Chicago Transit Authority (album)

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Chicago Transit Authority
CTA album.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedApril 28, 1969 (1969-04-28)
RecordedJanuary 27–30, 1969
StudioColumbia Recording Studios
(New York, United States)
LabelColumbia, CBS
ProducerJames 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
AllMusic4/5 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.


Chicago was formed in 1966 as "the Missing Links", then "the Big Thing",[3] then Chicago Transit Authority when 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 was 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 sessions, the band had decided they wanted it to be a double album. Skeptical, as the band had no track record, Columbia only agreed to the concept if the group would take a royalty cut.

In addition to the material recorded for the album, "Wake Up Sunshine," "It Better End Soon" (both later released on their second album), "Loneliness is Just a Word" (later released on Chicago III), and an early version of "Mississippi Delta City Blues" (with mostly different music than its eventual versions on Live in Japan and Chicago XI) all date from this era, and were performed as early as 1968. Other early original songs, such as "Dedicated to Girl Number 1" and "Once Upon a Life", were never released.

In their original incarnation, keyboardist Robert Lamm, guitarist Terry Kath and bassist Peter Cetera 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. Jimi Hendrix was 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" was an 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. 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.


The cover design for the album is called "Painted Shingle" on the group's official web site.[4]The inside jacket features individual photos of each band member, Which reviewer Peter Morelli notes, "For a band deliberately constructed to be a leaderless democracy, Robert Lamm (far right, standing) sure stands out in the band photos!"[5]


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 2002, Chicago Transit Authority was remastered and reissued on one CD by Rhino Records. To fit the double album onto a single disc, 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 2010, Rhino Handmade re-released the original quadraphonic mix of the album on a limited edition DTS DVD, and in 2016, in DTS-HD Master Audio, as part of Chicago Quadio Box Set.

Awards and honors[edit]

Chicago Transit Authority is the only Chicago album listed in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[6]

Chicago Transit Authority was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2014.[7]

Track listing[edit]

Side One
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1."Introduction"Terry KathKath6:35
2."Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?"Robert LammLamm4:35
Side Two
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
4."Questions 67 and 68"LammPeter Cetera, Lamm5:03
6."Poem 58"LammLamm8:35
Side Three
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
7."Free Form Guitar"Kathnone6:47
8."South California Purples"LammLamm6:11
9."I'm a Man"Steve Winwood, Jimmy MillerKath, Cetera, Lamm7:43
Side Four
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
10."Prologue, August 29, 1968"James William Guercionone0:58
11."Someday (August 29, 1968)"James Pankow, LammLamm, Cetera4:11
12."Liberation"PankowKath (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, 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. ^ Colin Larkin. The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. p. 105.
  4. ^ "Chicago Transit Authority". Retrieved July 5, 2017.
  5. ^ "Chicago: Chicago Transit Authority". Paul Morelli, DMA. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  6. ^ " Parker...1001 Albums". Retrieved 2012-01-05.