Sound — 8
Following their first three albums, all three of them double-length, they recorded a weeklong series of shows at Carnegie Hall. Their manager assembled four records of material from the concerts and released them as a live box set, resulting in this. Despite the very successful sales, the quality of the recording sucked. The acoustics were terrible. Lucky for us, the recordings were cleaned up and digitally re-mastered for CD. Despite the re-mastering, there are some spots where the mixing is sub-par, as some solos don't cut through the rest of the band. The material in this set gives us a good picture of their sound and skill at the band's peak. Since Terry Kath died before I was born, this is the closest I get to hearing them at their heyday. For those who like the long and drawn out soloing from their first album, this is the perfect live set. There's plenty of long jams, like South California Purples, 25 or 6 to 4, Sing a Mean Tune Kid, It Better End Soon, and a few others.
Lyrics — 8
Unfortunately, the vocals aren't as tight. Peter Cetera's voice sounds considerably weaker on this live set. Since he is the one responsible for singing in the highest register, it's seldom that you can expect live performers to match all of their tight work from the albums. That being said, Kath and Lamm manage to stand their ground on their vocals pretty well. Kath especially comes though with his soulful voice. All the material played on the live set is lyrically covered by their first three albums, save for one exception: A Song for Richard & His Friends, a jazzy anthem asking for Richard Nixon's resignation. It's a well written song, but it may be a little tough for one who isn't a strong Chicago fan or who doesn't appreciate their politics. While they don't have the polished sound that they get from the studio, all in all, they manage to keep their playing chops pretty sharp.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, this compilation is a great listen. The instrumentals are pretty tight. I would also use it to show anyone who became acquainted with Chicago during the '80s or early '90s what Chicago is really about. The band comes off very enthusiastic throughout the set. They even manage to sneak in snippets from songs of other groups into their solos: Parazaider works in bits of Battle Hymm of the Republic into It Better End Soon during the flute solo, and Kath works in snippets from Rock Around the Clock into Sing a Mean Tune Kid. The only gripe that I have with the set, besides the hurried mixing, is they didn't include a performance of Liberation, a fourteen minute jam from their first album. Granted, live it would have taken an entire side of a record, wishful thinking I guess. Also, the tracks sometimes contain a minute or so of crowd noise before getting to the music. All in all, this is a great live set and I would definitely replace it if I lost it.