A Revisit Of Terry Kath’s Killer Guitar Solo On Chicago’s “Liberation”

Terry Kath

If you’re looking for the reasons that Jimi Hendrix once called Terry Kath his favorite guitar player, you can look no further than Terry Kath’s unbelievable guitar playing on the Chicago track “Liberation.” If we had to choose one song to showcase Terry Kath’s talents, “Liberation” would be the one. It almost seems criminal to call this a solo as “Liberation,” is a fourteen-minute track in which almost the entire piece is fueled by Terry Kath’s guitar brilliance. This is not the band called Chicago many people first came to know in the 1980s when the band was being produced by the hitmaker David Foster. This was the band called Chicago when they first arrived on the scene in the early 1970s. This is the band called Chicago that sounded like no one else while blowing the minds of early 1970s rock fans.

The band Chicago was originally named Chicago Transit Authority. They released their debut album in 1969 simply titled Chicago Transit Authority. Later on, they would change their name to just Chicago. The band’s first album was exceptional for many reasons, one of which was that it was a double Lp. There are not many bands in classic rock history that have released a two-record set as their debut album. At the time, the band consisted of Terry Kath on guitars, lead and backing vocals, Peter Cetera on bass, lead and backing vocals, Robert Lamm on keyboards, lead and backing vocals Lee Loughnane on trumpet, James Pankow on trombone, Walter Parazaider on saxophone, and Danny Seraphine on drums.

The album’s first single “Questions 67 and 68” would become a modest hit on the radio peaking at number seventy on the Billboard Hot 100. The album’s biggest single “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” was actually not released until after their second album was released and the band had really caught fire on a commercial basis.  Nonetheless, the band’s debut album received plenty of airplay on FM radio although sales of the lp were slow at first. However, through word of mouth, the album’s sales began to increase as news of this tremendous album began to spread among friends. Over time, Chicago’s debut album would be heralded as one of classic rock’s greatest albums and easily one of the band’s greatest recordings.

Chicago was not the only band using horns at the time. The group Blood Sweat & Tears was also groundbreaking in merging the genres of rock and jazz into a progressive sound with commercial success. Bands like Chicago and Blood Sweat & Tears were also influencing jazz artists to merge the sounds of rock and jazz. Weather Report’s first album came out in 1970 and of course, there was Miles Davis’s groundbreaking Bitches Brew album that was released in 1971.

While Chicago and Blood Sweat & Tears may have shared some similarities in their sound, the distinct difference between the two bands was the talent of Chicgao’s Terry Kath’s guitar playing. There was so much talent in the band Chicago that may have caused his guitar playing to be overlooked at times in the 70s. The band’s vocals were off the charts being led by the incredible tenor of Peter Cetera and the pitch-perfect vocals of Robert Lamm. The band was also writing outstanding material, many of it released on their first two albums such as “Beginnings,” “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?,” “I’m a Man” and from the second album “Make Me Smile,” “Colour My World” and their monster hit “25 or 6 to 4.”

With all these hits being released in a span of just a year and a half, Chicago’s sound was hailed as a huge hit-making machine of substance and infinite potential. For almost two decades the band definitely fulfilled that promise. Yet, what has been lost in the history of the band was the work of Terry Kath’s guitar playing, especially on the early material. True classic rock fans who listened closely were well aware of it, but the mass population who just listened for the hits on the radio were never really aware of his talents.

One of Terry Kath’s most special moments occurred on the last track of the band’s debut album. The track entitled “Liberation,” is a fourteen-minute plus epic fusion of rock and roll progressivism.  The track starts out with a soulful groove as the horn section lays down an intense soulful funky melody line. There is nothing in the song’s introduction that would signal what was soon to come. One is waiting for the vocals to begin, but they never appear, at least not until the very end. Instead at about a minute and a half into the track, Terry Kath’s blistering guitar smoothly breaks into the room. Almost instantly he is already on fire.

One could assume that because he hit his mark so quickly that the solo would probably only last for 12 to 24 bars. One could never be more wrong, Terry Kath’s guitar solo would go on for almost another thirteen minutes. Through the solo Kath would change time, pushing the band into grooves ad time changes no one would expect. It never gets boring, in fact, it will stop you where you are and force your attention onto his playing mesmerizing you dead in your tracks. Kath is just simply stunning.  Hand’s down, it’s one of the greatest guitar solos on vinyl, and it last for almost fourteen minutes. Off course we could go on and on about it, but what you need to do right now is take a listen to it below. This one will blow you away.

Feature Photo: Low-resolution youtube screenshot for fair use review purposes:

 

A Revisit Of Terry Kath’s Killer Guitar Solo On Chicago’s “Liberation” article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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