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Autograph (Avtograf) - Autograph / Автограф CD (album) cover

AUTOGRAPH / Автограф

Autograph (Avtograf)

Crossover Prog

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Errors & Omissions Team
4 stars It's just the beginning!

Very important record in AUTOGRAPH career.

It was 1980, USSR, iron curtain, Soviet ideological machine is quite strong and still working. Most rock bands are in underground, no airplays, no TV appereances, no legal records. Only concerts, sometimes semi-legal, and, if some band was lucky to find the more or less good studio, tape records copied countless times by rock fans. But it was the year of Olympic Games - 80 in Moscow, and it became necessary to show the world that Soviet democracy is not worse, but even better, than any other democracy, that we have everything, including rock music.

Thus rock festival ''Tbilisi-80'' - one of the key events in the whole history of Soviet rock music - took place in spring 1980 in the capital of Soviet Georgia. It was called festival, but it was also a competition. AUTOGRAPH shared then second prize with another band presented on PA, GUNESH from Turkmenistan. Prize-winners were allowed to play concerts legally and even record an official EP or even LP. Let me remind you that the only one record label, ''Melodiya'', existed in former Soviet Union. The label had its own factories in most of big cities.

While in Western world the beginning of the 80's was not a finest hour for good old rock, in the USSR, due to the iron curtain, big British and American names of the 70's still had legendary status, punk and new wave were not so popular. Yes, disco was all around, ABBA and BONEY M were household names, but more or less serious young music fans wanted to listen to rock. When small ''Autograph'' EP appeared in music stores, rock fans were really shocked. It seemed unbelievable that domestic rock band, singing in Russian, can play rock according to the best world standards. No need to say, this EP helped the band a lot, AUTOGRAPH started to play not only at universities' clubs, but often at hockey arenas.

Ireland, Ulster, as it follows from its title, is a song, dedicated to political events in Ireland. Lyrics, like in most band's songs, have been written by Margarita Pushkina, well-known female rock poet till now. Memorable melody, good guitar and keyboard work and incredible speed of singing. Band's fans still wonder how Sergey Brutyan could sing so many words in such a short time.

Instrumental Fasten Seat Belts is on of the most known AUTOGRAPH tunes. Again strong guitar work by Alexander Sitkovetsky, excellent keyboards playing by Leonid Makarevitch, one of the best Soviet rock keyboardists, inventive bass lines by Leonid Gutkin and solid drumming. Unfortunately the final section was edited due to time restrictions of EP. Complete version was published on one of V/A compilations and later, in 1996, when the band did not exist, on ''Autograph - 1'' CD.

Blues 'Caprice' is, obviuosly, blues, but played by art-rock band. Great Sergey Brutyan's vocals, memorable melody, good job of all instrumentalists. Lyrics, written this time by Sitkovetsky himself, are simple and slightly erotic. One of the band's hits.

Even with these 3 songs it became clear that original rock band was born (the term ''progressive'' rarely used then in Russia, in concerts Alexander Sitkovetsky usually told that AUTOGRAPH play art-rock). Influences of 70's rock giants like YES, DEEP PURPLE and others are evident, but AUTOGRAPH have their own sound.

4 stars for this good, but short record, proving to many (including me) that good prog rock can exist in the former Soviet Union. Though you don't need to search for this EP. All its songs can be found on ''Autograph - 1'' CD (unfortunately rare item now) and, very close to original versions, on much easier to find 2005 reunion ''Jubilee Concert'' CD or DVD.

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Posted Saturday, December 20, 2008 | Review Permalink

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