The Leningrad Cowboys

April 18, 2008

Thanks to Richard Garrin for bringing this bizarre find to the blog. You might want to line up a few shots of vodka and sing along.

The Leningrad Cowboys is a Finnish rock and roll band famous for its humorous songs and concerts featuring the Soviet Red Army Choir. Currently, the band has eleven Cowboys and two Leningrad Ladies. The songs, all somewhat influenced by polka and progressive rock, and performed in English, have themes such as ‘vodka’, ‘tractors’, ‘rockets’, and ‘Genghis Khan’, as well as folkloric Russian songs, rock and roll ballads and covers from bands as diverse as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, all with lots of humour.
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The Red Army Choir (Choir Aleksandrov) is a performing ensemble that served as the official army choir of the former Soviet Union’s Red Army. The choir consists of a male choir, an orchestra, and a dance ensemble. The songs they perform range from Russian folk tunes to Church hymns, operatic arias and popular music. In 1991, The Red Army Choir participated in Roger Waters’ The Wall concert celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall. They performed an anti-war song “Bring the Boys Back Home”. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Red Army Choir has continued performing, entertaining audiences both inside and outside Russia.

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The Ambrosini Critique » Blog Archive » Well, I mean…
April 18, 2008 at 5:09 pm

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Brad Wood April 18, 2008 at 5:37 pm

I particularly like the Volga Boatmen finish—a bit like Rachmaninov managing to work in the Dies Irae towards the end of some of his big pieces.

The other curiousity—from what we can see, apparently Russians still favor lots and lots of microphones.

In 1986 there was a sort of cultural exchange event where conductors Lawrence Leighton Smith and Dimitri Kitayenko, engineers Stan Ricker and Keith O. Johnson, and recording label Sheffield Lab produced a series of recordings with the Moscow Philharmonic of Russian and American compositions. Smith conducted the Russian pieces and Kitayenko the American.

Keith had most of the musicians initially quite concerned. They were used to having at least a microphone per stand, and couldn’t imagine that Keith’s rather minimalist setup could possibly pick things up adequately. They were amply persuaded once they heard some of the playback.

I also recall discussing the project with one of Keith’s many patrons at a tradeshow. He said “When I heard he was going to travel to the USSR, I was horrified—I figured we’d never see him again!” Fortunately, Keith behaved himself.

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