Chicago Transit Authority (album)

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Chicago Transit Authority
CTA album.jpg
Studio album by Chicago Transit Authority
Released April 28, 1969 (1969-04-28)
Recorded January 27–30, 1969
Studio Columbia Recording Studios
(New York, United States)
Length 77:43
Label Columbia
Producer James William Guercio
Chicago Transit Authority chronology
Chicago Transit Authority
Singles from Chicago Transit Authority
  1. "Questions 67 and 68"
    Released: July 1969
  2. "Beginnings"
    Released: October 1969
  3. "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?"
    Released: October 1970
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[2]

Chicago Transit Authority is the self-titled debut album by the Chicago-based rock band Chicago Transit Authority, later known as Chicago. It was recorded and released in 1969.


At the band's 1967 inception, it was initially called "The Missing Links". Then, (according to Robert Lamm on an episode of In the Studio with Redbeard devoted to the making of the album) the name was changed to "The Big Thing" (occasionally performed in areas outside Chicago and Milwaukee as "The Big Sounds" due to some venues complaining about the double entendre that the name "The Big Thing" also alluded to), before adopting the name The Chicago Transit Authority when the producer James William Guercio took them on in 1968. Their trademark was fusing brass and jazz with a soulful rock and roll feel and Guercio felt that this would prove successful, lobbying for his label to give them a try.

Chicago Transit Authority were signed to Columbia Records late in 1968 and recorded their first album in late January 1969. While Guercio had recently produced Blood, Sweat & Tears' second album (which proved to be a huge smash), he did so to raise capital for his band. By the end of The Chicago Transit Authority's sessions, it was clear that the album would have to be a double. Skeptical, as the band had no track record, Columbia only agreed to the concept if the group would take a royalty cut.

In their original incarnation, keyboardist Robert Lamm, guitarist Terry Kath and bassist Peter Cetera all shared lead vocals, while James Pankow, Lee Loughnane and Walter Parazaider handled all brass and woodwinds (trombone, trumpet and saxophone, clarinet and flute respectively) and Danny Seraphine played drums and likely doubled on percussion. Lamm, Kath and Pankow were the band's main composers at this time. Kath's prowess as a guitarist was so strong that Jimi Hendrix became an avowed fan of Kath's playing. According to the album's original liner notes, the solo performance of Kath on "Free Form Guitar" was created without the use of any pedals. In a nod to Hendrix's guitar expressionism (Hendrix most notably used wah and fuzz pedals), Kath instead plugged directly into his studio amplifier and improvised the entire track in one take for the purpose of pure tone. "Free Form Guitar" is also noted as being another influence on the genre of noise music.

Released in April 1969, Chicago Transit Authority (sometimes informally referred to simply as "CTA") was an immediate hit, reaching #17 in the US and #9 in the UK. While critical reaction was also strong, the album initially failed to produce any hit singles, with the group seen as an album-oriented collective. In 1970 and 1971, "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" (#7), "Beginnings" (#7) and "Questions 67 and 68" (#71/#24 re-release) would all prove to be belated hits. Buoyed by the success of their later albums, the album stayed on the charts for a then-record 171 weeks, and was certified gold (and later platinum and double platinum). It is one of two albums not to have any songwriting contributions from Cetera during his tenure in the band, the other being Chicago V, but he started writing songs with the second album Chicago.

While the band toured the album, legal action was threatened by the actual Chicago Transit Authority, forcing the group to reduce their name to simply Chicago.

In 2002, Chicago Transit Authority was remastered and reissued on one CD by Rhino Records. However, Rhino Records trimmed some of the songs, noticeably the fadeouts on "Questions #67 and #68" (six seconds longer on the LP) and "Free Form Guitar" (five seconds longer), and the 10 second gap between "Someday" and "Liberation".

In 1974, the album was also mixed in quadraphonic sound and released on SQ encoded LP (GQ-33255) and Dolby Quadraphonic 8-Track (QCA-33255).

In 2010, Rhino Handmade re-released the original quadraphonic mix of the album on a limited edition DTS DVD.

Chicago Transit Authority is the only Chicago album listed in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[3]

Chicago Transit Authority was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2014.[4]

Track listing[edit]

Side One
No. Title Writer(s) Lead vocals Length
1. "Introduction" Terry Kath Kath 6:35
2. "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" Robert Lamm Lamm 4:35
3. "Beginnings" Lamm Lamm 7:54
Side Two
No. Title Writer(s) Lead vocals Length
4. "Questions 67 and 68" Lamm Peter Cetera/Lamm 5:03
5. "Listen" Lamm Lamm 3:22
6. "Poem 58" Lamm Lamm 8:35
Side Three
No. Title Writer(s) Lead vocals Length
7. "Free Form Guitar" Kath   6:47
8. "South California Purples" Lamm Lamm 6:11
9. "I'm a Man" Steve Winwood/Jimmy Miller Kath/Cetera/Lamm 7:43
Side Four
No. Title Writer(s) Lead vocals Length
10. "Prologue, August 29, 1968" James William Guercio   0:58
11. "Someday (August 29, 1968)" James Pankow/Lamm Lamm/Cetera 4:11
12. "Liberation" Pankow Kath (Briefly near the end) 14:38



2002 reissue

  • Lee Loughnane - A&R, project supervisor
  • David McLees - A&R, project supervisor
  • Gary Peterson - A&R, project supervisor
  • Mike Engstrom - project manager
  • April Milek - project assistant
  • Bob O'Neill - project assistant
  • Ingrid K. Olson - project assistant
  • Randy Perry - project assistant
  • Steve Woolard - project assistant
  • Jeff Magid - audio supervisor
  • Cory Frye - editorial supervisor
  • Steven Chean - editorial research
  • David Donnelly - remastering
  • Hugh Brown - photography
  • Maria Villar - art direction and design
  • David Wild - liner notes


Chicago Transit Authority (Columbia 8) reached #17 in the US during a chart stay of 171 weeks. It also peaked at #9 in the UK.


Year Chart Position
1969 Billboard Pop Albums 17
1969 UK Pop Albums 9


Year Single Chart Position
1969 "Questions 67 and 68" Billboard Pop Singles 71
1970 "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" Billboard Pop Singles 7
1971 "Beginnings" Billboard Pop Singles 7
1971 "Questions 67 and 68" Billboard Pop Singles 24
1971 "I'm a Man" Billboard Pop Singles 49


  1. ^ Frank Hoffmann (12 November 2004). Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound. Routledge. pp. 374–. ISBN 978-1-135-94950-1. 
  2. ^ Chicago Transit Authority at AllMusic
  3. ^ " Parker...1001 Albums". Retrieved 2012-01-05.