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:
- Show#1 April 5 1971
- Show#2 April 6 1971
- Show#3 April 7 1971
- Show#4 April 8 1971
- Show#5 April 9 1971 8PM?
- Show#6 April 9 1971 Midnight?
- Show#7 April 10 1971 Afternoon?
- Show#8 April 10 1971 Evening?
- Terry Kath: Lead Guitar, Vocals
- James Pankow: Trombone, Percussion
- Walt Parazaider: Woodwinds (flute, sax), Percussion
- Robert Lamm: Keyboard, Vocals
- Lee Loughnane: Trumpet, Percussion, some Guitar
- Danny Seraphin: Drums
- Pete Cetera: Bass, Vocals
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:
- 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.
- 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:
- I combine all the movements or parts of each song into one track. For example, "It Better End Soon" has 5 movements and is broken into 5 tracks on the original album and also the new Rhino remaster, but I combine them into a single track named "It Better End Soon" so the 5 movements can't have a gap or a even an audible pop between them on any current or future phone or device I use for playback. Same for the 7 parts of "Ballet For a Girl in Buchannon", etc.
- The italic entries in the results below are those that were used on the original Chicago IV album and therefore included in my "Remastered" album.
- The bolded entries in the results below are those I selected as best performances for my "Ultimate" album.
- The Rhino-remastered tracks are named below using this as an example: Show5#04-05 means the 5th show (April 9th, early show), tracks 4 and 5 in that show.
The Tracks and My Results / Notes:
- 01 Introduction of the band
- I went with the Show1#01 Introduction by Scott Muni for my "Remastered" album since it was used on the original album
- and the much shorter Show5#01 Tuning And Introduction for my "Ultimate" album since I picked the Show5 performance of "In The Country" as my favorite performance and the crowd noise led seamlessly from the Show 5 introduction into the Show 5 "In The Country".
- 02 In The Country (Kath and Cetera vocals)
- All four performances feature superb brass, drums, and great vocals, with the vocals varying most of all those things from performance to performance. But the most significant variations are in the intensity of the overall performance, sometimes the tempo, and first-and-foremost in Terry Kath's guitar playing. Listening to the variety of Kath's playing in these four performances is a superb example of a great musician who feels the music in the moment and expresses his talents differently from day to day. The brass and winds of the 1971 Chicago were always flawless, right on cue, and perfectly together as if their minds were one. But if you can clip out their contributions from any of these performances and paste them onto the others, those others would also sound just right, there's very little variation. The same goes for Danny Seraphin's drumming. But the vocals, and Kath's guitar bring unique character to each performance that makes it difficult to pick favorites. That said....
- Show1#24 is a great performance, but has a weak epiphany moment (that's what I call the moment when the two lead vocals take center-stage of the music from the band about 4-1/2 minutes into the song, on the super-extended words "I-----------Say---I-------------", right before "Love you"), and also has weak guitar glissando growls from Terry Kath during the last minute (the glissando growls are what I call it when Terry Kath, instead of just playing the normal melody, adds an inventive raw guitar growl going either upward or downward to his notes).
- Show2#05 is a superb performance, the one on the original album. It features great vocals, brass, drums and guitar, perhaps less energy than Show5, but a great epiphany moment and the very best glissando growls of any performance. Because of this, and because my other favorite performance, from Show5#02 was on the original album, I've chosen this performance for my Ultimate album.
- Show5#02 is another superb performance with great vocals, brass, drums and guitar, and with the highest level of energy of any of the four performances. It's the one they chose for the original album, and it was a really great choice. It has a great epiphany moment, but the glissando growls of Kath's guitars in the last minute are much weaker than in Show2. Still, this is my favorite overall performance by far, showing so much inventiveness in all parts of the music before the final minute that I can excuse the great conventional guitar at the end instead of the glissando-growls which would have made this easily the ultimate performance of In The Country.
- Show7#02 begins with the fastest tempo of any of the four performances, which sort of weakens the heft and gravity of the song for me. There are lots of great vocals in this performance, and as in all four of them, the guitar, drums and brass are all superb. It has higher energy than Show1, but not quite at Show5 level. The epiphany moment is great, and guitar glissando growls in final minute are better than Show5 but not as superb as Show2.
- 03 Fancy Colours (Cetera vocals)
- Here again the brass and drums are perfect in all takes. The differences are mainly in the flute playing and the energy level.
- Show1#23 good, nothing special
- Show2#16 flute is very good, organ near the end is unique, high energy
- Show3#05 flute is very good, high energy
- Show4#05 the opening vocal is so smooth, flute is very good, high energy, guitar and drums near the end are great. Second best, after Show 6.
- Show5#03 a conventional version, maybe just because I've listened to it for 50 years now, but it sounds bland compared to several others
- Show6#03 the opening vocal is so velvet-smooth, flute is very good, high energy, drums seem better than usual, guitar and drums near the end are great.
- Show7#03 conventional
- Show8#03 the opening vocal is so smooth, flute is great but unfortunately recorded to quietly, organ near end is great, too bad the flute is too weak or this might be a best.
- 04 Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is (Lamm vocals)
- Show1#08-09 conventional
- Show2#21-22 inventive
- Show3#22-23 conventional
- Show4#07-08 good
- Show5#04-05 good
- Show6#06-07 good
- Show7#04-05 conventional
- Show8#04-05 good
- 05 South California Purples (Lamm vocals)
- Show1#04 This is just superb, very inventive
- Show3#06 I like this one a lot, but not as much as Show1
- Show5#06 This one is great, but noodling for the last few minutes
- Show7#06 This is the best version, very inventive, really cooks, especially the first half.
- 06 Questions 67 and 68 (Cetera and Lamm vocals)
- Show6#04-05 The only performance of this song
- 07 Sing A Mean Tune Kid (Cetera vocals)
- Show1#27 Bland
- Show2#07 Pretty good
- Show4#04 Very good, second best
- Show6#14 Very good
- Show8#12 Very best, unique, high energy, lots of fun
- 08 Beginnings (Lamm vocals)
- Show1#05 Good
- Show2#03 Very Good
- Show3#18 Wow, Raw, Exciting
- Show4#03 Very Good
- Show6#15 Very Good
- Show8#13 Superb, but very polished rather than inventive and exciting
- 09 It Better End Soon (Kath vocals)
- Show1#18-22 really great from 12:00 to the end
- Show2#23-27 is pretty good throughout, just not super-high energy. lots of improvisation. great guitar. great from 6:00 to end.
- Show3#24-28 superb start to end
- Show4#17-21 Great version, is probably my 3rd favorite version after Show 6 and 8. Interesting that Parazaider's sax solo right before his flute solo was cut from the original album. Time constraints? Too radical an amendment from what people were used to on the studio album?
- Show6#08-12 The spectacular definitive version of "It Better End Soon", featuring Terry Kath on Fire!
- 0:00-1:15 It is apparent during the opening seconds that Terry Kath is on fire with pent-up creativity and energy during the first minute. From 1:00 to 1:15 he reverts to his standard melodies that he usually used at this point in the music.
- 1:15-2:30 Opening Vocals, well done with the standard accompaniment and an as-usual wailing Kath solo in the central interlude.
- 2:30-4:50 The flute solo. Sorry but this is the weakest part of this performance. I realize Parazaider's job in this second movement is to bring down the energy for contrast to the opening section, and begin the crescendo that movements 2, 3, 4 and 5 all build up, but I think during the flute solo itself he kept it too low.
- 4:50-6:30 Parazaider switches from flute to sax and the music begins to cook. It's difficult for me to judge whether I prefer this flute-then-sax variation of the music rather than the traditional flute-only version, I do so miss the superb flute work on, for example, the original album version from Show#4, or starting around 4:50 in the Show#2 version, or around 4:25 in the Show#3 version (my favorite flute solo of the bunch). But the sax is very cool and features a new set of melodies to learn to love over the next decade.
- 6:30-9:10 Kath returns with a really inventive guitar solo for the 3rd movement. I don't know if he invented this stuff on the fly, or practiced several versions and picked out one to play during each concert. At about 8:30 he switches to the standard solo he always (I think) used to transition into his vocal movement 4 (Preach).
- 9:10-12:20 Kath's vocal 4th movement (Preach). The accompanying organ, guitar, drums and bass are all well done.
- 12:20-14:28 The finale 5th movement is really great, beginning with yet another superb Kath improvisation. I love how at 12:55 Danny Seraphine goes into the drum runs he normally uses to transition into the syncopated brass line, but Kath seems to fool him and keeps building, retaining the super-high-energy that he's built, and refusing to let the moment come down for the extra seconds. Seraphine responds by playing the runs he'd normally only play once, repeatedly and constantly from 13:05 until 13:20 when Kath finally gives up control. From there to the end the music proceeds as it normally does, except for unique change of tune simultaneously sung and played on guitar from 14:02 to 14:12. What an advantage having the lead guitar also being lead singer on this song.
- Show8#06-10 This is also a great version, with the flute-then-sax variation. High energy, good improvisation. Possibly the best performance after show#6.
- 10 Introduction (Kath vocals)
- Show2#02 good
- Show3#16 better
- Show6#02 best
- Show8#02 very good
- 10b Listen (Lamm vocals)
- Show3#02 The only performance of this song, which was not included on the original album
- 11 Mother (Lamm vocals)
- Show1#07 good
- Show3#03 a great alternative to Show5#07 even though that Show5 performance is really the best, this one has great well-deserved audience reaction to the interlude, superb playing by Pankow and Parazaider
- Show5#07 superb performance, the best, superb playing by Pankow and Parazaider
- Show7#07 very good
- 12 Lowdown (Cetera vocals)
- Show1#06 Good opening vocals, High-energy interlude, good closing vocals, much unique from the familiar Show5 performance.
- Show2#04 Slightly better than the Show5 performance. Good opening vocals; Good interlude with great guitar solo and nicely syncopated drums; closing vocals like show5.
- Show3#04 Better than Show1, 2, and 5. Good opening vocals with great backing organ and drums; Interlude features superb guitar solo, great backup playing, some vocals; closing vocals slightly unique
- Show4#06 Just OK. Slightly-muffled sound; average opening vocal section; interlude has conventional guitar solo; drum intro to closing vocals is a highlight; closing vocals average.
- Show5#08 Conventional opening vocal, interlude, guitar solo, closing vocal.
- Show7#11 Second best after Show3, with unfortunately thin sound. Opening has good organ, good vocals; Interlude has inventive guitar solo riffing against inventive organ; closing has good organ transition, good vocals.
- 12b An Hour in the Shower (Kath vocals)
- Show4#26 The only performance of this song, which was not included on the original album
- 13 Travel Suite (Lamm vocals on Flight 602, Kath vocals on Free)
- Show1#28-30 Flight 602: Conventional; Motorboat: Conventional; Free: Conventional, cooks nicely
- Show2#30-32 Flight 602: Conventional; Motorboat: Conventional; Free: Superb, cooks intensely, great Parazaider performance and Kath/Cetera backup. Better than Show1 or Show5.
- Show3#29-31 Superb start to end. Flight 602: Opening organ flourish, good vocals; Motorboat: Great; Free: High energy right from the start, another great Paradaiser solo, stronger than Show2, and a great one-of-a-kind ending. Second best behind Show4.
- Show4#27-29 Flight 602: Conventional; Motorboat: Perhaps the best performance; Free: Super-high energy, perhaps Parazaider's best performance, great audience reaction.
- Show5#09-11 Flight 602: Conventional; Motorboat: Conventional; Free: Conventional, but really cooks
- Show7#08-10 Flight 602: Conventional; Motorboat: Conventional; Free: Another great high-energy performance, with some unique beginnings and a superb Parazaider solo and a unique ending. Third best after Show4 and Show3.
- Show8#24 Free Only, no Flight 602 or Motorboat: High energy but just a bit sloppy, Paradaiser solo is good but not a best. This was the finale for Show8 instead of the usual "25 Or 6 To 4".
- 14 Where Do We Go From Here (Cetera vocals)
- Show1#25 Clone of Show8. Not best.
- Show2#06 Clone of Show8. Not best.
- Show3#21 Clone of Show8. Not best.
- Show4#23 This one hits me as slightly better than the rest.
- Show5#12 Clone of Show8. Not best.
- Show6#16 Clone of Show8. Not best.
- Show8#15 Boring Cetera.
- 15 I Don't Want Your Money (Lamm vocals)
- Show3#20 This is a really good performance, as good as Show4. There are great guitar solos and accompaniments not in Show3.
- Show4#25 This is a really good performance, as good as Show3.
- 16 Happy 'Cause I'm Going Home (Travel Suite 6th movement)
- Show3#17 This is a good performance, as good as show4. Sounds different because of different-style guitar accompaniment. I like it.
- Show4#22 This is a good performance, as good as Show3.
- 17 Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon (Kath vocals, Lamm on So Much to Say)
- Show1#10-16 Just OK.
- Show2#08-14 Just OK.
- Show3#08-14 Just OK.
- Show4#09-15 Very Good, Several differences from Show5.
- Show5#13-19 Just OK.
- Show6#17-23 Just OK.
- Show7#12-18 Pretty good but not as good as Show4.
- Show8#17-23 Just OK.
- 18 A Song For Richard And His Friends (Lamm and Cetera vocals)
- Show1#26 OK
- Show2#29 OK
- Show3#19 best
- Show4#24 OK
- Show5#20 2nd best
- Show8#14 OK
- 19 25 Or 6 To 4 (Cetera vocals)
- Show1#31 Good; lots of energy; Kath's solo has some nice moments but then rambles.
- Show2#33 Great; lots of energy; Better Kath solo than show1, ending with a House of the Rising Sun quotation.
- Show3#32 Muscular opening; Kath's solo is a bit rambling, then again quotes House of the Rising Sun.
- Show4#30 Kath's solo is a bit rambling, then again quotes House of the Rising Sun.
- Show5#21 This is really a superb version, tied with show#2 as the best performance. It was a great choice to put on the original album.
- Show7#19 This is also a great version, Kath's solo is inventive, probably my 3rd favorite performance, after Show2 and Show5.
- 19b Someday (Lamm and Cetera vocals)
- Show1#02 The only performance of this song, which was not included on the original album
- 19c Loneliness Is Just A Word (Kath vocals)
- Show1#03 OK
- Show2#28 Really good, a second best
- Show3#07 OK
- Show4#02 Superb, excellent, an obvious best, which was not included on the original album
- Show6#13 OK
- Show8#11 OK
- 19d Elegy (Lamm spoken vocals)
- Show2#17-20 The only performance of this song, which was not included on the original album
- 20 I'm A Man (Lamm, Cetera and Kath vocals)
- Show6#24 The only performance of this song, it was the finale for Show6, insted of "25 Or 6 To 4".
And finally some nerd statistics:
|Show||Number of songs on the 165-minute Original album||Number 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 Jeff.Bondono@gmail.com