Chicago XI

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Chicago XI
Chicago - Chicago XI.jpg
Studio album by Chicago
Released September 12, 1977
Recorded April – June 1977, Caribou Ranch, Nederland, Colorado
Genre Rock
Length 44:33
Label Columbia
Producer James William Guercio
Chicago chronology
Chicago X
(1976)Chicago X1976
Chicago XI
Hot Streets
(1978)Hot Streets1978
Singles from Chicago XI
  1. "Baby, What a Big Surprise"
    Released: September 1977
  2. "Little One"
    Released: January 1978
  3. "Take Me Back to Chicago"
    Released: May 1978
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[1]

Chicago XI is the ninth studio album (eleventh overall) by the American band Chicago, released in 1977. The album marked the end of an era for Chicago in more ways than one. This would be the last Chicago album to feature guitarist and founding member Terry Kath prior to his death in an accident with a gun just over four months later, and the last Chicago album to be produced by James William Guercio.


Chicago XI is notable for feeling like a collection of solo songs rather than the work of the ensemble whole Chicago had been earlier in the 1970s. Peter Cetera aimed to replicate the success of the Grammy-winning "If You Leave Me Now" with "Baby, What A Big Surprise", which proved to be the album's biggest hit, going to #4. This was his only writing contribution to the album and, quite atypically, the only song with him on lead vocals. Terry Kath revived his old live favorite "Mississippi Delta City Blues" for the album, while turning in a touching vocal on Danny Seraphine's "Little One." Seraphine also co-wrote "Take Me Back to Chicago", which charted at #63. (Kath's "Takin' It On Uptown"—which, besides some uncredited backup singers, possibly features only Kath himself—may have been intended as a solo album "preview" along the lines of Lamm's "Skinny Boy" on Chicago VII.) James Pankow sang lead on his own "Till The End Of Time," as did Lee Loughnane on his original, "This Time." The once-prolific Robert Lamm contributed only two songs, the sympathetic "Policeman" and "Vote For Me."

While recording Chicago XI, longtime producer James William Guercio's smothering artistic control had reached its breaking point, with the band deciding to take their career into their own hands and strike out on their own after finishing the album with him. However, as big a change in their career as Guercio's dismissal would be for Chicago, it would be minor in comparison to the tragedy that awaited them.

On January 23, 1978, a few months after Chicago XI's release, Terry Kath, regarded by many as the "soul" of Chicago, accidentally and fatally shot himself during a party at roadie Don Johnson's house. A gun enthusiast, Kath attempted to calm the guests' surprise when—while reportedly inebriated—he pulled out his gun to clean it by demonstrating that it was unloaded and promptly pointed the gun to his head and pulled the trigger, not realizing a bullet was in the chamber. The remaining members of Chicago were shocked and devastated by Kath's death, and even considered breaking up. After a few weeks of mourning, they decided to move on, thus beginning a new era in the band's history. They would recruit singer/guitarist Donnie Dacus for the follow-up, Hot Streets.

Upon its September 1977 release, Chicago XI (Columbia 34860) reached #6 in the US, stayed in the charts for 20 weeks and went platinum. It did not chart in the UK.

In 2002, Chicago XI was remastered and reissued by Rhino Records with rehearsal recordings of Pankow's "Wish I Could Fly" (backing track) and Lamm's "Paris" as bonus tracks.

Track listing[edit]

Side One
No. Title Writer(s) Vocals Length
1. "Mississippi Delta City Blues" Terry Kath Terry Kath 4:39
2. "Baby, What a Big Surprise" Peter Cetera Peter Cetera 3:04
3. "Till the End of Time" James Pankow James Pankow 4:49[2]
4. "Policeman" Robert Lamm Robert Lamm 4:02
5. "Take Me Back to Chicago" Danny Seraphine/Hawk Wolinski Lamm 5:17
Side Two
No. Title Writer(s) Vocals Length
6. "Vote for Me" Lamm Lamm 3:47
7. "Takin' It on Uptown" Fred Kagan/Kath Kath 4:45
8. "This Time" Lee Loughnane Lee Loughnane 4:44
9. "The Inner Struggles of a Man" Dominic Frontiere Instrumental 2:44
10. "Prelude (Little One)" Seraphine/Wolinski Kath 0:52
11. "Little One" Seraphine/Wolinski Kath 5:40


The Band[edit]

Additional personnel[edit]

  • David "Hawk" WolinskiARP synthesizer on "Take Me Back to Chicago"; Fender Rhodes on "Little One'
  • James William Guercio – acoustic guitars and bass on "Baby, What a Big Surprise"
  • Tim Cetera – additional background vocals on "Baby, What a Big Surprise"
  • Carl Wilson – additional background vocals on "Baby, What a Big Surprise"
  • Chaka Khan – background vocals and incredible preach at end of "Take Me Back to Chicago"
  • Dominic Frontiereorchestral conception & orchestration on "Baby, What a Big Surprise"; orchestration for "The Inner Struggles of a Man"; string and orchestral arrangements for "Little One"
  • The Voices of Inspiration – choir on "Vote for Me"



Year Chart Position
1977 Billboard Pop Albums 6


Year Single Chart Position
1977 "Baby, What a Big Surprise" Billboard Pop Singles 4
1978 "Little One" Billboard Pop Singles 44
1978 "Take Me Back to Chicago" Billboard Pop Singles 63


  1. ^
  2. ^ Note: All CD versions fade this out slightly earlier than the LP version.