Does anybody really know what time it is?

Talking to many blog readers this week, I'm realizing how many of you are looking for a respite from the post-election madness and the holiday blues. (Or is it the post-election blues and the holiday madness?)

Either way, you've come to the right place. For a wonderful four-minute escape, check out this video of a Chicago tune performed by a Ukrainian cover band, Leonid & Friends. This is SO charming I couldn't resist!

I have to admit that Chicago was not one of my favorite groups. A bit too much of a lounge band for my rock & roll tastes when I was younger. But from watching L&F meticulously reproduce the finer points of the arrangements I can better appreciate Chicago’s craftsmanship. (If you want more, here's a cover of a rockier Chicago hit.) Of course I love the fact that some of these dudes are older than me!

And what's the business lesson here? Quality is quality. It stands the test of time, even when Philistines (like, uh, me) don’t appreciate it at first. Through their flawless performance, Leonid & Friends have demonstrated their own virtuosity as well as the brilliance of Chicago’s compositions and arrangements.

Here’s another point: great artists, craftsmen, and innovators often begin by closely imitating—sometimes painstakingly replicating—the work of others. That’s one way to “get good.” I predict that this cover band will—if they haven’t already—become first-rate musical arrangers and players.

Uh-oh. Hold the presses! After doing a little research, I just found out this band is actually from Moscow! (They record their music in Kiev—so "Ukrainian" may be a useful "cover.") If you’re from the U.S., I know what you’re thinking: first they steal our elections, then they steal our music! Only the beginning, only just the start!

Yet here at Business Lessons From Rock we always look at the bright side of things. While we watch our Republic fade into the sunset, we can bathe in the nostalgic warmth of our distinctly American classic rock hits—sung back to us by Rooskies—as time goes by.

I’m already guessing that our President-elect will invite Leonid and his comrades to perform at his Inauguration next month. And at the rate things are changing in Washington, the band might not need to sing in English.

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    1. Hey, thanks for the Fun Fact!

      So this is another post with a (possibly) intriguing backstory to it! (When I first wrote about "Jingle Bell Rock" years ago I didn't know we'd wind up confronting the shadowy underbelly of the entertainment business, as I discovered last week.) I may have to hire more investigative reporters—and staff up my legal department. These are serious times for your intrepid rock & roll business journalist.

  1. Impressive and enjoyable. Nailed the piano, bass, and horn parts particularly, but it's a great re-creation. I came late to Chicago as well. Horns in rock? I didn't think so. I know better now.

    I love how on their cover of Make Me Smile they have just the right voice singing each part. (And that half of them look like they're on their way to the office.)

    Read somewhere that as John Cougar was transmogrifying into Mellencamp he made his band learn dozens of 50s and 60s tunes note perfect. Hearing the difference between Scarecrow and his earlier stuff, there's a solidity and cohesion I don't hear previously.

  2. Since around the year dot, or at least 1970, I've ranked Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4" as one of THE great rock songs. Guitar riff! Loud drums! Long guitar solos! Horns even! As with John, though, for me most of the rest of their extensive oeuvre falls into the lounge band category.

    What does this tell us? It reminds us that sometimes crap bands make great records, clever people do stupid things, folks you usually disagree with have great ideas and decisions you disagree with turn out to be good.

    It's the song, not the singer, that matters.

    Wishing all the folks on this blog a very happy Xmas and best wishes for a great new year!

  3. "Horns in rock"?
    Yeah, blasphemy, but their (and the other horn bands at the time) existence was inspired by a particular song off of "Revolver", so the precedent was already set. Heaven forbid some rock group comes along with STRINGS!

    Those of us with musical training were quick to embrace Chicago's ability to infuse rock with jazz and classical elements, superior musicianship, and a full, bold, richly orchestrated sound; breaking onto the scene at just about the time the old 'three-chord R&B' formula was sounding rather tired from other artists of the day. The fact that they're still around today can be attributed to great song-writing and performances.

    And, if you ever caught them in their hay day with Terry Kath, there was never a question of how hard they could rock!

    1. Two other horn bands at the time helped "legitimize" that sound: Blood Sweat and Tears and the Electric Flag. But Chicago obviously outlasted them.

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