My initial enthusiasm for 25 Years was doubtless predicated in part on the fact that it was the first of what is now a very long series of Akvarium live albums that I've purchased. Which is to say I started bass-ackward, from the near-present, and have been unearthing the band's past as one might excavate the ruins of Babylon.
I suppose the question then becomes what makes this live album different from the various others available on CD? Perhaps not a whole lot. Still, it remains an excellent first live-album purchase. Here's why:
The band sounds great—tight—no flubs or bloopers—totally in synch like they've really been playing together continuously for 25 years, like the Grateful Dead, say, instead of rotating through a bewildering array of musicians and line-ups, not to mention the occasional total meltdown.
Side "M" (for Moscow, venue of one of the two anniversary concerts) is mostly Akvarium standards from From the Far Side of the Looking Glass through their mid-80s heyday. Highlights here are "September" and "Mountain Crystal"—my favorite extant versions of these two songs. I can't put my finger on precisely why I prefer this version of "September"—something about the way the keyboard comes to the foreground in the mix, taming and counterbalancing the urgent vocals and the Metallica-esque guitar. "Mountain Crystal," on the other hand, is 100% Lyapin guitar virtuosity, and is a revelation—no other version of the song even comes close.
Side "P" (for Petersburg) includes both hits and more rarely heard songs like "-30." "-30" is just about reason enough to buy the album in and of itself. It's not as wild as the version on Electricity, but (ни фига себе!) it's actually even better: churning, ferocious, love-lorn and wonderful, with a guitar solo that comes hurtling at you like a wind off the Sea of Okhotsk.
"Empty Spaces" is also probably the best live-version of that particular song, with the flute and the guitar trading licks in sublime syncopation. And again Lyapin. Love Lyapin. Пиздец. This is followed by "Pigs in the Ears Blues," an old, old song which you'll almost assuredly never hear anywhere else, and which is simply splendid—Akvarium meets The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Lastly, we also have the fast-paced Dzhon-recommended version of "She Can Move," which pulls off that rarest of live-recording feats by substantially improving on the original studio version.
There's other stuff as well, of course—old friends for the Bodhisattva and things that should damn well be old friends for everyone else. Meanwhile, raise a glass to the next 25 years.