The Ziggurat of Babylon Initiate

The first tier of the Ziggurat of Babylon. There are many paths before you as you begin your journey: seas of tranquility, rivers of meaning, mountains of promise. Initiate albums are characterized by their accessibility and sheer, incontestable genius: they are the ones that first showed the Bodhisattvas the error of their worldly Western ways and led them into the idyllic contemplative life they now enjoy. Open your mouth wide and say “Aum.”

1982 Buddha 0435a904765ab989fafb9ce7dd38f45dbb8c3259b1b4a4f12ff06aedf3f99b4f
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If you have to memorize one album… and I don't just mean one Akvarium album.

1983 Buddha 0435a904765ab989fafb9ce7dd38f45dbb8c3259b1b4a4f12ff06aedf3f99b4f
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Worshipful. My first fave. You have to listen through the very occasionally problematic synthesizer (obviously a new acquisition for the boys in 1983) but it's a work of true genius. The "Pet Sounds/Sgt. Pepper" of Russian Rock, Radio Africa sets the "no shift in mode, tone or pattern of imitation is forbidden" precedent that has ruled the best Russian bands and defined the genius of Russian rock ever since. Chuki chuki, banana pukhi.

1984 Buddha 0435a904765ab989fafb9ce7dd38f45dbb8c3259b1b4a4f12ff06aedf3f99b4f
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A masterpiece, much underrated by those who have not yet attained the Akvarium fan equivalent of Buddhahood. Begins with Boris & his acoustic guitar, adds flute, bass, drums, then shuffles down the road on a guitar/cello riff before vibrating into new territory. It pulsates, it grinds, it throbs, it sings its glories into the faces of the assembled masses.

1987
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"True story" may be taking it a tad far, but this is a must-have for the non-Russian fan of Russian rock. Artem Troitsky's story of the glory days, when Akvarium was obscene and every rock concert was a youth talent show, is full of wonderful first-hand stories…if you don't mind hearing waaay too much about Troitsky's role, Troitsky's opinions, and all things Troitsky.

1992 Buddha 0435a904765ab989fafb9ce7dd38f45dbb8c3259b1b4a4f12ff06aedf3f99b4f
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Beautiful. Fundamental. This is arguably the single greatest Akvarium album and it is definitely among the greatest rock albums. After his one and a half foreign solo albums, B.G. toured with "The B.G. Band," recording two albums under that name before renaming the band Akvarium. This piece of genius is the first of those recordings. My theory is that it marks Boris' recovery from a bad spate of bewilderment and disillusionment after he got out of the crumbling USSR into the wasteland of late '80s England/America under the influence of record company folks and his own longstanding ideas of what it means to be a rock star in the West. With Russian Album he takes his own advice (circa Acoustics) and grabs hold of his roots.

1993
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Live from the "soon to be Akvarium but not yet renamed" period. There is a second title right under the "Letters…," but it's in such a wacky stylized font that the venue of the concert baffled the Bodhisattvas for years until Dzhon the Dzhorneyman got fall-down drunk there on Christmas Eve, 1999. "It says Concert in Vyatka," he groans, "which is the old name for the city of Kirov. But almost nobody besides BG calls it that. It's the only city in Russia where the residents actually voted to retain the Soviet name rather than revert to the historical Russian one. You have to love it just for that."

1993
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14

Paperback from "Experience" press, this is the proselytizer's little helper. Take it with you when you march out to the market to harrangue The Masses. It has many flaws, among them its lack of an index-by-title and the fact that it ends with Russian Album. Despite these shortcomings, no Akvarium fanatic should be without this book. It has pictures of the album covers, weighs less than B.G.: Songs, and it has an indestructible binding.

1994
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Ooh-la-la. Zis is zee French Collection, released orignally only Zere. Tracks are all "New Akvarium," drawn primarily from Russian Album, Kostroma, mon amour and Ramses IV, with a cognac-snifter's worth of Vertinskii covers thrown in to boot. Maik sez "Vive la France! Beantown, mon amour!" and declares it the best of the available "collection" albums. "Magnifique! Auguste!" seconds Elizaveta, buttering her croissant...

1995 Buddha 0435a904765ab989fafb9ce7dd38f45dbb8c3259b1b4a4f12ff06aedf3f99b4f
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Sails oceans of musical influence, from the accordion horn-pipe of "Little Blue Light" to the C&W wah-wah of "Garçon №2" and back again by way of harps, saxes, mandolins, flutes, harmonicas and blues guitars, triumphing in every port of call. Thematically and stylistically linked to Russian Album but more wide-ranging and ironic in it's approach, it's a journey of personal and political disillusionment. All misery, though, should sound so good, and after the aforementioned this is the essential Akvarium production of the '90s. Bon Voyage!

1997
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Hardback from ЛЕАН. Very nice looking. Comes with a fold-it-yourself cover featuring older, dignified Boris, a good table of contents by album or by song, and Boris's notes about every album through Snow Lion.

1997
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A "best-of" cd. Pick up a pile of them to give away as gifts for friends back home when you travel to Russia. Perhaps a more humane proselytizing tool than Acoustics for people who wont have an opportunity to buy scads of Akvarium—no mortal can listen to this disc and not think Akvarium is brilliant.

1997 Buddha 0435a904765ab989fafb9ce7dd38f45dbb8c3259b1b4a4f12ff06aedf3f99b4f
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The live album to accompany the 25 History video. Angrily hurling thunderbolts at my Mandala, Dzhon says "It has great sound quality as far as I'm concerned, and unlike a lot of their live stuff includes crowd noise and BG saying things like 'Ох, любим мы вас!' It also includes some genius songs—"Minus 30," "Pigs in the Ears Blues"—that are otherwise difficult to come by." Note the heavy-duty marketing on this: film, CD, multimedia CD-ROM. Yet still no traditional rock paraphernalia (see our Wish List).

1998
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Part of the "Legends of Russian Rock" series." Whoever's picking the best obviously aren't Gurus, but for all that, the collection's not half bad. This series is also a good development if only because one of the series' marketing gimmick tie-ins is notebooks for schoolchildren (see Wish List) featuring bands that appear in the series. This is a good trend, of course, because it means that there may be advanced youngsters doodling on Art's "Dyk yoly paly" t-shirt, or drawing "Taboo" hair on Boris when they're bored in class. If these notebooks didn't exist, they'd be on our wish list. Everyone shout, "More Akvarium stuff geared toward the youth!"

1999
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Gigundo, 3 disc collection of 56 songs that spans nearly 25 years of Akvariumana.

1999
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Still more selected songs from Original Akvarium albums, including: Blue Album, Triangle, Electricity, Taboo, Acoustics, Radio Africa, and Equinox.

1999
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Selected songs from early Akvarium albums: Triangle, Acoustics, Electricity, Taboo, Silver Day, December's Children, and Ten Arrows.

2000
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Yup. You guessed it. Yet another friggin' complilation. Songs chosen from Radio Africa, Blue Album, Electricity, Taboo, Acoustics, Equinox, Radio Silence, and Favorite Songs of Ramses IV.

2012
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Do you need to study the secret history? Nikrond sticks his head in the hive and comes out to share his bee-stung visions.