At Carnegie Hall, Vols. 1-4 (Chicago IV)

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After issuing three consecutive studio double LPs, Chicago topped themselves with this four-album live box set. As the title suggests, At Carnegie Hall, Vols. 1-4 (Chicago IV) (1971) finds the band at the venerable New York City venue during a five-night stand (April 5-April 10) in the spring of 1971. The septet -- which includes the respective talents of Terry Kath (lead guitar/vocals), Robert Lamm (keyboards/vocals), Peter Cetera (bass/vocals), Danny Seraphine (drums), Lee Loughnane (trumpet/vocals), James Pankow (trombone), and Walter Parazaider (woodwinds/vocals) -- were at their unquestionable peak of initial popularity. Their previous three double LPs continued extended runs on the pop album chart and likewise spawned a number of hit singles. So by the time the group hit the Big Apple for these shows, they were among the hottest things happening. Chicago's set list is wholly representative of the material from Chicago Transit Authority (1969), Chicago II (1970), and Chicago III (1971) and includes several extended multi-song medleys from each. The band winds its way through muscular versions of the epic "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon," "Travel Suite," as well as lengthy renderings of deeper cuts such as "South California Purples," "Fancy Colours," and the ten-minute-plus opening "In the Country." One of the set's most notable highlights is the politically charged "For Richard and His Friends." The lengthy and well-jammed-out cut is both groovy and propulsive. However, the acoustics at Carnegie Hall are quite frankly not (and really never have been) properly suited for heavily amplified music. While the percussion and electric guitars are clearly audible, the woodwind and brass section come off sounding extremely thin and devoid of any real timbre. This is unfortunate, as a primary component of the band is the contrasting textures between the two. Enthusiasts seeking a much more sonically accurate portrait should by whatever means necessary locate the Live in Japan 1972 two-CD set -- which also includes tracks from Chicago's fifth effort.

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