In September 1969, Chicago Transit Authority, on tour in support of its self-titled debut album, played the Toronto Rock & Roll Festival. Although the band was signed exclusively to Columbia Records through its management contract, somehow the promoters obtained rights to recordings from the festival. Nine years later, they began leasing out their tape of Chicago's performance to fly-by-night record labels. Chicago sued and lost. Ever since, the same low-quality recordings have been pressed repeatedly on different albums. This is at least the 21st such release, and it is just as bad as its predecessors. In addition to the low fidelity, Prism Leisure, like many others before it, adds insult to injury by getting one of the song titles wrong. "Introduction" is mistakenly listed as "Beginnings," an entirely different Chicago song. (Doesn't anyone even bother to listen to this thing when they license it?) All in all, the release continues to justify the words used by this reviewer about an earlier packaging of the same recordings: "It sucks. Don't buy it." If, by chance, you do, however, you may be amazed to hear how much of a blues-rock ensemble Chicago was at the start of its career. Anyone who knows Chicago from "If You Leave Me Now" and other power ballads will be amazed by the 16 minutes of "Liberation." Murky as the sound may be, this is as exploratory as any lengthy number by a psychedelic band like the Grateful Dead. And the late Terry Kath is all over the record with his acid rock guitar playing. So, maybe the Toronto show is worth hearing once, but it certainly isn't worth reissuing to unsuspecting consumers 21 times.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann