Early in their career, Chicago proved themselves as being the masters of the double album. The first three of their records were double-length and their fourth, a live album, was a quadruple (!). By the time Chicago V rolled around in 1972, however, the group had resorted to issuing a long-player that was simply a single disc. It was as though they no longer wanted to be known as a sprawling jammy jazz rock band, but one that was more concerned with issuing concise statements (if not hit singles like “Saturday in the Park”) that could be found in ten or so tracks. The band had also exhausted much of their back pocket songs—Chicago had found that they had used up most of their material by the time they were preparing to make Chicago III even—and there were changes in the rock radio landscape, where FM stations were starting to become more formula-driven, making the double-album format feel not as liberating as it once was. There were changes, too, to the way that record companies paid royalties on songs by the time the early ‘70s rolled around: now they would only pay royalties based on copyright for ten songs per album. Ergo, Chicago really had no further financial incentive to keep on pumping out the doubles. As well, the band had chafed with their label over Chicago IV due to the manufacturing costs for pressing four discs, and it almost didn’t get released as a result.
However, Chicago IV would not be their last shot at making an album that sprawled across just one disc. The band would return to the format of the double album one final time with Chicago VII in 1974, which is a statement of both compromise and non-compromise. The compromise aspect came from within the band. At the time they were readying the record, the entire group had composed—and were playing live—a series of long jazzy instrumentals. Some members of the band were thus pushing for an album of jazz recordings. However, bassist and vocalist Peter Cetera as well as producer James William Guercio were sceptical of this approach, believing that an entire disc of jazz would be commercial suicide. After convening at Guercio’s Caribou recording studio in the wilds of Colorado, where the band had recorded Chicago VI after leaving behind what they felt were substandard recording studios in New York, Chicago reached a deal with itself. The group would include the jazz pieces, along with more pop-oriented songs. As it would turn out, the jazz would almost fill up one disc worth of material on the record, with the more commercially friendly standard pop songs the other.