Chicago at Carnegie Hall is the first live album and fourth album overall by American band Chicago and was initially released in 1971 as a four LP vinyl box set on Columbia Records. It was also available for a time as two separate 2-record sets. A quadraphonic mix of the album was proposed, but was never done, possibly due to the band's objection to the record being released in the first place. This is the only Chicago album of their first ten releases not to have a Quadraphonic release in any format.
While touring in support of Chicago III, Chicago played Carnegie Hall for a week in April 1971 and recorded all of their shows. A four-LP box set collection for release as Chicago's fourth album (that distinction being responsible for the album's nickname of Chicago IV) was the result. Walter Parazaider tells writer William James Ruhlmann, "'The reason behind the live record for Carnegie Hall is, we were the first rock 'n' roll group to sell out a week at Carnegie Hall, and that was worth rolling up the trucks for, putting the mikes up there, and really chronicling what happened in 1971.'"
Columbia were very skeptical on the risk the extended set posed, and with a decrease in royalties to counter that fear (a similar situation befell their 1969 debut The Chicago Transit Authority), Chicago released Chicago at Carnegie Hall that October to a mixed reaction. While the set sold very well, reaching No. 3 in the US (but failing to chart at all in the UK), the critics found the album too long - and even indulgent with its moments of tune-ups.
The band themselves have remained divided through the years over the merits of the album. Robert Lamm and Walter Parazaider defended the album to William James Ruhlmann, while James Pankow and Peter Cetera were not happy with the result. Pankow told Ruhlmann, "'I hate it. ... The acoustics of Carnegie Hall were never meant for amplified music, ...the sound of the brass after being miked came out sounding like kazoos.'"Lee Loughnane said although he thinks the album is good, there were many things he didn't like about it and that he didn't think the album should have been released.
In recognition of setting Carnegie Hall records and the ensuing four LP live recordings, the group was awarded a Billboard 1972 Trendsetter Award. Despite poor sound quality, Chicago at Carnegie Hall, according to William James Ruhlmann, went on to become "perhaps" the best-selling box set by a rock act until the release of the Live/1975-85 5 LP live box set by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band in 1986. It is still the best-selling 4-LP set.
In 2005, Chicago at Carnegie Hall was remastered and re-issued on three CDs by Rhino Records with much improved sound quality, a bonus disc of eight tracks of alternate takes and songs not on the 1971 edition, plus recreations of nearly all the original posters and packaging.
The original LP release of this set contained two giant posters of the band, a poster of Carnegie Hall's exterior, an insert about voting information, and a 20-page softcover booklet containing photos of the band members playing during the concert and a full touring schedule from their first tour through their 1971 U.S. tour on the back. The band's official web site labels the cover design, "white tile."