock staples.

For the next three hours, I spun disc after disc, to their delight. Particular faves included Elvis Costello’s “My Aim Is True,” LedZeppelin II, 10CC’s “The Original Soundtrack,” CSNY’s “Deja Vu,” and Chicago’s first LP.

Bill (more…)

Letter of the Week – London Calling, Led Zeppelin and Chicago

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

Thanks so much for London Calling. Despite having a fair few brilliant records with magic ability to release prodigious amounts of energy (Led Zeppelin, Chicago, BST etc.) I was blown away by the energy captured on this double set and I never thought it would sound soooo good sonically.

I was living in London from 1978 and remember well what a noise this album made. I had it on double cassette and played it constantly, never bought the vinyl at the time but did buy the CD later. I never got the same buzz from the CD and to be honest they didn’t really sound all that good which I put down to the recording. One of my mates at the time was Nick Simonon, the bass player’s younger brother, so I knew they could play really well when they wanted to.

You get to thinking that you’re just getting old and things like London Calling were heard through the heightened emotions of youth and, well, sex and drugs and rock and roll as Mr Dury said. The absolutely brilliant, and I imagine rare, White Hot Stamper has put paid to that, witness a 58 year old singing badly at the top of his lungs as he pogos around the living room! (more…)