Drums, New York

BILLED AS RUSSIA’S top rock’n’roll band, Avtograf (spelled so as not to conflict with RCA’s Autograph) can hardly be musically groundbreaking to U.S. ears — especially coming out of a society that is only now openly embracing Western rock forms. But taken for what it is, Avtograf’s rock really isn't so bad.

At this Jan. 26 gig (Avtograf's second U.S. date), the group offered bright-sounding hard pop songs, formulaic by domestic standards, but at the same time suitable for the average playlist. Lead vocalist Arthur Berkut sang in the high, confident metallic style of the Scorpions’ Klaus Meine, while the rest of the quintet played capably behind.

The show, which included several songs in English, was best when it stayed pop-iest. Harder rock turns, led by Alexander Sitkovetskiy’s lead guitar breaks, were less effective. The one unusual touch came when the conservatory-trained bassist brought out a bassoon to perform opposite Berkut.

Most of the songs were peace themed, including the closer, the glasnost anthem "The World Inside," on which Berkut was joined by American songstress (and opening act) Meri D. They made a nice couple, and earned Avtograf genuine applause.


February 13, 1988
Billboard Newspaper, Vol. 100, No. 7