Bumping through YouTube last week, I stumbled upon a split-screen music video of a band covering Chicago’s song, Just You ‘N’ Me. I almost scrolled past it, but for whatever reason, I pushed play. Within a few seconds I could see the precision with the musicianship and hear the quality of the recording. It was perfectly in-sync with the original.
After watching the video a second time, I jumped into the rabbit hole to follow the band further. I found more covers of Chicago songs. Nearly three hours after watching the first video, I knew I had to turn my light out — my workday lay just a few hours ahead of me.
When I woke up the following morning though, it was all I could think about. With a cup of coffee beside me and a glow in the fireplace, I went further down that rabbit hole. The group, Leonid And Friends, is a musical project from Russia, lead by Leonid Vorobyev, a former choir director, recording engineer, music producer, and bassist.
In-between watching videos of their musical performances, I found several interviews with Vorobyev, who speaks excellent English. The project began in 2014, when Vorobyev retired from his music career at age 60. As a gift to himself prior to retirement, Vorobyev wanted to cover and record Chicago’s song, Brand New Love Affair. With the music being unavailable online, he painstakingly transcribed the music and the drum tablature, note for note, by ear.
When he had that and a couple more songs ready to record, he called in favors from skilled musicians he worked through his years as a recording engineer and producer. Most were from Russia and a couple from nearby former Soviet republics. In addition to recording the songs, Vorobyev also video’d the recording process. It didn’t take long before they were a YouTube sensation, with thousands of followers.
With that success, Virobyev’s new goal was to record covers of Chicago songs, with the intention of playing them live someday, with the same precision and musicianship the original band used in the studio. I have no problem saying I think he exceeded that goal.
In 2019 they did three tours of the United States, selling out most dates in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami. In Covid times, they’re still recording, branching out to cover songs from Earth, Wind & Fire as well as The Ides Of March, and Blood, Sweat & Tears. They have an active Facebook page and website where they will announce future tour dates, and also sell merchandise including a CD of Chicago covers, appropriately titled Chicagovich. My Leonid And Friends t-shirt and CD should be here by Christmas.
Lastly, If you’re not a fan of Chicago, I get it, that’s cool. But if you’re a fan of music — or of anything good that might make you smile, you might want to check this out. This is one of the best musical projects I’ve seen in years.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
Bike: Coleman Laimbeer Sanders
14.5 mph avg
Yesterday’s earworm: Old Days (Chicago cover), by Leonid And Friends