Some Russian Album??? (Vladimir Vysotsky-In Concert)

Another international effort, again from Half Price Books in Sugar Land.  This was $4.  I do like Russian music as past blogs has shown but I bought this for no better reason than I thought the guy on the cover looked like me.  I have bought records for worse reasons. (Note-Not a real cigarette).

That being said, I know absolutely nothing about the singer or this record.  If there are any Russians reading this, if you could give me a little information or at least tell me the singers name, that would be appreciated. It is a live album as there is banter between songs. I believe this came out in 1987.  That and 1967 are the only dates I can make out on this.

I do really like this record.  It is simply a guy and a guitar and has a real Gogo Bordello vibe to it.  The guy has talent but I do not know what he is singing about.  Hopefully this is not a super, alt right, nationalistic record. again any information would be helpful.  As far as a sample, there were four songs I really liked so I am posting them all. For a record, I know absolutely nothing about,  I really like it.  I am going Top Rated with this one.

UPDATE: A few days after writing this post, I decided to stop being lazy and actually put some efforts into finding out who this was by.  Right now, my working theory is that this is a posthumous re-release of a 1967 piece by Russian musician and actor Vladimir Vysotsky.  Again, this is just a working theory but I am about 90% sure this is him.

Link to Wiki page

Vysotsky, born in Moscow in 1938, was a prolific artist who wrote over 600 songs and had an unique style which has been oft emulated by artists (Gogol Bordello for one).  Largely ignored by Soviet elites, his political and social commentary nonetheless made him a star in his lifetime and a Russian icon in the music world.

Alcohol, tobacco, and drug use led to an early death in 1980 at the age of 42.   He has been called one of the most singular influential musicians in 20th century Russia and this album is a great indication of that.  Anyway, this is who I think this is.  If any one can confirm or deny, that would help.  

UPDATE 2:  I am now 99.99% sure this is Vysotsky and this is  a live album of early performances. Incidentally, the Wikipedia link discusses in detail his guitar style which I have enjoyed playing with over the past few days. Anyway, I belive the song below is one of his well known ones. It was also featured in the movie White Nights.

Alexandrov Ensemble- Song and Dance of the Soviet Army

The Alexandrov Ensemble, previously known as the Red Army Ensemble/Choir, has been one of my favorites to post since I started this blog.  This album was $1.00.  It should be noted that it was originally bought at the State-owned Russian store Beriozka which sold goods for hard currency, which was illegal for most Soviet citizens to carry.  Go figure.  Anyway, the album is mostly in Russian and the record does not fit in the cover.

It was a great tragedy both for Russia and the world of music last December, when a plane carrying 64 members of the Ensemble crashed on route to Syria to entertain troops.  No auditions were held in January and by February 18, a new Ensemble was able to perform for Defender of The Fatherland Day.  With a series of concerts scheduled for Russia and Europe, this marks a new chapter for the storied Ensemble.

The chapter of this record, however, goes back a ways.  The band on this record was led by Boris Alexandrov, who took over as director after the death of his father in 1946.  Boris’s father, Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov, was the first director as well as the Ensemble’s name sake.  However, under Boris, the the group’s prominence spread outside of Russia.  He was known for his strict discipline and a result, the Ensemble became a highly disciplined unit.  Under Boris’ direction, the group played the historic 1948 Berlin Peace Concert as well as a series of events with Finland’s The Leningrad Cowboys.  Boris retired in 1994 and died the same year.

I do not know much about this record as it is mostly in Russian.  It has 1976 and 1978 on it so I imagine it came out around then, although one would think it was from the 1950’s due to the artwork .  It is a good album.  I like it.  A bunch of Russian tunes.  There were none that I could recognize and they sounded less folksy than other Ensemble records I own.  Plus there was none of that bird call sound that I like.  But despite these things, it is still a good record.  If anyone knows Russian and can tell me anything about this record, plus note I have a comment section.

As I do not know any of the names of the songs, here this is as a sample.  Enjoy.

Satisfactory Record.

 

 

The Russian Balalaika Orchestra- An Evening in Old Moscow

DSCN5077 (1024x1017)This was a dollar.  I like my Russian tunes. balalaika-1969px

The balalaika, the chief instrument on this record, originated from the Russian Caucuses, with roots from the Kazakh dombra and the Mongolian topshur.   Early versions featured anywhere between two to six strings.  The first mention of the instrument came from a Kremlin guard’s log book in 1688 when two commoners were stopped from playing the instrument while drunk.  The instrument kicked around in various forms until the 1880’s when violinist Vasily Vasilievich Andreyev developed the standardized it to three strings.  From here, the instrument started its use in orchestras, with many arrangements written by Andreyev. This made the balalaika both a staple of Tsarist Russia and a supported art form of the Soviet Union. Those two things do not always mix well.DSCN5078 (1024x995)

This album came out sometime in the 1960’s I am guessing by MGM Records. I do not know anything about the Russian Balalaika Orchestra, nor Alexander Bochensky and Ika Wolters who arranged and conducted the band.  The back cover states that it was recorded in Russia. The songs are pretty good Russian folk fare but there is really nothing that differentiates this from the other Russian folk songs I have posted.  So it is not bad, but not special either.  Songs I liked include “Black Eyes”, “Kalinka”, “Cossack Patrol”, “Two Guitars”, and “Poljanka”.  It should be noted that I usually like these songs on any Russian album.Old_Moscow._Street_in_Kitay-Gorod_at_the_beginning_of_XVII_century

But I have to choose a sample, so after some time weighing pros and cons, I went with “Cossack Patrol” and “Poljanka”.A-2827560-1416212574-8001.jpeg

This album is meh.  It is a good album but not great. That is a bit unfair but I listen to a lot of Russian folk albums.  Plus no vocals.  If I heard this one first, I might have had a different opinion.

The Red Army Ensemble- Vol. 2

DSCN4531If your May Day celebration are spilling into Monday, here is an album for you. This was $3.20.  I did an earlier post on the Ensemble before so I was familiar with their work.  I also really liked the last album.  At the time, the Ensemble was still going under the moniker of the Soviet Army Chorus.red_army_choir_large

Link to earlier album post.

With this, we start another month of the blog with one of my favorite musical groups.  This album was recorded at the EMI studio in Abbey Road, London to correspond with a tour of England and a performance at the Royal Albert Hall to commemorate their 35th anniversary.20120315redstar2

This album , released in 1963, is another collection of various tunes sung by the choir.  Songs vary from instrumentals, to Ukrainian songs, to a Scottish folk song, to standard Russian fare.  The songs are done in the same patriotic style of the last album.  Overall, it is a good album.  DSCN4532

One aspect of the chorus that really is not represented on the albums is the fact that they had dancers in their ensemble.  Some of these numbers sound like they probably had elaborate folk dances to accompany them,Russians-Quebec-City-400th-Canada-333

I was stuck between various numbers to post as a sample, so again, i am going with multiple tracks.  First is the Russian folk song “A Birch Tree in a Field Did Stand”.  Next, we have about solider’s riding in thier homeland, “Song of the Plains”. Moving on, we have “Kamarinskaya” a balalaika driven instrumental .  Finally, we end with “Zaparozhtsi Dance”.  It is a soldier’s dance and was frequently used as their closing number along with dancers and flashing swords.Russians-Quebec-City-400th-Canada-318

Top Rated album for me.

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Sania Poustylnicof and Ensemble- Russian Folk Songs

DSCN3688This was 80 cents.  You should know by know that I likes my Russian Music.  This is a Somerset Record (who would later become Alshire Records).  They are most famous for their 101 Strings records.  But despite this, I like Russian music enough to take a chance on this.Russian_Folk_Dance_BarynyaI like the liner notes on this album because it looks like I could of wrote them.  The Ensemble are from Russia and Poustylnicof has lived there most of his life.  “Why, when and how he left his homeland, we did not ask…….Our prime concern after hearing Mr Poustylnicof, was not delving into his personal history, but to record the outstanding artistry of his guitar and group.” For the record, this is the last time I am typing Poustylnicof, who is a master of Mid Century Russian balalaika.5jAC128y798

This was recorded in the Republic of Germany in 1958.  Unlike other Sommerset/ Alshire Records, this is real good.  They do a good job with the material, presenting it in a way that is different from other versions but not to far from the original intent. Also, there are some vocals on this album as well, of both the male and female variety.DSCN3689

I could not pick out just one sample, so here is a smorgasbord of Russian music.  Enjoy. There are some extra tracks on some of the files.moscow--1264438728-article-0Top Rated Record for me. Probably the only Somerset/Alshire record to get this distinction.

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The Soviet Army Chorus and Band-ST

DSCN2223This was $3.00.  I like Russian music.  Very hearty and expressive chorus and a focus on the minor scales. I asked my friend Scott, who was  a  chorus singer, for his thoughts.  He said it was stirring.  We both used an expressive arm gesture to describe it.  However, I am unable to verbalize this gesture so I will go with stirring.  It is a shame, though.  That arm gesture really does it justice.

RedArmyChorusThe Soviet Army Chorus and Band, now known as the Alexandrov Ensemble (named after their first director, Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov (1883-1946)), was formed during the Soviet Era. With the fall of the Soviets, the change in name seemed necessary.  Two sources link the formation of the chorus from the Frunze Red Army Central House in 1827.  From there they performed all across the Soviet Union.  In World War II, they gave 1,500 performances combined on all fronts.  After the war, they performed a historic concert in pre- Wall Berlin in 1948 followed by a tour of East Europe.  They would also perform in Berlin with Roger Waters in 1990 during a concert celebrating the destruction of the Wall. Shortly after this, they would perform with the Finnish band, Leningrad Cowboys, most notably seen in the documentary Total Balalaika Show (which turned me on to the chorus) and on the 1994 MTV video Music Awards.

An unofficial blog with a ton of music posted.

Yet Another Fan page with occasional Profanity

I believe this was recorded in 1956 but am not positive.  Since it has a song from The Decembrists (the opera, not the band), I can assume it was at least done after 1953.  Regardless, this is an excellent album and delivers Russian Chorus in a rousing manner.  The chorus is well known for its diversity in music and this album illustrates this with songs in Russian, Ukrainian, and English.  From folk songs from their homeland, from WWI British Army tunes, to 20th century Soviet Opera, they deliver their driving vocals and Russian instrumentation to each song. And yes, the Russian bird whistle is present here.

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A statue of their first director

DSCN2230There were too many good points on this album not to post four samples.  First off, I am convinced the John Williams stole the Star Wars’ theme from “The Soldier’s Chorus” from the opera mentioned in the paragraph above.  Take a listen and tell me otherwise.  In terms of Russian folk songs, there is the “Volga Boat Song” and “Along Peter’s Street”, both of which are excellent.  Finally, there is the English/ Irish WWI tune “Tipperary” to round it out.

ALexandrov
Alexandrov

Easily a top rated album for me. Do yourself a favor and check these tunes out.

Some Russian Folk Song Album

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This record was originally $2 but the guy at Half-Priced Books gave it to me at a dollar as there was no way of really knowing what it was. He asked me if I knew. I said no but at two dollars, I was willing to roll the dice. We both agreed that it was probably Russian Folk Music.

Which it was. And quite descent folk music at that. I know nothing about this record (other than it was released in 1976) or who recorded it as everything on it is in Cyrillic. It does contain a good selection of folk tunes including Katrusha and Kalinka. There are other songs which I have heard before but do not know the names. But they are quite standard Russian folk songs.DSCN0998

This album is in great shape and still has the sleeve. Only 30% of the American albums I buy can claim this.

I posted an instrumental version of Kalinka before but I am doing it again, as it is the most famous Russian folk song and the vocals are very impressive. To make up for this double dipping, I am posting another example as well. Both feature bird whistles, which I assume is a prominent feature of Russian folk Music.

I will give this my Top Rating as it greatly delivers to me both great Russian folk music, an economic value, and a story about its purchase.

The Kalyna Trio – In The Spring

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This was $3. I was interested because of the Ukrainian angle but after I saw it was from Canada, I was hooked into this purchase. Oddly enough last week, there was another copy at Half Priced Books.

The Ukrainian National Federation was formed in Edmonton, Alberta in 1932. It is dedicated to the preservation of Ukrainian/ Canadian heritage through various programs. It has 13 branches across the country.

The Ukrainian National Federation Webpage

I don’t know much more about the singers than what is on the liner notes. Their debut was in Buenos Aires in 1971. According to a Ukrainian music online store, they are well known even though there is nothing out there on the internets about them. Nadia Kochanska may still be alive in Toronto. Donna Borowec may or not be dead.DSCN1053

The songs are pretty melodies that are well sung. The ladies all have beautiful voices .But what really makes this album are the several songs with the accompaniment of bass by Marc Huminilowych (who I think was in the band Vorona) and the drums by Olesia. It gives a couple of the tracks a real jazzy feel. Otherwise, the songs are accompanied by member Kathy Harasymchuk’s guitar. And again, the songs are quite beautiful.

I used “The Gypsy Girl” as an example for the reason above. It is a shame all the songs did not get the same treatment.

This is satisfactory for me. It delivers a bit more than what I expected and I got to give props to my own Ukrainian Canadian roots.

Sasha Polinoff- The Fastest Balalaika in the West

IMG_4908This album was $4.00. I spent big on it. I bought it for the song Kalinka which is a Russian Folk Standard. Chances are you have heard it before.

From what I was able to piece together, Sasha was born in 1906 in Manchuria. He came to the US with his Aunt at a very early age, I am guessing during the oppression of the Tsar and before the oppression of communism. He picked up the Balalaika around 13, and shortly joined a troupe of musicians. From there, he started his path as a working musician. He died in 1999. It would appear that he gained a lot of fame in certain circles but not a lot of monetary reward. This album is from 1962. I think it is his second album but I imagine he did a hell of a lot of performing around the world before this point.

I like this album. The Balalaika is such as distinctive instrument it sounds so beautiful when played. It drives the songs on both sides. I am sure others will classify it differently, but to me, it is a cross between a banjo and a mandolin. The title is a bit deceptive as you would think that all the songs would be barn burners. In reality, the songs build up in both texture and pace and there is a good mix between fast and slow. If you like Russian instruments and / or Russian folk music, this delivers on both. One song has a brief chorus, otherwise, no vocals.

IMG_4909I was torn between the opening song Karainskaya, Ukrainskoye Potpourri, Yamschik, and To Nie Vieter, but in the end, I chose Kalinka as this is the reason I bought the record.

I would say this record is satisfactory for me and note that it is on the high end of what I pay for records. That said, it has surpassed its value and I will probably play it more than other satisfactory records.