The sound of Communism is not something that most of us are accustomed to, yet the emotional marches of the Soviet Army Chorus is enough to encompass at least in a delusional manner, the grandeur of what living in the USSR might have been like.
Drums, epic trumpets, and most importantly the low voices of comrades make this record perhaps one the best acquisitions out of the dollar bin at my local record store in a long time. It wasn’t the catchy front cover that caught my eye, rather the tagline under the title on the back:
“A panorama of Russian melody from folk songs to the age of the cosmonauts.” The back continued with the intriguing line: “Good music always reflects reality as mirrored by the human soul- a wealth of emotions, moods and ideas…”
That enough should warm the hearts of any collectivist. Yet, I am not any such thing, nor do I have some asinine delusional belief that life in the USSR was great, or that its perverted Socialism was feasible. No. Yet, the music I can relate to. The emotions, the history, the people, and voices behind it is what makes it so endearing.
It is unlike most records of its kind a sincere look at the folk music of a people who have gone through a lot of hardship, unthinkable sacrifices during the Second World War, and even horrible circumstances under despotism.
Recorded in 1953, 1964 and then finally compiled in the 1980s by USSR Melodiya, it is obvious that these songs which range from tunes from hundreds of years ago, to modern Socialist battle hymns, were sung in the high-time of the USSR under Khrushchev and Brezhnev- a time where the utopian lies of Socialist “comradery” were neatly celebrated every year on Revolution Day, in the Kremlin Square.
The Soviet Chorus Band, also known as the Alexandrov Ensemble named after its original creator in 1929, has played a substantial role in the diffusion of proto-Soviet, and USSR culture throughout the entire nation, but also around the world. After all this is an Angel recording, and printed in Holywood, L.A.
Despite the ideological differences I , and most of you probably hold, it is hard not to feel what this propaganda-record was meant to make me feel- some sort of love for the people, the proletariat, the common worker. At the end, not really, but hey the epic-sounding hymns get me riled up.
Milad Doroudian, a writer, historian and an avid vinyl collector lives in Vancouver, B.C.