As a little girl living in Moscow, I was immersed in the world of Vladimir Vysotsky’s songs. Then, twenty years ago, my family relocated to the United States. Since then, I have obtained my English degree from the University of Utah and launched my own literary career.
As a bilingual poet and writer, I have been actively translating not only Vysotsky’s work, but also the work of other Russian-speaking poets such as Sergei Esenin, Marina Tsvetaeva, Anna Akhmatova, and others. Of these, I have found Vysotsky most challenging. His multi-layered and complex language is particularly difficult to capture.
I have been following Vadim Astrakhan’s music and his translations of Vysotsky for some years now, and anticipated, with certain trepidation, the release of his new album “Two Fates”. I knew of Vadim’s desire to modernize Vysotsky’s songs. I was also acutely aware of his love for the heavy metal genre. The idea of Vysotsky’s lyrics performed to a heavy metal/hard rock accompaniment was intimidating, to say the least.
Well, I must say that Vadim managed to pull it off! Though I’m not a fan of heavy metal, I can’t help but say that the music, production and presentation of “Two Fates” is superb.
“Gypsy Blues (Tziganskaya)” has literally been given a new life, with lyrics, music and ambiance that brought it into the new century, allowing English-speaking listeners to experience the raw energy and intensity of this long-time Russian favorite.
“When the Great Flood Waters Had Subsided” was never one of my favorites as performed by Vysotsky. To my utter surprise, I found that I enjoyed Vadim’s version of this song more than I ever did the original.
Other personal favorites: “Race to the Horizon”, “Tale of the Wild Boar” and “A Merry Funeral Song” skillfully convey the original tone and implication of the songs.
At the same time, my English-speaking friends, especially those with military background, are deeply moved by “Death Convoy.” Others are amused by Vadim’s rendition of the “Why Did the Savages Eat Captain Cook.” A few professional rock climbers that I know relate well to Vadim’s version of “If Your Friend.”
Overall, the album is a resounding success. Through his daring and unique vision, Vadim Astrakhan has managed to achieve what few had considered possible: he brought the spirit of Vladimir Vysotsky’s work into the modern age and in a format that is meaningful, accessible and engaging to the present-day English-speaking audience.
Julie Deshtor, 2012