Akvarium, with
Boris Grebenshchikov,
Legendi Russkaga Roka
(MOROZ Records/Triarii, 1998)

During the summer of 1999, I was in Russia volunteering as caregiver and teacher at a children's home (detsky dom) in a remote village northeast of St. Petersburg. On a weekend respite in St. Petersburg, I met Boris Grebenshchikov and decided to learn something about his music. One of our team interpreters brought me some of B.G.'s (Beh Geh's) music and we listened to that tape until it wore out. On my way out of Russia, I stopped again in St. Petersburg and bought the CD of Legendi to bring home with me.

Early in January, my family was gathered at Mom's house and I had the CD along. I have two brothers who are walking encyclopaedias of rock 'n' roll and who, being of Irish and Scots ancestry, have an affinity for the music of the Celts as well. At the party in Peterburg, B.G. had said that he very much liked Irish music and he was looking for new songs to learn. So, I challenged all my sibs to a game of Name That Influence, thinking that our twenty-year age spread would produce some interesting insights. It did. Where I heard Charles Aznevour, John heard "Eleanor Rigby" and Kevin threw in Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau.

We were looking for similarities in style and musicality and places where Akvarium may have shared influences with artists we know. We heard a lot of Dire Straits, especially Mark Knoffler. Two of my favorites, "10 Ctrel" (Stars) from Akustika and "Gorod" (Hometown?) from Assa were identified unanimously with Emerson Lake & Palmer, especially Greg Lake. My very favorite, "Adelaida" (AhdelaEEda) from Radnodenstvie, got Al Stewart from me and U2 from the guys. We all thought we could hear some electronic attempt at uilleann pipes in there. "Glaz" (Eye) from Den Cerebra got cheers from everyone for the Stray Cats/Bryan Setzer strut chord progression on the guitar.

We did hear Dylan once but we also heard a lot of Beatles, individually and collectively. Besides "Eleanor Rigby," we heard "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields." "Rock n Roll Myortv" from Radio Afrika was split between Alan Parsons and George Harrison. "Malchik Evgraf," the other cut from Radio Afrika, is pure Beatles and it makes me smile and remember the word game I played with the older boys at the detsky dom. Malchik is "boy" in Russian and mal chico, in Spanish, means "bad boy," which I explained to them along with the slightly aging vernacular meaning of bad as something deserving recognition. So, my crew of older guys who have become my allies were glad to be called my bad boys.

Who else did we hear? Crosby, Stills & Nash, Lobo, Commander Cody, Savoy Brown, Alan Jackson, The Band with Robbie Robertson and a couple cuts that had to be pure B.G. We heard Jimmy Buffett. I've just read Buffett's The Pirate Looks at Fifty. I think B.G. and J.B. should go fishing together. On "Golobi Aganek" from Navigator, I heard Demis Roussos tootling around in that little chorny machina (black car) appreciating the pigeons and yellow flowers and what all else -- and all through the ballads, I heard Jacques Brel, another singer who took social and political risks.

The last cut, "Velikaya Zheleznadorazhnaya Cimfoniya" (I have no idea what that means except for the symphony part) from Snezhni Lev is gorgeous. The bros each heard something different. John heard "Strawberry Fields," Larry heard Rodney Dillard with a "lone prairee" harmonica and we all heard a lovely highland air. On that one, we all wanted pipes.

And, although I can't pinpoint a song, all through the CD, I kept thinking that if B.G. doesn't know George Dalares, he should. Bro John, who owns a good share of what's been pressed in vinyl since 1960, says that this CD is one of the best albums he's ever heard as far as range and listening enjoyment.

Both Grebenshchikov and MOROZ Records have websites, look 'em up. When I go back to Russia I'm going to search for Kostroma Mon Amour.

Unhappily, none of the musicians in Akvarium is named on this CD. There's a nice cover photo of B.G. and some other likely looking fellows as well as some interesting snapshots that I assume are from the recording sessions, but no names. I understand that the composition of the group changes fairly frequently and that may be the reason individuals are not identified but it's unfortunate because each of the musicians on this CD deserves recognition.

[ by J. Higgins-Rosebrook ]