Q: What do Chicago and Santana have in common?
A; Not only did their recording careers coincide with one another, from the late 1960s and continuing to this day, Chicago and Santana share the common characteristic of making their most memorable contributions to music at the beginning of their careers. Santana’s first four albums are their best. Similarly, Chicago’s greatest contributions are in their first five albums. Here they are in 1970 with “I’m A Man”:
Along with Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago was one of the very first rock era bands to feature a “fully integrated horn section”:
I think it’s reasonable to ask whether Chicago was an artistically influential band. Their music is quite complex at times, though I would argue the horn section did not feature a notable soloist. I’m surprised they aren’t often compared to bands like Yes and Genesis. From the start their music is more popular sounding, more American. If they hadn’t steered their career to a soft, popular sound, they may have found a different set of peers.
Chicago issued 25-30 individual albums of music, but the first five are the most important. In fact, the first two albums are responsible for over half of the songs include here. After their first few albums, they continued to score popular, radio-friendly hits every year or two. None of those songs are included here, with the exception of “Wishing You Were Here”, with haunting, tasteful background vocals by the Beach Boys.
Here’s a nice studio video of a take of “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day”:
But it’s the early stuff that’s truly exciting. “Beginnings” used to be my favorite; now it’s “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is”. “25 Or 6 To 4” is also terrific, and features a fine guitar solo by their original guitarist Terry Kath, who died in 1978 from an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound. In this video, Terry Kath plays an inspiring solo. The video has very poor sound for the first minute and a half, but it’s worth the wait:
Chicago, a musically ambitious band, whose roots are somewhat forgotten. Here’s the song list:
25 Or 6 To 4, Chicago ✭✭✭✭
Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?, Chicago ✭✭✭✭
Beginnings, Chicago ✭✭✭✭
Make Me Smile, Chicago ✭✭✭
Saturday In The Park, Chicago ✭✭✭
Feelin’ Stronger Every Day, Chicago ✭✭✭
Introduction, Chicago ✭✭✭
I’m A Man, Chicago ✭✭✭
Questions 67 And 68, Chicago ✭✭
Fancy Colours, Chicago ✭✭
Color My World, Chicago ✭✭
Old Days, Chicago ✭✭
Just You ‘N’ Me, Chicago ✭
Now That You’ve Gone, Chicago ✭
Dialogue Pts. 1 & 2 (Single), Chicago ✭
I’m A Man, Spencer Davis Group ✭✭✭