Chicago Transit Authority: I'm a Man (1969)

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Chicago Transit Authority: I'm a Man (1969)

For a brief period before they shortened their name to Chicago and became boring -- and for my money it was very brief, and they became very boring -- this big group with an ever-changing but hardly memorable line-up were a tanked-up rock band.

Their debut album in '69 was a double, they had a political edge as befitted the volatile times (they had formed in '67 in, yes, Chicago and moved to LA in '68) and Jimi Hendrix was a great admirer of Terry Kath's guitar work which was sometimes saturated in feedback.

On their Chicago Transit Authority self-titled debut there is Kath's track Free Form Guitar (here) which might have come from an early album by Sonic Youth.

CTA were signed by session musician/producer James William Guerico who had been around for Frank Zappa's double-vinyl debut Freak Out! in '66 and was also working with street poet Moondog, the alternative comedy group Firesign Theatre and was just starting to hone Blood Sweat and Tears into a formidable act.

CTA were much accclaimed by serious critics for their fusion of jazz and rock.

They were one of the era's great "jamming" bands and extended out versions of their chosen material (covers like I'm A Man, or originals).

This prog-rock treatment (more rock than prog) of the Spencer Davis Group's hit was one of the highpoints of that impressive debut album.

Then they became simply Chicago and they started springing radio-friendly hits and it became easy to lose interest in a band with an ever-changing line-up -- and which simply numbered its albums rather than named them.

Even on the CTA album the seeds of their more MOR tendencies were evident in the song Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? which somewhat lost its political edge when an edited version received saturation radio play.

But for a taste of Chicago before the anonymity set in -- and if you only know them for classic hits ballads -- this is taste of what they once were.


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Peter Huitson - Apr 7, 2012

CTA's version of "I'm a Man" is an absolute blinder! They rhythms and percussions are so tight you would swear it was a black or Latin American band - something to really get your foot tapping. This track is worth the price of the album on its own - highly recommended (you need the extended version though - the shortened version just doesn't cut the mustard like the longer one).

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