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Songs of Russia Old & New / Russian Gypsy

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Album Review

Actor and musician Theodore Bikel had already established himself as a major talent with a series of ethic folk albums in which he interpreted traditional Yiddish and Hebrew songs, but he enjoyed his first major critical and commercial success on record with a pair of Russian folk collections: 1958's Songs of a Russian Gypsy and 1960's Songs of Russia Old & New. Out of print for some time, Bikel's Russian LPs make their belated CD debut in this two-fer edition from Collectors Choice Music. Oddly, the first and livelier of the two albums, Songs of a Russian Gypsy, takes up the second half of the set, while the more varied follow-up, Songs of Russia Old & New, opens the show, though the sequence does make for a rousing finish, and the albums play quite well as a set — the same cast of musicians appears on both, lending fine support to Bikel's powerful vocals, and the drama and emotional force of the material is well served on both albums. The greatest strength of these recordings is, of course, Bikel's striking performances, which are emotional without becoming melodramatic, and are so pitch-perfect in their strength of feeling that one doesn't need to understand Russian to register the joys and agonies of these songs. Significantly recorded when America was hip-deep in the Cold War, Bikel's Russian albums spoke volumes for the humanity of the Soviet proletariat at a time when most folks in the West regarded them as an enemy to be feared, and the artistry of these 28 songs is a joy to behold. The set also includes a fine essay on Bikel's Russian recordings from writer Richie Unterberger.

Customer Reviews


The of the music is fast but the rest is a bite slower. I say it's ok and the albums rille cheep so it's well worth getting.


Born: 02 March 1924 in Vienna, Austria

Genre: Classics

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Founded in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in 1992 by lead singer and songwriter Paul McKenzie (the sole constant member of the group), the Real McKenzies do for Scottish folk music what the Pogues did for the traditional music of Ireland. They rev it up to a speed and power that approximate punk rock, but still maintain the melodic sense of the original sound, and sometimes use bagpipes and acoustic guitars to give it a taste of folkie authenticity,...
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Songs of Russia Old & New / Russian Gypsy, Theodore Bikel
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