Russia : Russia
(Warner Bros. - 1980)
Category : overlooked
An obscure album. An obscure band. I found this one in a bargain bin (think it set me back about 2,5 Euro). They're no Russians, though. It's a five-piece Melodic Rock band from Seattle. They released just this one album because the band didn't seem to get anywhere. Part of their problem lay in their band name as the American public was convinced they were communists (which was not the case. But even if they were, so what?). One year later they changed their name to Force 10 (*), and released another album under that name (again on Warner Bros.). The style on 'Force 10' is a bit more plain, but you can still hear it's the same band.
So, let's talk about 'Russia' now. What makes this album so much fun is the upbeat nature of the songs and the abundant vocal harmonies that make them sound like a playful version of Styx.
There are ten songs on the album. A few filler tracks are present but most of it is good, and the following four are really quite excellent.
'Fight Back' is probably the album's best song and it's a real treat that'll bring a smile to your face. The undertone is humorous with its funny guitar riff, that Russian choir in the middle and all the silly background noises (barking dogs, etc...). But it's not just fun, it's also very good. The guitar riff gives it a unique character, but so does Griff Stevens' instantly recognisable voice and the chorus with its strong vocal harmonies, that are unlike those of other bands that make abundant use of them. 'Fight Back' is packed with personality. You're not likely to find a similar sounding song pretty soon.
'Who do you think you are?' is just as strong. It's a melodic Pop & Rock song, mixed with some Hard Rock. Again the vocal harmonies take centerl stage and turn the song into something special.
The melodic Rocker 'Gotta Get Away' lacks the harmonies, but that doesn't make it any less interesting. The screamed chorus sounds like it's lifted from a lost Cheap Trick album.
'Outer Space Seeds' is the albums's most Progressive cut as it goes from theme to theme and from mood to mood. It has an instrumental part with a clarinet and rubber duck noises (and with a guitar solo of course).
Russia doesn't really sound like any other band, but it may be something for you if you're a into bands as varied as Supertramp, Cheap Trick, Styx, Jellyfish, Queen or the British Mr.Big (not the American one), as long as you keep in mind that Russia gives the impression of not taking themselves seriously all the time.
Griff Stevens' Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/griffstevens. You can download some of his new work there. It's different from Russia, but for the most part classy material nonetheless.
(* note : there is a Scottish band called Force 10 as well. Different band. Different style.)