Does anybody really know what time it is? Happily, it’s time for Mobile Fidelity to continue its series of limited edition hybrid stereo SACDs for the Chicago catalogue. MoFi has previously issued 1973’s Chicago VI on SACD and 1984’s Chicago 17 on 24k Gold CD, but now the label has turned back the clock to the very beginning. And when the very beginning is the one-two punch of 1969’s Chicago Transit Authority and 1970’s Chicago II on SACD, it’s a very good place to start, indeed.
Long before “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” or “You’re the Inspiration” cemented Chicago’s reputation as purveyors of soft rock and pop, the band then known as Chicago Transit Authority was breaking new ground with an exciting fusion of jazz, rock and soul. The seven-man ensemble, along with producer James William Guercio, offered something for everyone in their sprawling, stunning double-LP debut Chicago Transit Authority: big, hook-filled pop singles (“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and “Beginnings,” both of which went Top 10 in the U.S.), heavy blues-rock (the wailing “South California Purples”), political agit-rock (“Someday (August 29, 1968)”) and even seven minutes of searing, avant-electric guitar (the aptly-named “Free Form Guitar,” courtesy of the band’s incendiary Terry Kath). Brassy and bold, the Top 20 U.S./Top 10 U.K. CTA has recently gotten the Mobile Fidelity treatment. The label promises that this release “exponentially expands the soundstaging dimensions, imaging proportions, and dynamic information, allowing the songs to breathe and enjoy a roominess that enhances the stellar interplay and complex arrangements.”
Chicago Transit Authority was forced to change its name to Chicago for its 1970 sophomore album, but nothing else about the group was even remotely stifled. The band’s creativity and innovation surged more than ever on its second straight double album. Chicago (also known as Chicago II) earned the band and producer Guercio a string of U.S. pop hits including “Make Me Smile” (No. 9), “Colour My World” (No. 7) and “25 or 6 to 4” (No. 4), but that didn’t mean the group was simplifying its approach. “Make Me Smile” and “Colour My World” were excerpted from the album’s centerpiece, composer James Pankow’s seven-part, 13-minute song suite “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon.” Terry Kath supplied a four-part classically inspired suite “Memories of Love”, and Lamm – the songwriter of “Beginnings” and “Does Everybody Really Know What Time It Is” – supplied “25 or 6 to 4” as well as teaming with Kath and Walter Parazaider to write the politically-charged “It Better End Soon.” The band’s breakthrough, Chicago II reached No. 4 in the U.S. and No. 6 across the pond. Mobile Fidelity states that the new SACD possesses “reference-caliber separation, tonalities [and] balance.”
These limited edition, numbered hybrid stereo SACDs are housed in sturdy, oversized mini-LP-style digipaks. They have been remastered from the original master tapes and are playable on all CD players. CTA is in stock now from Music Direct and is available as a pre-order from Amazon. Chicago II is due soon from all retailers. We will update with Amazon links for Chicago II as soon as they become available, as well!
Chicago, Chicago Transit Authority (Columbia LP GP 8/CS 9809/CS 9836, 1969 – reissued Mobile Fidelity, 2015) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
- Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is
- Questions 67 and 68
- Poem 58
- Free Form Guitar
- South Carolina Purples
- I’m a Man
- Prologue (August 29, 1968)
- Someday (August 29. 1968)
Chicago, Chicago (Columbia LP KGP 24/CS 9962/CS 9977, 1970 – reissued Mobile Fidelity, 2015) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. Links TBD) (Music Direct)
- Movin’ In
- The Road
- Poem for the People
- In the Country
- Wake Up Sunshine
- Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon (Make Me Smile/So Much to Say, So Much to Give/Anxiety’s Moment/West Virginia Fantasies/Colour My World/To Be Free/Now More Than Ever)
- Fancy Colours
- 25 or 6 to 4
- Memories of Love (Prelude/A.M. Mourning/P.M. Mourning/Memories of Love)
- It Better End Soon (1st Movement/2nd Movement/3rd Movement/4th Movement)
- Where Do We Go from Here
Bruce Padgett says
Per Music Direct's website, Chicago II is not yet available.
BTW their release of Chicago 17 was a gold CD, not SACD.
Victor Dang says
It's great to finally see the first album being released, after its announcement over, what, 2 years ago? Let's hope they follow up closely with Chicago II soon. And seiously hoping they'll follow up with Chicago III, probably my most favorite album from them.
Bill Janowski says
I don't know - are these really worth it?? Again, I already have both Rhino versions in jewel cases and '2' has the two extra songs, apparently not included on the MFSL's.
Mickey Bruce says
Rhino's remaster of Chicago II is the worst CD I have ever heard. Loud to the point of distortion. I am listening to the Mobile Fidelity CD right now, it sounds very nice. The original Columbia CD (CGK 24) mastered by Joe Gastwert is not bad, if you can find one. This MFSL disc is still superior.