The Chicago Transit Authority (album)

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The Chicago Transit Authority
CTA album.jpg
Studio album by The Chicago Transit Authority
Released April 28, 1969
Recorded January 27–30, 1969 Columbia Recording Studios New York
Genre Jazz fusion, progressive rock, hard rock
Length 76:36
Label Columbia
Producer James William Guercio
The Chicago Transit Authority chronology
The Chicago Transit Authority
Singles from The 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[1]

Chicago Transit Authority is the self-titled debut album by the Chicago-based rock band The 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 instinctively felt that this would prove successful, lobbying for his label to give them a try.

The Chicago Transit Authority were signed to Columbia Records late that year and recorded their first album in late January. 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 (first of three). Very skeptical, seeing 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 and Danny Seraphine played drums. Lamm, Kath and Pankow were the band's main composers at this juncture. Kath's prowess as a guitarist was so strong that even Jimi Hendrix became a major 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, The Chicago Transit Authority (sometimes informally referred to simply as "CTA") proved to be 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).

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, The 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.[2]

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



  • Producer, original liner notes - James William Guercio
  • Engineered by Fred Catero
  • Recorded and Mixed at Columbia Recording Studios, New York
  • Artwork by Nick Fasciano
2002 Reissue
  • A&R/Project Supervisors – Lee Loughnane, David McLees and Gary Peterson
  • Project Manager – Mike Engstrom
  • Project Assistants – April Milek, Bob O'Neill, Ingrid K. Olson, Randy Perry and Steve Woolard
  • Audio Supervisor – Jeff Magid
  • Editorial Supervisor – Cory Frye
  • Editorial Research – Steven Chean
  • Remastering – David Donnelly
  • Photography – Hugh Brown
  • Art Direction and Design – Maria Villar
  • Liner Notes – David Wild


The 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