Sunday, January 29, 2017

Владимир Высоцкий в записях Михаила Шемякина / Vladimir Vysotsky: The Mikhail Shemyakin Recordings

I just got a parcel from Russia and it's GODDAMNED EXCITING. Here's an unboxing video I made for the 7CD box set Владимир Высоцкий в записях Михаила Шемякина / Vladimir Vysotsky: The Mikhail Shemyakin Recordings, from Bomba Music.

Vysotsky was, if you must, the Soviet Union's own Bob-Dylan-Marlon-Brando, an actor and folk singer, considered persona non grata but grudgingly tolerated by the Soviets, beloved and endlessly cassette-bootlegged by the Russian public. He had a Russian friend in exile in Paris, painter Mikhail Shemyakin, and when Vysotsky would visit Shemyakin (always to visit, never to defect), Shemyakin would make home recordings of Vysotsky performing. There's a lot of those tapes; this 2013 box set runs 5 hours 21 minutes and contains 104 songs. (Bomba also released it on vinyl the same year; both the CD and vinyl versions are reissues of an original 1987 vinyl box set on the Apollon Foundation label, New York, copies of which are now a little scarce.)

I was introduced to Vysotsky’s work thanks to the movie White Nights, which includes a scene where Mikhail Baryshnikov dances to recording of Vysotsky performing his song Кони привередливые (Fastidious Horses), and it’s one of the most gloriously gutwrenching songs ever recorded - like Vlad had “Die of total organ failure” on his to-do list that day but put it off for a few minutes in order to record this song. That specific performance is not included on this box set, but another great performance of the song is included on CD 7.

Кони привередливые is variously translated as "Fastidious Horses" or "Capricious Horses". Here’s Vysotsky performing it live:

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