Monday’s Music Moves Me: Leonid & Friends

When I was in high school, I loved the band Chicago. I would spend hours in my room, playing their albums over and over, hanging on every note. Don’t believe me? Ask Mark, a/k/a lecycliste, my closest friend from high school. I like to think I was the one who turned him on to Chicago, and he’s about as into them as I am. Or ask Kip, who had to put up with it.

There’s been quite a turnover in Chicago, with the death of guitarist Terry Kath, the departure of bassist Peter Cetera, and the unceremonious termination of drummer Danny Seraphine. Recently, woodwinds player Walt Parazaider has had to stop touring due to bad health. Other, more recent members have come and gone, and the sound is still there, albeit different ecause of all the changes. Dave, The Real Music Observer on YouTube, talks quite a bit about Chicago, recently expressing the opinion that the current lineup of the band, three original members (keyboardist Robert Lamm, trombonist Jim Pankow, and trumpeter Lee Loughnane) notwithstanding, is really nothing more than a tribute band. Of course, there’s all kinds of arguments over that, but tucked in among the comments are people who have been saying that, if they want to hear a Chicago tribute band, they’d rather listen to Leonid & Friends.

Now I’ve seen Leonid’s tribute videos pop up in my YouTube feed, but until this morning, I hadn’t taken the time to listen. What I heard brought me to tears, and no, I’m not just saying that. Leonid Vorobyev and a group of highly-talented and dedicated musicians from Russia have recreated the music of Chicago and have given it new life. Leonid tells us, on the band’s Facebook page

That was my crazy idea – 2014’ fall I’ve reached a pension age – (60 in Russia) but I didn’t retire from business, I just decided to make something special to celebrate the date. The best way is to gather my friends for recording one of my favourite songs. I didn’t expect such effect. Every musician have a job and lack of time. But they are my friends and I was strongly determined to drive the nail home. I’ve started to make it just for myself and partly for my peers-musicians to encourage them, but later I saw everybody love it more and more. Step by step… and in the end it seemed good enough to call two guys with camera and shoot the video. When the first video (Brand New Love Affair) got so warm reception every participant told me – “let’s do the next one”. What have I gotten into? I said Okay, Make Me Smile is the next! Now we have seven songs finished and four more songs in progression. So it’s just started over.☺

Basically, these guys (and a few women) are doing this for, pardon the expression, shits and giggles, and have created something beautiful. They’re not perfect (you hear the occasional Russian accent, and the arrangements are a little off in places), but that just proves that these aren’t musicians pretending to play and sing these songs while the original songs are piped in. No, this is a labor of love; as they say at the beginning of each video, “As a tribute to the one of the greatest bands in the world!” Here’s my playlist for this week.

  1. Old Days
  2. Make Me Smile
  3. 25 or 6 to 4
  4. If You Leave Me Now
  5. Hard To Say I’m Sorry/Get Away
  6. Questions 67 and 68
  7. Beginnings
  8. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?
  9. Saturday In The Park
  10. Wishing You Were Here

Their first album, Chicagovich, is available on iTunes and a few other places. I’ve been listening to it as I wrote this.

Spasibo, Leonid & Friends. You’ve made this old Chicago fan happier than you can imagine. That’s Monday’s Music Moves Me for July 9, 2018.

Monday’s Music Moves Me is sponsored by X-Mas Dolly, Callie, Cathy, Alana, Michelle and Stacy, so be sure and visit them, where you can also find the Linky for the other participants.


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25 thoughts on “Monday’s Music Moves Me: Leonid & Friends

  1. We saw Chicago in 2006 and walked out because it just did not sound the same. We’ve seen them on AXS TV too and they just are missing something (Peter Cetera mostly). Recently they were touring with REO Speedwagon and that is a band we really like. We could have gotten seats in the 3rd row! and I didn’t because the venue was almost 2 hours away and I didn’t think it was worth it. This tribute band does sound better than what is touring now.

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    1. REO Speedwagon is from Champaign, IL and played a lot in Chicago, so it’s good the two bands have gotten together on a tour.

      I get the impression that Chicago is just going through the motions anymore. They don’t want to just hang it up, but the original members are all in their 70’s now and they have to be tired after 50 years. They’ve said they want to die while they’re playing, but they have nothing else to prove.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “CHICAGOVICH”… Now THAT’S funny!!

    In my teens and twenties, like you, JOHN, I was a huge Chicago fan. In fact, the first time I ever walked into a record store to buy my first LP, I purchased 3 at once, and one of the 3 was Chicago IX. Eventually, I came to own every single one of their LPs up to and including ‘Hot Streets’.

    Today, I own one of their CDs: ‘The Very Best of Chicago: Only the Beginning’ — a 2-disc compilation. Sadly, I find that at least half of the second disc (representing later hits) is, to me, unlistenable. It documents just how much the band had changed from vibrant Jazz-Rock (or Rock-Jazz, or Fusion) to sappy ballads and tepid, formulaic Pop.

    But I still dig listening to that first disc and about half of the second one. I will always consider Chicago to be one of my very favorite bands from the Classic Rock era.

    ~ D-FensDogG
    STMcC Presents ‘BATTLE OF THE BANDS’

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    1. It was not for lack of trying that their music started to decline. Their last album of original material, “Chicago XXXII: Stone of Sisyphus” was actually recorded in 1998, when Dawayne Bailey was playing guitar for them. At the last minute, the suits at Warner Brothers pulled the plug on it, because it wasn’t “sappy ballads and tepid, formulaic Pop,” as you put it. Bailey, who had contributed heavily to the album, left soon after that. I haven’t been to see them in a long time (close to 40 years), but from what I hear they focus on the hits from the ’70’s and from before Peter Cetera took his ball and went out on his own.

      I was reluctant to listen to “Hot Streets” when it came out. I was still hurting from Terry Kath’s death and didn’t think anyone could replace him, no matter how good they were. I listened to it yesterday and it’s pretty good, actually, but again, I miss Terry.

      Leonid & Friends have given the music new life. I really like the spirit they bring to it. They love the music, and it shows.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m feeling a bit down this week after the sudden death of my mother in law. So Old Days hit me – I have memories of fireworks displays at Gilson Park, hopping the fence at Ravinia to see Chicago in 1972, people asking, “How’s your camera?”, ditching my mother’s French class. Those times are gone – I stopped being a juvenile delinquent somewhere in there – but nothing seems to have been fun enough to replace them.

    I was fortunate enough to perform in two different horn bands, both based out of Champaign, IL when I was an engineering student there. I learned Robert Lamm’s piano parts and vocals for a bunch of tunes from Chicago’s first seven albums, and that’s what got me into the first band. I still remember bits of the Chicago medley from the second band – began and ended with Make Me Smile. I was the only guy who could count the final break in Just You N Me to get the rest of the band back in after I sang Pete Cetera’s final “Yeah, yeaah”. God, I loved that music, as John can attest.

    So to hear it played properly by Leonid and his friends is great – Terry Kath’s vocals and playing handled well by folks who respect the music.

    Also used to hear Yes-like band Starcastle play live in Champaign – they had REO Speedwagon’s first lead singer Terry Luttrell doing vocals. And I performed REO’s Riding the Storm Out and Roll With The Changes countless times onstage.

    Some bands know when to hang it up. Unfortunately for those of us who never got a chance to catch them live, Rush retired after a final 2015 tour – and 40 years of playing live.

    So when the guys I used to perform with in California scheduled an October party with all surviving members attending (our singer died in 1996 but everyone else is still around), I jumped on it. You never know when the story will end, so it pays to grab it now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry about your mother-in-law. Please pass my condolences on to Pat.

      You ditched your mother’s class?? I bet there’s a story behind that… Nothing will replace those times, Mark. I still think of those times fondly. They help me get back to sleep at 3:30 in the morning.

      You’ve had the advantage of playing the music (more so than I have), so I’m glad you liked these guys. The first song I listened to was “Old Days,” and I was skeptical; it was so close to the original I thought they were faking it. When I realized that no, it’s really them, I got really emotional. It was the best thing I had heard in a long time.

      I’m sure it’ll be good to see the guys you played with, and yes, it is a good thing to stay in touch with them. Will you be doing any playing?

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      1. Yup, I WILL be playing. Need to practice Jeff Beck’s Situation (Rough and Ready, 1975):, Steely Dan’s FM, and a few other things. I’ll be bringing a 4-octave keyboard controller to play a bunch of synth emulator programs on my iPad.

        There was supposed to be a mass ditch of my mother’s French class. Guess who was the only one to ditch? I kept that ditch slip paper for years…

        We did some crazy fun things, and I’m glad for all those memories.

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  4. Great memories, great tunes and fun reminiscing! Great job on the tune by these guys… well, at least I think so, but I was listening for that accent… sorry, I didn’t hear it, but what a great job these guys did! Some of them really sounded like the original. It was too fun listening to this. Thanks for putting it together. Have a rockin’ week and thank you for stopping by & playin’ along! My friend you have ROCKED THE HOUSE!

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    1. You really have to listen for it to hear the accent. Like I said, it’s a reminder that they aren’t just lip-syncing. Their album is outstanding, and only ten bucks; at that price, who’d be without? 😉

      Leonid has a bunch of videos on his channel, mostly Chicago covers but also a few originals, most of which are in Russian, but you don’t have to understand it to appreciate it, and he typically puts the translation in the description or the comments.

      I’m glad you enjoyed them! It’s amazing just how much good music is on YouTube, isn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Holy shit John! These guys are AWESOME! I’m blown away, truly. It’s fascinating to watch them too. The lead guitarist on 25 or 6 to 4 was amazing! It was so fun to watch him. And I really dig his police tap guitar strap! 🙂 The main singer (I think it’s Serge?) is quite good too. And the pianist: wowsa. The horns… They’re all good. I’m really enjoying this playlist and the show! I like to see the range of ages in the band members. They look like they really have fun rocking those great Chicago songs. I have always loved Chicago and it’s sad to hear that they’re just not the same anymore. Probably getting tired, like you said.

    I read your friend Mark’s comment. Glad to hear he’s going to join his old bandmates for their October reunion. His words are so true: “You never know when the story will end…” Indeed! I bet performing Riding the Storm Out was amazing! That’s an awesome powerful song there…

    I saw on the band’s facebook page that they posted a note to their American Friends on the 4th of July and dedicated their version of Saturday in the Park to commemorate the holiday. That was pretty cool…

    I have sat here and listened to this entire playlist and watched each video, captivated. I’m thrilled that you have turned us on to Leonid & Friends. Do they tour over here? I wonder if they’d ever come to Austin?? I would pay good money to see them for sure.
    Well, this certainly has been a great way to wrap up my evening. Just now wrapping up with Wishing You Were Here. Damn!
    Thanks John!

    Michele at Angels Bark

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure if they do much touring. Like you said, they’re different ages and this is a sideline for them, so my guess is that many have actual jobs or family commitments. If you check Leonid’s channel, he has videos from gigs in Moscow. Follow his page on Facebook, where I think he would post any information on it; you never can tell. In the meantime, their album is really good and the download is $10. I’m sure they’d appreciate the support ;).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds good John. I did follow his FB page the night that I read your post but haven’t had a chance to really explore it. And thanks Mark for posting the price info on your recent purchase. Do you have any YouTube videos of your band? I would love to see Riding the Storm Out. What’s your favorite song to perform?

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  6. We have some good horn bands here in New York’s Triple Cities that do good Chicago covers – but nothing like these gentlemen. Yes, the Russian accents were a bit distracting, but the musicality was amazing. I even went on You Tube to see what else I could find and had a few more moments of wonderful listening. This old time Chicago fan salutes them. I second another of your commenters in hoping that they produce their original (but Chicago-styled) music and release that. Chicagovich!

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    1. I was very happy when I heard them, to the point of tears. They have an original out there, “Close My Eyes,” that’s very good (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0Dw-U01h1Y), and an amazing a capella song called “Eto Rus,” which is in Russian (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEFoVGmfc5g) that I think Leonid wrote. There’s probably more where that came from. Check Leonid’s channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCD5ZsXiIFlrWrbOCM6rEDKQ).

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  7. John,

    Honestly, if I had no read your post and just hit play I’d swear that I was listening to Chicago. Occasionally, I hear the vocalists Russian ascent but it’s hardly noticeable especially when you’re busy doing other things like I was during the first half of your playlist. I cranked up the volume walked about 10 feet into the kitchen (my home office is my dining room) to unload and load the dishwasher. I was can’t tell you just how impressed I am by this copy-cat Chicago band! I loved that they came up with a good band name pay respects to one of the greatest bands of all-times. DH was the one who turned me to the amazing group and he often played his drums right along with Danny Seraphine. Thanks for sharing Chicagovich on the dance floor. I hope these guys turn their passion into something big! Excellent playlist and introduction, my friend.

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    1. You could have them on and think you were listening to the real thing. They’re that close, and the occasional Russian accent or difference in a solo or a horn part only serves as a reminder that it isn’t really Chicago, and these folks aren’t just playing the record and pretending to play and sing. They’re the closest thing there is to the real thing that I’ve found, and it feels like they’ve pumped new life into the songs.

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  8. Whoa! Seems like with Chicago you have next week’s theme covered. I don’t know you that well but thought of you when I saw what the theme was and thought of 25 or 6 to 4. Nice tribute.

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    1. Chicago had a few with numbers in the title, and there were two in my set. I’ll be sure and leave those two for someone else. I haev no clue how to handle the sign-language thing…

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  9. At the time, I was more of a Blood, Sweat, & Tears fan. I just liked the gravel in David Clayton Thomas’ voice. I owned several Chicago albums and loved their music. I always thought the sound of the horns added much to the rock/jazz influence of their sound. Have a blessed week.

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    1. Chicago and BS&T had two different philosophies, with Chicago writing their own songs and BS&T interpreting other songwriters’ material (with the exception of the first album (Child Is Father To The Man), where Al Kooper wrote many of the songs). I liked them, although some of their arrangements were a little over the top. Not to say Chicago didn’t have their moments…

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