Chicago Transit Authority (w/ Terry Kath)
The idea of marrying Rock and Jazz (a combination not made in heaven) had been kicked around for awhile when Chicago Transit Authority left their Midwest home for L.A. Their best songs, coming almost exclusively from their early period with Terry Kath on guitar, showed them as a Rock group ("I'm A Man" and "South California Purples") with horns to punch things up. The Jazz element was in remission.
They could also produce ballads and MOR pop. When they shortened their name to Chicago (under threat of a lawsuit from the "actual" Chicago Transit Authority) they lost steam. Then there was accidental death of guitarist Terry Kath. He shot himself with what he thought was an unloaded gun - drugs or alcohol involved? You think? Following the tragedy the group went MOR.
Chicago (w/o Terry Kath)
Often bland ("Colour My World"), even with guitarist Kath, boring nearly all the time without him ("Alive Again" being one of the few exceptions), Chicago made the transition to faceless, ballad oriented corporate Rock act, as bassist Peter Cetera assumed lead vocal duties.
Funny, they never recycled the Kath stuff, just the ballads. Cetera eventually went solo and after a handful of "adult" hits he faded from view.
If you buy a Chicago CD, buy it from the Columbia (early) period. Not that all the albums are gems but at least the records had some spark to them. The Full Moon/Warner Bros. stuff should be avoided like some horn filled plague. Also, bassist Peter Cetera's move to the forefront was a not an inspired one.
The debut "Chicago Transit Authority" ("I'm A Man," "Beginnings" and "South California Purples") and "Chicago II" ("25 or 6 to 4") capture the group at its early best. The first edition of the greatest hits "Chicago IX" is also good. "Chicago V" would be next with the keyboard oriented "Saturday In The Park." "Group Portrait" is a box set that's probably too much Chicago for too much money for most people but ideal for the faithful.