I covered the Chicago box set a few years ago, bought all the remastered releases recently, and now the crowning glory of an implausible career is capped of with 4 CDs of Chicago’s inconceivable week long run at Carnegie Hall.
Live At Carnegie Hall Vol. 1-4 (Chicago IV) is a landmark live recording, an achievement that will never be surpassed by the band nor anyone else that makes similar music. Rhino has done it again by giving this set the remastered treatment and pulling out all the stops by bringing to light tracks that were unearthed from the archives for this special occasion.
What is so sweet about this recording is that it covers the first three albums, which in my opinion set a standard and will never happen again. Chicago would never sound more progressive and tight than this. After the third album, they were in a continually state of flux. Granted, they did make some marvelous music and sell a ton of records, but this is when they were taking a chance, pushing the envelope and doing what no one else was doing. This live set clearly demonstrates that and shows why they changed irrevocably after Terry Kath died. Some of the most incredible lead guitar runs are on these CDs. Not only did they loose a great vocalist, arguably, the best guitarist of the time disappeared without warning at the very height of their success. When you hear "25 Or 6 To 4" or the previously unreleased "South California Purples," you know that you are hearing history, a man in his prime showcasing everything at his disposal. Who knows what great heights Kath would have taken his artistry to if he had lived? It is unfortunate that we talk about many great musicians in this context. This is not just about Kath though, it is about Chicago (the band), a group of individuals banded together to make a collective sound that dazzled audiences worldwide for decades. It is hard to believe that this album came out in 1971. It sounds more relevant today than ever, 34 years on and it becomes clear that Chicago had the world’s music listeners in the palm of their hand. Nothing makes this clearer than hearing all four of these CDs in glorious stereo at a very high volume.
With the exception of the thin CD sleeves, which are thin cardboard that allows the CDs to fall right out, the packaging was little more than I would expect. The original posters are included with the set, there are three-one wall sized the other smaller, of the band, and a black and white shot of Carnegie Hall. The nice booklet has a good write up about the concert series with some great shots included of the band together and individually.