Old Chicago Blues Band




Man, oh man, this disc was a pleasant boot to the head for this jaded old cynic! I put it on with a bit of a negative and closed mind - prejudging = prejudice -and I got a big lesson in the pitfalls of having less than an open mind. I was astonished by the music and the collective talents and production. This simply is one of the best blues CDs to ever come out of Canada. London, Ontario has something very hot happening in the form of the Old Chicago Speakeasy and this first rate, exciting band that plies its trade as the official house band. This disc cries out for major label distribution (are you listening Fred, Holger and Jack?) Loads of one-of-a-kind originalty and authentic blues sounds abound here. CHRIS MURPHY (sax,organ,vocals), JOHN KNAPP (drums), GEOFF DAHL (bass, harp, vocals) and DOUG VARTY (guitar, harp, keyboards, vocals) make up the band and they've achieved the near impossible by developing a sound that's devoid of tired imitation/ interpretation, something that very few white blues bands attain. This puts them in very select company.

They open the disc with a superb original, "Cat Nap Later", featuring fine guitar by Varty and harp (Varty too?), before they deliver an early round knockout by doing a cover of "Why Get Up", a song associated with THE FABULOUS THUNDERBIRDS and they actually show up the T-Birds on this tune, the arrangements on it taking a great tune to new heights. It rocks out and is pure joy, thanks to Murphy's wonderful tenor sax and Knapp's cymbal work, guaranteed to get you dancing in your living room. "Someday, Someway" is another fine reworking, especially with background vocals and guitar. 3 tunes so far and 3 big winners. That's very, very impressive. Track 4 is not blues, it's a reworking of Sly Stone's "Thank You", again featuring top-flight sax and guitar and a fresh arrangement. Tough one to pull off but they do it. "I Thank The Fool" has "country-rock hit" written all over it. It's a Varty original with great lyrics and slide guitar. I could see BROOKS AND DUNN covering it and the song becoming a line-dance favourite. I haven't got time or space to cover all 13 tracks, but two other originals deserve mention, "Bad Attitude" and "Bad News", which have hit potential.

I'm happy for these guys. They've got a wonderful independent release that kicks butt and will definitely surprise a lot of important people in the music industry. Their talent is of the highest level. They write great originals and completely tear apart and rebuild classics, improving upon material that was already thought to be perfect. Chris Murphy, Doug Varty, John Knapp and Geoff Dahl have a big winner on their hands. 5 bottles for a very highly recommended slice of Canadian blues that's better than most American counter-parts. A joyous offering by a band with a bright future.


'Souvenir' CD opening doors for Old Chicago Blues Band

by Jamie Vandermoer - London Free Press - Friday, September 8, 1995

It started out as just a souvenir for regular customers, but it wasn't long before the Old Chicago Blues band's CD found an altogether different audience.

"We've found there's this kind of blues pipeline that we knew nothing about," says Chris Murphy, who formed the band three years ago.

The CD has generated interest and inquiries from as far away as Vancouver and into the United States.

It has also received airplay on a variey of smaller radio stations and CBC Radio.

The original idea, says Murphy, was to put together a collection of songs that represented the experience of seeing the band at the club that is their namesake.

It was also a fitting tribute to the third anniversary of the band.

The nucleus of the Old Chicago Blues Band is Murphy (saxophone), Doug Varty (guitar), Colin Stewart (bass) and John Knapp (drums), but any number of other local blues players have also joined them on stage.

GUEST SINGERS:They invited several guest singers, who perform with them regularly, to contribute to the CD, to put together a kind of "greatest hits" package.

Mainly blues standards by artists such as Willie Dixon were mixed with a few more modern and obscure blues tunes.

Also on the album are Jimmie Vaughan's Boom Bapa Boom, K.C. Douglas's Mercury Blues, and two songs that have become fixtures with the band, Sweet Home Chicago and Mustang Sally.

Guest singers include Chicago Pete, Richard Knight, Ben Shane, Mike West, Andi Hardy and Tim Woodcock.

"We intentionally didn't get too adventurous with the songs we picked," says Murphy. "We wanted people to recognize the songs right away."

Murphy freely admits the CD was recorded on a limited budget and in a short period of time.

But considering the band has played together five nights a week for three years, it's no surprise that they were able to knock off the songs faily quickly in the studio.

Richard Knight and Chicago Pete nailed their songs on the first take, Murphy says.

A small idea, a limited budget, a short period of time. And yet, since its release a couple of minths ago, nearly 500 copies have been sold and plans are in the works for another compilation with the band and a full-length CD with Chicago Pete.

"We've been really surprised by the response," says Murphy. "It's really opened up a lot of things. It's been great for us."

The Old Chicago Blues Band plays nightly at Old Chicago's on Carling Street. The CD is available in many local record stores or at the club.

Old Chicago Blues Band Goes Compact

Forest City News - July 1995

The Old Chicago Blues Band's new Third Anniversary CD could improve your love life. Sax player Chris Murphy tells the story of a male patron he knew who hadn't had a date in three years. Standing at the bar on a Thursday night holding a copy of the CD, a woman approached the man and said she'd love to hear it but didn't have a CD player.

"So the guy is thinking fast, and invites her back to his place, makes her a cup of coffe and plays the CD for here," relays Murphy. "Saturday night he comes back to the bar, girl on his arm, first date in three years, a little spring in his step. That made me feel good."

For three years the band - Murphy, drummer John Knapp, bassist Colin Stewart, and guitarist Doug Varty - has been bluesing up the Old Chicago Speakeasy and Grill on Carling Street in downtown London , backing dozens of guest artists, many featured on the new disc. Six months after their inception, talk of a CD surfaced, but personnel changes, financial and scheduling constraints delayed the project until February of this year when they descended on Paul Venesoen's Studio 107 here in town for five Sunday sessions.

The fourteen tracks are a sort of greatest hits of the band's live gigs, and the nie lead singers got to choose their favourite songs.

"A lot of artists picked their own songs," says Murphy. "We really wanted to do Mustang Sally and Sweet Home Chicago, because they're very popular and they sort of define what the band is about." He feels Mustang Sally has been a big selling point, because everyone knows the song, but few fans they talked to actually had it in their record collection. "We do it faster and funkier. The original was half the speed."

Mike West's Dark End of the Street was the first songs Murphy had ever heard him sing, so it seemed a natural choice. On Broadway always opens Ben Shane's show, so he does it on the CD. The Old Chicago staff picked I Ain't Drunk for Murphy to front since it was one of their favourites. He was also scheduled to sing Older Woman, but that plan changed.

"Originally I sang it, and I did such a great job that we brought Chicago Pete in to sing it (laughs). The ringer, the experienced pro. And he changed the whole direction of the song." Other leads include Richard Knight on Downhome Blues, and Let's Straighten It Out, Doug Varty with Let Me Love You Baby and I Gotcha. Tim Woodcock on Boom Bapa Boom, Colin Stewart singing Mercury Blues, Andi Hardy on You'll Lose a Good Thing, Chicago Pete on Sweet Home Chicago, and Murphy and his father Phil jamming saxes on Instrumental Blues.

"The jam with me and my Dad just sort of happened in the studio," he says. "That was fun. They all went pretty quickly. We recorded as much as we could live, and then we went back and did things. There are some songs where I played keys and two saxes."

Despite having played these songs countless times on stage, the band imported Jim Neil, sound man at the Grand Theatre, to produce the album. Murphy says his touch was a tremendous help and calls him a "secret little treasure in London. Really a world class talent."

"One reason we needed a producer was just to make sure that because we've been playng the songs so long we needed someone from outside the band to say 'yeah, they're good'. Some of the things he actually changed in the studio. Becasue we work togethter all the time, we nneded someone from outside the band to defray any kind of differences of opinion, so that we could still get along when we went to work. It just helped to have a person that was objective. We needed to have someone who cuold take all the different artists, and make sure that when it came out on the album it had a little bit of cohesiveness.....


Chris Murphy (519) 668-6443 London, ON, Canada N6C 2Y8

Can Orders: 1-800-JOE-RADIO 1-800-563-7234 $16.50
US Orders: Blue Loon Records 1-800-710-7667 $15 (US)

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