From: Gaylord, MI, USA
The only great song to come out of WW2 was "Lili Marlene" - the rest of the really good ones are all World War I vintage. I tend to separate the Rah, Rah! type - Panzer Lied - songs from true ballads, which qualifies Lili Marlene. Believe the Cossack songs referred to date from at the latest the Russian Civil War and probably earlier - Cossacks have been around for a long time. THey didn't start singing just for WW2.
For a slam bang chorus, band and absolutely fine soloists (tenor is operatic caliber), the Red Army Chorus and Band are difficult to equal, let alone exceed. Long ago I transferred their second volume, off an Angel LP to cassette tape, shortly it will be transferred to a Sony Mini-Disc. Tapes can and do wear out, especially the commercial cassette releases from the "bargain" category. I have several out of the hundreds in my collection which simply stopped playing - jammed solid. Good blank tapes, Maxell, TDK, BASF, Sony, et al, are much better quality, I have some of those from fifteen years ago in fine condition despite winter storage in an unheated garage.
Unfortunately the precise collection of material on the Red Army Ensemblel Vol. 2 is no longer available and from what I see and hear I think most of what has appeared in later CD collections are remakes. For sheer galvanic energy I have never heard anything like it the LP. The numbers are:
Courageous Don Cossacks
Beautiful Moonlit NIght
Ah! Lovely NIght
A Birch Tree Grows .. (same tune used by Tchaikovsky in his 4th Symphony)
Song of the Plains
Zaparozhtsi Dance - freely translated as "General Dance' - if you need to break a lease, this is the number that will do it.
Snicker over the inclusion of Annie Laurie if you want, but the Red Army Ensemble demonstrates there is better music in many songs than we tend to hear; this one features the above mentioned tenor and a beautifully hushed chorus. Caruso singing "Over There" is another good example, its a lot better song than I realized before hearing Caruso do it.
I think the first Red Army volume included "Ode to a Machine Gun", from the civil war of course. In any event, Zaparozhtsi has to be heard to be believed. Ukranian Poem gets to sounding like a chorus from Tannhauser about half way through, a very powerful number.
The Red Army Ensemble toured the US for the first time about thirty years ago to packed houses and very enthusiastic audiences. Somewhere there is a video tape of one of their dance numbers that is unlike anything most of us have seen.
"For Those That Fought For It, Freedom Has a Taste And A Meaning The Protected Will Never Know. " -
From the 101st Airborne Division Association Website