It's easy to focus on Boris' two monumentally disappointing English-language albums, but a quick review of his solo catalog provides all the evidence we need: the man is a freakish genius of modern music. Russian Album, his first post-Xamerika effort, is a New Akvarium album in all but name and has, accordingly, been re-catergoized there. Even without Russian Album, though, B.G. solo efforts are never less than interesting. With Songs of Aleksandr Vertinskiy Boris shows his mastery of the traditional Russian romance-singer mode while paying homage to one of his great musical inspirations, while B.G. Sings the Songs of Bulat Okujava does the same for the acknowledged grandmaster of the bard movement that swept the Soviet Union in the 1970's. Best of all, though, is B.G.'s interpretation of a number of traditional Russian popular songs in Little Forelock, where the essential continuity between B.G.'s ouevre and the Russian musical tradition becomes crystal-clear. (Not to mention the fact it includes the brilliant, found-nowhere-else B.G. original My New York Troubles.) Also of note—adored by some, reviled by others—is Lilith a "grown up roots rocker" album recorded in Woodstock with members of The Band in 1997. The best album in the category, though, has to be Prayer and Fasting, a stunning, acoustic solo-set recorded in San Francisco in 1998 featuring great versions of classics and a half-dozen terrific new songs that have never made it onto a studio album.
Boris being very, very solo. Romances (written by an actual guy named A. Vertinsky—not by some imaginary Boris guy named A. Vertinsky—an important figure in the chanson movement during late imperial Russia) featuring Boris' voice and his extremely spare guitar. Lovely. Dzhon disagrees in no uncertain terms.
Mostly vocals, guitar and accordion on versions of traditional Russian songs. According to the liner notes, these are songs to listen to as you sit around a round table with friends and drink drink drink. Do as instructed. Listen with friends. Love it with friends. With or without booze, you'll get drunk and your older Russian friends will get all misty… then they'll get confused for a bit as, on the album's one original song, Boris sings of "My New York Troubles," which mostly involves lots of drugs. But that song's far enough into the album that you can probably contrive a toast to distract anyone who might be offended, so fire away.
Boris, bravely climbing back on that bucking bronco, hazards the whole record-an-album-in-America scenario once again, this time enlisting the aid of 60s refugees The Band. The upshot is no Kenny-Kortorted debacle, but neither is it BG's most inspired outing.
Taken from an acoustic BG concert in San Francisco's "Last Day Saloon" on August 9, 1998, this formerly "Internet-only" album (posted on Planet Aquarium among other places) has at last been released as a two disc set for the greater glory of the Net-less proletariat. If you're reading this, however, you have a computer...so what the heck are you waiting for? Download this puppy now!
"Bez Slov was an uncontrollable urge to compose some electronic music without knowing anything about keyboards or recording." So says BG. And we say...
Boris's renditions of some of his English language favorites and influences. A seredipitous pleasure.