Editor’s note: Today, we begin a multi-writer, song-by-song examination of the music of Chicago, and where better to launch than the aptly named “Introduction” from their debut release, ‘Chicago Transit Authority’? The series, dubbed ‘Saturdays in the Park,’ will appear on Something Else! each Saturday.
After honing and polishing their craft at first in the clubs of Chicago and later as the house band at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go in Los Angeles, where they opening for the likes of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, Chicago Transit Authority released their ambitious self-titled debut double-LP. Some may argue that Chicago’s debut is their best album, and there’s plenty to support that assertion.
Chicago Transit Authority begins with the confessional Introduction. Appropriately, it bursts out of the gate with a solid horn chart that makes a grand opening statement before easing into lyrics that bring the listener up to speed as to how Chicago got their start.
“Introduction” is the definitive stew of Chicago Transit Authority, a statement of not just who they are, but how they got to where they were. It’s the musical culmination of an agreement made on handshakes at Walt Parazaider’s apartment back in February 1967.
There’s a timelessness to “Introduction.” It sounds as fresh, raw, and honest today as it did the first time the needle dropped in the groove back in 1969. The song is a brilliant dance between the horn section, the rhythm section, and the soulful vocals of the late Terry Kath. Lee Loughnane’s jazz-tinged trumpet solo and Terry Kath’s scorching guitar solo both sound like they “belong” in the song. Perhaps more than on any other in Chicago’s vast catalog, this song managed to marry their jazz and rock influences perfectly.
Fast forward to 1993, the first time I saw Chicago live. What did they open with? “Introduction.” Some of the names had changed. But even with the new faces and musical stylings it still worked. The song still sounded as fresh as the first time I’d heard the original version, when I started discovering Chicago’s early catalog. If that’s not a testament to the timelessness of “Introduction,” I don’t know what is.
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