Chicago at Carnegie Hall, Complete

by Jeff Bondono, July 20, 2022

On April 5-10, 1971, the rock band Chicago became the first-ever non-classical group to perform six nights at Carnegie Hall). The six scheduled concerts were so popular that second shows were added on April 9th and 10th to accomodate demand. All 8 concerts were recorded in their entirety, and were distilled down to a 4-record album released later that year and called Chicago IV Live at Carnegie Hall.

The Eight Concerts:

The Personnel:

I've loved Chicago IV ever since it was first released. I also love the 3 Chicago albums that preceded it, Chicago Transit Authority (my favorite), Chicago II (the first Rock album I ever owned, after my sister bought it as a gift to her 14-year-old brother) and Chicago III. I like almost nothing that Chicago released after Chicago IV since greasy-vocal love songs began dominating their music. I like the jazz band sound, the world-class rock guitar, the excellent drummer, and the raspy vocals of non-Cetera-dominated Chicago, and Chicago IV was their peak.

But on the original vinyl album, and even on the 2005 remastered CD release, the sound quality of Chicago IV was always terrible. The brass often sounded like kazoos, the music was muddled, cymbals were barely audible. But the performances were exciting embellishments to the studio takes that preceded them.

In September 2021 Rhino Entertainment released a 50-year-anniversary box set of the complete 8 concerts that were all recorded, April 5 - 10, 1971 called Chicago at Carnegie Hall, Complete (Rhino R2 643433 / 081227906276, for you scavenger hunters in 2041). Where the original vinyl album had about 168 minutes of music, with one selected performance of most of the songs performed that week, the new album is a 16-CD set of the complete 14 hours of those 8 concerts, with each concert on 2 CDs. Here's the list of tracks. For the most part, the between-track band chatter to the audience, retuning, and crowd reactions were left in the CDs, so it's often like you're sitting in the audience with your eyes closed, enjoying a concert from start to finish. The recordings were all completely remastered from the original source tapes using modern techniques, and they sound really good. They're not quite up to the standards of a concert recorded nowadays, but they're huge improvement over the originals. There is, of course, a booklet, posters, and other goodies to entice you to buy. But it's really all about the music, right? Chicago IV in great sound, finally!

But it's a grueling album to take in, as you might imagine. 14 hours, with 8 concerts where about 60% of the same songs are performed in each concert. This is not the Chicago IV album I listened to in a few hours every few months while working as a computer programmer over my 40-year career, this was a whole different animal. So I set myself a goal of creating two more-manageable albums from the set:

  1. Re-create the original album as "Chicago IV, Remastered" using this great remastered sound, by figuring out which tracks on the original album came from which performances on the remastered set (there's always some sound somewhere that's only in one performance; the trick is to find it), then trimming as needed, combining multiple tracks, editing transitions for realism, and creating the final master to re-create the original entire album in superb sound.
  2. Create a "Chicago IV, Alternate" album by finding the best performance of each song which was not selected for the original album, and adding in the few songs that were omitted from the original album altogether. As it turns out, though, in all but a couple songs I found a performance that was clearly superior to the one selected for the original album, so my album is instead called "Chicago IV, Ultimate". The only original album songs I couldn't find a better version of were "Questions 67 and 68" and "I'm A Man", which only had one performance each, and "Mother" and "25 Or 6 To 4", where I think they probably chose the best performance for the original album, but I have selected worthy alternatives. For all the other songs, I believe I've found a truly superior, not just different, performance.

I decided to make my two albums using the same song order as the original album, with additional tracks sprinkled in to the Ultimate album wherever they best fit.

I chose the performances for the "Remastered" and "Ultimate" albums by creating a playlist in my portable music player with each performance of the first song on the original album ("In The Country"), followed by each performance of the second song ("Fancy Colours"), etc, including all the songs from all 8 remastered concerts. Each song was preceded in the playlist with the track from the original Chicago IV album, so I could use the playlist to identify the specific performance used in that album. Then I listened to that playlist very slowly and repetitively over a 3-month period while driving, grocery shopping, walking through the woods, or just sitting around at home. I compared the different performances of the first song in the playlist, taking notes about high points, things done poorly, boring parts, exciting parts, finding the unique moment that proved this was the performance used on the original album, etc. For the shorter songs I could usually just listen through and rate each performance as "just OK" or "somehow superior" or "really inventive", etc, without extensive notes. After going through all performances of a particular song as many times as required to get a good feel for the potential-best and definitely-not-best performances, I'd delete the not-best performances from the playlist and listen to the 2 or 3 potential-best performances a couple more times to pick the one very best. After settling on a best performance, I'd delete that song from the playlist completely and begin the process over again with the various performances of the next song in my super-playlist for the next day or two or seven, however long that song required. After 3 months of this I had my final list of 20 "Remastered" album performances and 25 "Ultimate" album performances.

Then I went on to actually master my 2 new albums. A complication in the creation of these two new albums was the irritating tracking on the new album. The band's introduction of each song is at the end of the prior track rather than the beginning of this song's track, and sometimes the crowd reaction and band comments after a track are at the beginning of the next track. To assemble an album with one song from, say, Show 2, the next song from, say, Show 6, etc, involved combining the 2 or 3 source tracks from Show 2 together and clipping the ends to obtain a single final track with that song's introduction, performance, and reaction. And then there's the problem of matching the end of that track to the beginning of the next track, probably from a different show, in a convincing way, to make my final albums sound like a seamless concert experience whenever possible.

So my results are below, with just a little more explanation required before we get there:

The Tracks and My Results / Notes:

And finally some nerd statistics:

ShowNumber of songs on the 165-minute Original albumNumber of songs on my 188-minute Ultimate album
It looks like they didn't even consider show 3 (my obvious favorite) in the original album.
Show 5 is obvious proof of music industry laziness. There were 11 songs in that show, and they used songs 2,3,4,5,6,7,9 and 11 on the original album. They only omitted songs 1, 8 and 10 from that show! I rated songs 5 ("Mother", track 7) and 11 ("25 Or 6 To 4", track 21) as best performances of their respective songs, but none of the others. I suspect it was easier to just pick one concert as the core for their album, then pick songs from other concerts (mainly songs that weren't performed in Show 5) to fill out the album.

I'd love to hear your comments about any of this, send me an email at