The Quiet Side Of...
30 Years of Blues Company
This band is hot. Very, very hot.
And those aren't just empty words. After all, the Blues Company from Osnabrück, Germany is neither a hodgepodge of rank beginners nor - to borrow business lingo - a group of new business starters. Rather, they are a team of artists who have made their mark, musicians with experience and know-how aplenty. The musicians at work here have long since ensured that the name of their "company" is a recognised "seal of approval". In a nutshell, Blues Company stands for German's longest-running and most successful blues band. And with each new recording, with each concert, these pros underscore that their passionate love affair with the blues is burning brightly as ever.
Has their playing become routine? Not a chance. Quite the contrary, as can be seen in the fruitful interplay between the performers and their enraptured public. This in turn energises the band, whose fans feast on a free-spirited performance of the music Blues Company lives and breathes.
Since the '60s, the blues have inspired practically every generation of enthusiastic young, white musicians. Blues Company itself hasn't been around quite that long. The band started up its blues crusade on 20th May 1976. That was the day they first climbed on stage to fire up the audience into a twelve-bar frenzy. And they will be proudly celebrating their first 30 years in the spring of 2006.
An anniversary which is an occasion for looking back as well as to the future.
Initially, Blues Company concerts were not just a mix of fun and hard work. They were pioneering events. Because until Blues Company came to be, blues in Germany - performed by professional bands - quite simply didn't exist. What did exist were tours by American blues greats, who often enjoyed higher esteem in Europe than in their homeland. The Blues Company musicians backed up many of these bluesmen at their concerts in Germany. Thus they not only got to know the old masters, they garnered the admiration of countless blues freaks. Since then, many a basement musician who's strapped on a guitar or settled down on a drum stool to indulge in the twelve-bar sound can thank the Blues Company for leading the way.
The Company itself has demonstrated tremendous staying power. Todor "Toscho" Todorovic, the band's co-founder as well as singer, guitarist, composer and sound freak makes sure of this. The bluesman was born in 1951 in Lingen, in the Emsland region of northern Germany. His parents, who were born in Yugoslavia and who had fled to West Germany after the Second World War, gave their son a variety of opportunities to expand his musical horizons. And what Toscho learned from them and from grand old men of the blues including B.B. King and Muddy Waters would one day become the lifeblood of "his" Blues Company.
Toscho not only plays the blues, he lives them. Blues without compassion would be unthinkable. Thus for years the band's leader has organised benefit events both large and small in his adopted country. For his commitment to social concerns, the city of Osnabrück awarded him the Public Service Medal in 1993.
Because the blues are performed live, Toscho has worked unceasingly on his image as an entertainer. It is pure delight to watch his facial reactions to a catchy refrain, to see how he electrifies the crowd with a breakneck guitar solo or entrances his listeners with a lush melodic figure. And with experienced band members at his side. The current line-up - in effect the core band - includes second guitarist Mike Titre (member of the band since 1980), Olli Gee on bass and organ since 1993 and Florian Schaube - band member since 2000 - on drums.
The band has chalked up an impressive number of performances throughout Europe over the past 25-plus years: 3,000 to date.
And even in the USA, Blues Company is now viewed as an insider's tip, with the band's market value on the rise.
And not only that: the fact that Germany's most tireless, ever-present and longest-lived blues band is also its most commercially successful is due to the superb quality of its studio recordings. Quite a few of its 20-odd albums are amongst the best-selling German blues recordings ever, including "Damn! Let's Jam" (1991), "Vintage" (1995), the Best Of "Blues, Ballads and Assorted Love Songs" (1997), "Invitation to the Blues" (2000) as well as "From Daybreak To Heartbreak" (2003), in collaboration with Scott Billington, the renowned US producer.
With the CDs they purchase, their fans also honour Blues Company's non-purist approach to their music. The band thrives on change. "Blues is always changing - that's what keeps it alive" is their creed. Whether rock, soul or the New Orleans groove, it goes without saying that these are all part of their musical repertoire. In 1999, Toscho brought in the Fabulous BC Horns - Uwe Nolopp on trumpet and tenor sax player and arranger Robert Kretzschmar. And with the Triple X Horns (= BC Horns plus four other wind players), a jazzy big band sound enters the picture. In fact, guest performances together with the NDR Big Band (North German Broadcasting) have already been scheduled in celebration of Blues Company's 30th anniversary.
Fans can always expect the unexpected from this combo. And yet its latest coup still comes as a surprise. Blues Company has now hit the stage with a "hushed" explosion of sound, as it were: with not an electric guitar in sight. In a word, Blues Company has "unplugged" and gone acoustic. Todorovic and Titre have dusted off their acoustic instruments and given their beloved Fender guitars a breather.
This is a CD chock-full of firsts. On The Quiet Side Of Blues Company the quartet heads back to the roots: the roots of the blues. These include oldies, from Robert Johnson to Muddy Waters - plus Toscho's all-time favourite jazz ballad, "My Funny Valentine", and several Blues Company hits, which have been lovingly rearranged and which now shine forth with a truly unexpected sound. As Toscho puts it: "We realised that quite a few of our old ballads sound far better played acoustically rather than electrically. And given how much I enjoy playing and singing ballads to begin with, we decided to record an acoustic version of these songs".
And it's a fantastic success. Less rock and more swing, a lighter air - one could even say this music is unabashedly relaxed - with astonishing richness of tone and as superb and witty as ever. This unplugged session is imbued through and through with that blues feeling. And without ever losing sight of its audience. A treat indeed, and not only for lovers of the acoustic sound.
Several guests enrich the performance. "Out Of My Mind" sparkles with Fab BC Horns sax player and arranger Robert Kretzschmar on piano and Andreas Müller, who brings in a rich contrabass. "Give Me Back My Life" in turn is a shining boogie piano rendition from Christian Rannenberg, both an old friend of Toscho's and co-founder of Blues Company.
The live premiere took place in March 2004 at the Jegelscheune club in Wendelstein. The audience was swept away with enthusiasm, and this success has been followed by a great many wonderful acoustic concerts in churches and arts centres.
The new album “The Quiet Side Of Blues Company” is available as a limited edition 2CD-set featuring on CD 2 (logically entitled “30 Years Of Blues Company”) one track each of their previous albums, a total of 11 tracks representing their entire career.
Hollywood gets the Blues from Germany
The song “Blue and Lonesome” by Blues Company from Osnabrück is to become the theme song to the Hollywood film “L.A. Blues”. The producer and script writer, Ian Gurvitz, chose the song himself from the live-album “Keepin the Blues alive” (in-akustik) as the tiltle song for his new film.
Gurvitz's production company is now applying for the rights from the record company in-akustik from Ballrechten-Dottingen in southern Germany. This must be the first time Hollywood has ever imported a blues song from Germany.
|1. The World Is Mad|
|2. Christmas Eve In Germany|
|3. Members Only|
|4. (They Called Him) Muddy Waters|
|5. Chanel No. 5|
|6. Crippled Mind|
|7. Pension Blues|
|8. Out Of My Mind|
|9. Cold Rain|
|10. Place To Rest|
|11. Give Me Back My Life|
|12. My Funny Valentine|