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Chicago XI

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Chicago XI
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 12, 1977
RecordedApril – June 1977
StudioCaribou Ranch, Nederland, Colorado
ProducerJames William Guercio
Chicago chronology
Chicago X
Chicago XI
Hot Streets
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

Chicago XI is the ninth studio album by the American rock band Chicago. It was released on September 12, 1977, through Columbia Records. It was both the last to feature guitarist and vocalist Terry Kath prior to his death in a gun accident just over four months later, and the last to be produced by longtime associate of the band James William Guercio.

Chicago XI was a commercial and critical success for the band, reaching the top 10 in the US and garnering generally positive reviews. Three singles were released from the album—"Baby, What a Big Surprise", "Little One", and "Take Me Back to Chicago"—with the former reaching number four on the Billboard Hot 100. Chicago XI would become the band's last album to make the top 10 until Chicago 16 in 1982.

The cover design for the album is called "Regional Map" on the group's official web site.[1]


According to the web site Ultimate Classic Rock, Chicago XI seems like a collection of solo songs rather than the work of the ensemble whole Chicago had been earlier in the 1970s.[2] 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 No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.[3] 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 No. 63.[4]

Kath, who was planning a forthcoming solo album,[5][6] may have intended "Takin' It On Uptown" — which, besides some uncredited backup singers, possibly features only Kath himself — as a solo album "preview" along the lines of Lamm's "Skinny Boy" on Chicago VII.[nb 1] 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, "Policeman" and "Vote For Me."

Upon its September 1977 release, Chicago XI (Columbia 34860) reached No. 6 in the US on the Billboard 200,[7] stayed in the charts for 20 weeks and went platinum in October the same year.[8] It did not chart in the UK.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11][12]

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.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[14]

In her review of the album for The Sydney Morning Herald, Christine Hogan said, "If there had never been a Chicago X, this album would have been the best ever made by these perennials."[15] Writing for The Evening Journal, Hugh Cutler called the album a "critical and commercial triumph" and said it even drew a "rave review" from Rolling Stone.[16]

Record World described the single "Little One" as "a mid-tempo love song," saying that "the brass and vocal arrangements stand out as always."[17]

Track listing[edit]

Side One
1."Mississippi Delta City Blues"Terry KathTerry Kath4:39
2."Baby, What a Big Surprise"Peter CeteraPeter Cetera3:04
3."Till the End of Time"James PankowJames Pankow4:49[nb 2]
4."Policeman"Robert LammRobert Lamm4:02
5."Take Me Back to Chicago"Danny Seraphine, Hawk WolinskiLamm5:17
Side Two
6."Vote for Me"LammLamm3:47
7."Takin' It on Uptown"Fred Kagan, Kath[18]Kath4:45
8."This Time"Lee LoughnaneLee Loughnane4:44
9."The Inner Struggles of a Man"Dominic Frontiere[nb 3]Instrumental2:44
10."Prelude (Little One)"Seraphine, WolinskiKath0:52
11."Little One"Seraphine, WolinskiKath5:40



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 backing vocals on "Baby, What a Big Surprise"
  • Carl Wilson – additional backing vocals on "Baby, What a Big Surprise"
  • Chaka Khan – backing vocals and incredible preach at end of "Take Me Back to Chicago"
  • Dominic Frontiere – orchestral conception and conducting 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"


  • Producer – James William Guercio
  • Audio engineer – Wayne Tarnowski
  • Assistant engineer – Tom Likes
  • Strings recorded by Armin Steiner at Sound Labs (Hollywood, California).
  • Audio mastering – Mike Reese at The Mastering Lab (Los Angeles, California).
  • Album cover design – John Berg
  • Logo design – Nick Fasciano
  • Inside photography – Reid Miles


Chart (1977) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[19] 17
United States (Billboard 200)[20] 6


Year Single Chart Position
1977 "Baby, What a Big Surprise" Billboard Hot 100 4
1978 "Little One" Billboard Hot 100 44
1978 "Take Me Back to Chicago" Billboard Hot 100 63


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[21] Platinum 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[22] Platinum 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ "Chicago XI". www.chicagotheband.com. Archived from the original on July 3, 2018. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  2. ^ "Chicago Albums Ranked Worst to Best". Ultimate Classic Rock. 12 February 2016. Archived from the original on July 7, 2018. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  3. ^ "Chicago Baby, What A Big Surprise Chart History". Billboard. Archived from the original on July 14, 2018. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  4. ^ "Chicago Take Me Back To Chicago Chart History". Billboard. Archived from the original on July 14, 2018. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  5. ^ Mieses, Stan (December 8, 1976). "Room for Individuality in Chicago". Playground Daily News. Fort Walton Beach, Florida, USA. p. 6B. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved June 10, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. Free access icon
  6. ^ Wood, Tim. "Terry Kath's Official Bio Pages". Archived from the original on 2021-01-08. Retrieved 2017-10-02.
  7. ^ "Chicago Chicago XI Chart History". Billboard. Archived from the original on July 13, 2018. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  8. ^ "Gold & Platinum - RIAA". RIAA. Archived from the original on October 10, 2021. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  9. ^ "CHICAGO | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". www.officialcharts.com. The Official UK Charts Company. Archived from the original on December 4, 2017. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  10. ^ Ruhlmann, Willam James (1991). Chicago Group Portrait (Box Set) (Media notes). Columbia Records. p. 7. Archived from the original (CD booklet archived online) on February 13, 2016. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  11. ^ Jerome, Jim (October 16, 1978). "Chicago's 'Alive Again'!". PEOPLE.com. Archived from the original on April 4, 2019. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  12. ^ Ruhlmann, William James (1991). Chicago Group Portrait (Box Set) (Media notes). New York City, NY: Columbia Records. p. 8. Archived from the original (CD booklet archived online) on March 28, 2019. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  13. ^ https://www.allmusic.com/album/r3854/review
  14. ^ The Rolling Stone Album Guide. Random House. 1992. p. 130.
  15. ^ Hogan, Christine (October 24, 1977). "A mellow Chicago". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney, Australia. p. 3, The SMH Monday Guide section. Archived from the original on July 5, 2018. Retrieved July 5, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.Free access icon
  16. ^ Cutler, Hugh (November 9, 1977). "Chicago Brings It Back at the Spectrum". Evening Journal. Wilmington, Delaware, USA. p. 48. Archived from the original on July 6, 2018. Retrieved July 5, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.Free access icon
  17. ^ "Hits of the Week" (PDF). Record World. February 4, 1978. p. 1. Retrieved 2023-02-15.
  18. ^ "Chicago - Baby, What a Big Surprise". Discogs. 1977. Archived from the original on 2021-02-20. Retrieved 2020-09-05.
  19. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 62. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  20. ^ "Billboard 200: Chicago III". Billboard. Archived from the original on January 22, 2019. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  21. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Chicago – Chicago XI". Music Canada. Retrieved June 21, 2023.
  22. ^ "American album certifications – Chicago – Chicago XI". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved June 21, 2023.


  1. ^ A note in the credits for "Takin' It On Uptown" says "This song appears through the courtesy of Cook County Music. Keep your eyes open." The same note appears on the single where "Uptown" is the B-side of "Baby, What A Big Surprise."
  2. ^ CD versions fade this song out slightly earlier than the LP version.
  3. ^ The original LP ambiguously gives a single writing credit of Seraphine/Wolinski/Frontiere to "The Inner Struggles of a Man" and "Prelude (Little One)" together.