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with Jesus

By David Werther.

Chicago, Live in Japan (Rhino, 2014)

           The Chicago Transit Authority (later Chicago) recorded its eponymous first release — a double album — in January 1969, and before the year was out the band had finished a second double album. By September of 1971, Chicago had released yet one more double studio album, Chicago III, a 4-disc live recording at Carnegie Hall, Chicago IV, and recorded Chicago V. At the top of its game, between the recording and release of Chicago V, the band played in Japan and recorded Live in Japan (LJ), a compilation from three shows at the Osaka Festival Hall.

           The energy of LJ is palpable, kicking off with Dialogue (Part I & II) and continuing right through to the end, with a covering of the Spencer Davis Group’s I’m a Man, followed by Free. Along the way, the group treats the crowd to songs destined to be classics, (e.g. Does Anyone Really Know What Time it is?, 25 or 6 to 4, Beginnings). And, going the extra mile, the band sings Lowdown and Questions 67 and 68 in Japanese. It would be nice if the politics of LJ’s Song to Richard [Nixon] and His Friends and Dialogue (Part I & II) could be put down as now irrelevant protests from a bygone era. But, the battlefield sound effects in Song to Richard and His Friends play just as well as a soundtrack for the Middle East as it did for Viet Nam. In Dialogue (Part I & II), Terry Kath asks, “When it comes to functioning as a feeling human being, will your Bachelor of Arts help you get by?” Replace B.A. with “STEM degree” [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] and the time between LJ and the present vanishes.

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