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Al Stewart — Roads To Moscow
Album: Past, Present & Future
Avg rating:
7.1

Your rating:
Total ratings: 1769









Released: 1974
Length: 7:56
Plays (last 30 days): 0
They crossed over the border the hour before dawn
moving in lines through the day
Most of our planes were destroyed on the ground where they lay
Waiting for orders we held in the wood
Word from the front never came
By evening the sound of the gunfire was miles away

I softly move through the shadows, slip away through the trees
Crossing their lines in the mist in the fields on our hands and our knees

And all that i ever
Was able to see
The fire in the air, glowing red
Silhouetting the smoke on the breeze

All summer they drove us back through the Ukraine
Smolensk and Viasma soon fell
By Autumn we stood with our backs to the town of Orel
Closer and closer to Moscow they come
Riding the wind like a bell
General Guderian stands at the crest of the hill

Winter brought with the rains, oceans of mud filled the roads
Gluing the tracks of their tanks to the ground, while the skies filled with snow

And all that I ever
Was able to see
The fire in the air, glowing red
Silhouetting the snow on the breeze

(Ah, Ah , Ah) x4

(Ah, Ah, Ah) - all thru bridge
In the footsteps of Napoleon, the shadow figures stagger through the winter
Falling back before the gates of Moscow, standing in the wings like an avenger
And far away behind their lines, the partisans are stirring in the forest
Coming unexpectedly upon their outpost, growing like a promise
You'll never know, you'll never know, which way to turn, which way to look you'll never see us
As we steal into the blackness of the night you'll never know, you'll never hear us

And evening sings in a voice of amber, the dawn is surely coming
The morning road leads to Stalingrad, and the sky is softly humming

Two broken tigers on fire in the night
Flicker their souls to the wind
We wait in the lines for the final approach to begin
It's been almost four years that I've carried a gun
At home, it will alomst be spring
The flames of the tiger are lighting the road to Berlin

I quickly move through the ruins that bow to the ground
The old men and children they send out to face us, they can't slow us down

And all that I ever
Was able to see
The eyes of the city are opening
Now it's the end of a dream

(Ah. Ah, Ah) x4

(Ah, Ah, Ah) thru this section
I'm coming home, I'm coming home , now you can taste it in the wind the war is over
And I listen to the clicking of the train wheels as we roll across the border
And now they ask about the time that i was caught behind their time and taken prisoner
They only held me for a day, a lucky break i say
They turn and listen closer
I'll never know, I'll never know, why I was taken from the line with all the others
to board a special train and journey deep into the heart of holy Russia

And it's cold and damp in the transit camp and the air is still and sullen
and the pale sun of Octobe whispers the snow will soon be coming
And I wonder when, I'll be home again and the morning answers never
And the evening sighs and the steely, Russian skies go on,
forever...
Comments (370)add comment
Only Al Stewart could get away with those kinda background vocals and 1K violins. Also, for anyone interested in this strange post-WWII era in Europe/Russia and Stalin's paranoia of repatriations, it's given an odd Americanized Hollywood-agitprop anti-Communism pro-Catholicism exploration in a 1949 movie, with lots of Hollywood bigshots such as Peter Lawford and Ethel Barrymore, "The Red Danube." Weird but oddly compelling movie recently on TCM. 
 lannydevaney wrote:
This song paints the picture in my mind of what is happening.  
 

Including the emotions of the protagonist(s).

A different war of course, but it reminds me of 'All Quiet on the Western Front'. The wars seen through the eyes of the grunts on the ground. Like this song, 'All Quiet' stands the test of time documenting the horrors of war.
c.
This song paints the picture in my mind of what is happening.  
When you had to hire real voices for backing vocals. I know many bands use real singers, but this is especially eary. Like Moby said: "Don't you wonder why more people don't tour with a choir?" 
One of my all-time favorite albums and songs...my cousin turned me on to this album right after it was released. I've been an Al Stewart fan ever since. 
 martin112 wrote:
My high school radio days. This song takes me back to that little room where a few of us set the school's tone for the day! This was a favourite of both the DJ's and the students. 
 
I was introduced to this album by a college station in Memphis in the mid 70s. I still have the record. College stations are such a great resource. I listen to a couple here in Greensboro NC these days. 
 On_The_Beach wrote:
To all you young Drake fans out there, this is something that existed long ago in a land far, far away.
It's called . . . "songwriting".
 
While I'm not a Drake fan, I just can't figure out why slagging fans of a completely different genre and artist furthers your point of view.

Love this song, though.
Upped to a 9. So damn good.
My high school radio days. This song takes me back to that little room where a few of us set the school's tone for the day! This was a favourite of both the DJ's and the students. 
 gmsingh123 wrote:
As good as popular music can get.  The music, production, lyrics, storytelling, and something that is almost unique to Al—a huge understanding and appreciation of world history.  Killer use of a Moog too.  Gets a 10 from me.  Music is highly subjective, but I would suggest the ones whining this song is "too long" might want to take their ADD meds with more regularity.
 
But,but,but,but,but,but,but,but... sorry, I missed what you said.  Your post is too long.
 GeorgeMWoods wrote:
If I pushed PSD (six songs) in response to Al Stewart’s “On the Border” I wouldn’t expect to get, two songs later, his “Road to Moscow.” Got tweak that algorithm, Bill.
 
Just keep that finger limber.
 On_The_Beach wrote:

Lighten up dude!
I was just joking around.
Yeesh.
 

I did not know Al Stewart wrote a song about Operation Barbarossa.
Al rocks.
 Proclivities wrote:
Come on, man, do you really think that there are many "young Drake fans" listening here, where the average age must be at least 45?  Excellent songwriting still exists by the way; you must know that - probably not as many of these "story" type ballads as there was in the early '70s though.  Anyhow, good tune.
 
Lighten up dude!
I was just joking around.
Yeesh.
 Proclivities wrote:

Come on, man, do you really think that there are many "young Drake fans" listening here, where the average age must be at least 45?  Excellent songwriting still exists by the way; you must know that - probably not as many of these "story" type ballads as there was in the early '70s though.  Anyhow, good tune.
 
Agreed.  Not sure why OP is punching down at folks that aren't even listening here.
 Baby_M wrote:


I got the poster for my son (who thinks "Roads to Moscow" is the greatest song ever written) when I saw Mr. Stewart in concert last year.
 
Parenting, yer doin' it right...

Great poster too. Wow.
c.
{#Devil_pimp}great storytelling and yes is still zesty !
 On_The_Beach wrote:
To all you young Drake fans out there, this is something that existed long ago in a land far, far away.
It's called . . . "songwriting".
 
Come on, man, do you really think that there are many "young Drake fans" listening here, where the average age must be at least 45?  Excellent songwriting still exists by the way; you must know that - probably not as many of these "story" type ballads as there was in the early '70s though.  Anyhow, good tune.
To all you young Drake fans out there, this is something that existed long ago in a land far, far away.
It's called . . . "songwriting".
"Two broken tigers on fire in the night flicker their souls to the wind"  One of my favorite songs of all time.   Such beautiful lyrics.
So do this and The Waterboys' "Red Army Blues" have a common source?
 GeorgeMWoods wrote:
Pretentious and endless. Endlessly pretentious.
 
But enough about your song comment.
If I pushed PSD (six songs) in response to Al Stewart’s “On the Border” I wouldn’t expect to get, two songs later, his “Road to Moscow.” Got tweak that algorithm, Bill.
 fredriley wrote:

{#Clap} Stalin's paranoia knew no bounds, and he murderously crushed anyone whom he thought might possibly pose even the tiniest threat to his power, victorious soldiers included. It was his cull, literally, of the Soviet officer corps before Hitler's invasion that rendered the USSR so weak in the face of the invasion, and allowed the Nazis to advance so quickly and kill so many Russians. Even those who were ultra-loyal members of the Bolshevik party, such as Bukharin, or who'd proved themselves on the battlefield, such as General Tukhachevsky, were denounced and executed. The word "monster" doesn't even come close to describing the man, as even the most fevered imagination could not have dreamed up the horrors that he and his regime perpetrated on the Soviet peoples resulting in the deaths of tens of millions of the workers and peasants whom his regime ruled in the name of. If there is a Hell, then even the deepest circle wouldn't be enough to punish him.

 
Yet the Antifa fascists throw around Nazi accusations for anyone that doesn't hold their viewpoint and would likely find it a compliment to be called a Stalinist. Cognitive Dissonance?
 
"...and the morning answers 'never'."

I got the poster for my son (who thinks "Roads to Moscow" is the greatest song ever written) when I saw Mr. Stewart in concert last year.
A quibble with the lyrics, or the accuracy of them:


All summer they drove us back through Ukraine
Smolensk and Vyasma soon fell 
By autumn we stood with our backs to the town or Orel


But...if the lyrics are stating so, Smolensk and Vyasma are not in Ukraine. They are due west of Moscow, a few hundred miles north of the border with Ukraine. At that time, though, Ukraine was part of the USSR and not its own sovereign. (Not that is now, completely.) 
 woodchuk wrote:
I can recommend Timothy D Snyder's Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin for a heartrending description of the horror that was Eastern Europe during 1939-1945 and Tony Judt's Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 for a dense portrayal of the chaos that followed the defeat of Nazi Germany.  Should be mandatory reading for anyone contemplating today's populist mass-movement phenomenon.

And yes, it's a great song! Has the same effect on me!
glassbrain wrote:
Still gives me shivers up the spine after almost 40 years. An amazing documentary song. Read a book or two about the Eastern Front/Stalin/Iron Curtain/The Gulags if you are younger than I, who was born just after WWII and grew up with it all in post-war UK. Tragic and appalling stuff.

BTW Al Stewart's unfortunate protagonist, a loyal Russian soldier, gets sent to the gulags just because he had brief contact with Allied forces....it's true. It happened to many Russians. Paranoia and inhumanity on a massive scale from Beria and Stalin.

 

 
America's new Nazis will follow the same path as Hitler's old ones, ultimately.  It's their high water mark that worries me.  A good reason for songs like this to get some traction.
Tears! Song has turned "majestic" for me.
As good as popular music can get.  The music, production, lyrics, storytelling, and something that is almost unique to Al—a huge understanding and appreciation of world history.  Killer use of a Moog too.  Gets a 10 from me.  Music is highly subjective, but I would suggest the ones whining this song is "too long" might want to take their ADD meds with more regularity.
Just brrrrrrrrrrrr...on so many levels. If this does not give you a shiver you need to look in to it.........on so many levels.
 ziggytrix wrote:


"And I wonder when this song will end and the morning answers never"
It is long, but it's good.

 
Long isn't always bad. One of my favorite Al Stewart songs, from one of his best albums. Great story, as is "Old Admirals." A SOLID outstanding, and on point historically.
 Grammarcop wrote:
Which is longer, this or Dr. Zhivago?

 

"And I wonder when this song will end and the morning answers never"
It is long, but it's good.
Which is longer, this or Dr. Zhivago?
Outstanding storytelling from an excellent album. 
I can recommend Timothy D Snyder's Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin for a heartrending description of the horror that was Eastern Europe during 1939-1945 and Tony Judt's Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 for a dense portrayal of the chaos that followed the defeat of Nazi Germany.  Should be mandatory reading for anyone contemplating today's populist mass-movement phenomenon.

And yes, it's a great song! Has the same effect on me!
glassbrain wrote:
Still gives me shivers up the spine after almost 40 years. An amazing documentary song. Read a book or two about the Eastern Front/Stalin/Iron Curtain/The Gulags if you are younger than I, who was born just after WWII and grew up with it all in post-war UK. Tragic and appalling stuff.

BTW Al Stewart's unfortunate protagonist, a loyal Russian soldier, gets sent to the gulags just because he had brief contact with Allied forces....it's true. It happened to many Russians. Paranoia and inhumanity on a massive scale from Beria and Stalin.

 


 glassbrain wrote:
Still gives me shivers up the spine after almost 40 years. An amazing documentary song. Read a book or two about the Eastern Front/Stalin/Iron Curtain/The Gulags if you are younger than I, who was born just after WWII and grew up with it all in post-war UK. Tragic and appalling stuff.

BTW Al Stewart's unfortunate protagonist, a loyal Russian soldier, gets sent to the gulags just because he had brief contact with Allied forces....it's true. It happened to many Russians. Paranoia and inhumanity on a massive scale from Beria and Stalin.

 
No kidding, shivers up the spine for me too.
Give this one a 9, and don't want to hear it ever again... if only that would change anything.
Bravo! I've always loved this amazing and tragic genius story of Stalin's paranoia and mindless persecution; most people have no idea!
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. Albert Einstein
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins100015.html
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. Albert Einstein
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins100015.html
Onnly two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. Albert Einstein
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins100015.html


VH1 wrote:
And still people think war is proper solution for problems...nobody ever learns...

 
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. Albert Einstein
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins100015.html

And still people think war is proper solution for problems...nobody ever learns...

Some one very smart said once "War will only ever be over,if they love their children more than they hate us"! How true!
Sounds like on the border
I own this "record".  Bought it new.  This song is a great history lesson.  :)
"Roads to Moscow" is a masterpiece of story telling set to music. The horror of WW II and the character' s fate in the end being sent to Stalin's Goolag never to return like so many millions. Driving the story is Stewart's great voice that is backed by a beautiful chorus. 9
 rdo wrote:

You are a parasitic, disturbed, crazy, psycho, stalker, troll, loser, pseudo-intellectual fool....
 
Sad to see the comment board for this artful masterpiece stained with childish buffoonery. If you're going to throw names like machine gun fire at other RPers, do it privately and save us the embarrassment.
Wonderful.  Just wonderful.
 wrangler wrote:
it's still playing.  it's been days and days and days.  it goes on forever  {#Cowboy}

 

If you think that's long you should give Love Chonicles a listen which like 20 minutes -some stories take longer than others and Al is a master at telling them. Guess I'm from a generation that appreciates good lyrics and stories. 
And after all the horrors of a certain political philosophy, some still feel the Bern...
a great debut album ! would have been a great choice for the soundtrack to enemys at the gate
Found this album in 76.  Fantastic!
 4merdj wrote:
Ah ... the "Year of the Cat" guy ... that album is much better, me thinks ... {#Whisper}

 
No way - Past Present Future is by far his best IMHO
 raga wrote:
A nice (and better) following for this? Renaissance's Mother Russia...

 
THAT is also a great song...as is much of Renaissance's music :)
 
I both hate and love this song. A personal view of a horror. A fight fought and a response to it by politics that denies the effort.
 glassbrain wrote:
Still gives me shivers up the spine after almost 40 years. An amazing documentary song. Read a book or two about the Eastern Front/Stalin/Iron Curtain/The Gulags if you are younger than I, who was born just after WWII and grew up with it all in post-war UK. Tragic and appalling stuff.

BTW Al Stewart's unfortunate protagonist, a loyal Russian soldier, gets sent to the gulags just because he had brief contact with Allied forces....it's true. It happened to many Russians. Paranoia and inhumanity on a massive scale from Beria and Stalin.

 
Superb book.  "Armageddon"  by British historian Max Hastings. About the Eastern front.  Things happened that have not been reported in the Western Front. (Not much about Americans, so not as much interest here. ) Kurt Vonnegut, in "Slaughterhouse Five", wrote that Americans should thank the Russians, thank the RussiansThank the Russians for winning the war for us.  For their 25 million dead.  That'll never happen.
it's still playing.  it's been days and days and days.  it goes on forever  {#Cowboy}
 helgigermany wrote:
not. so . good. for. my. taste....

 
I can imagine.
not. so . good. for. my. taste....
A full throated chorus singing a the background...freakin cool.   
Ah ... the "Year of the Cat" guy ... that album is much better, me thinks ... {#Whisper}
A nice (and better) following for this? Renaissance's Mother Russia...
Still gives me shivers up the spine after almost 40 years. An amazing documentary song. Read a book or two about the Eastern Front/Stalin/Iron Curtain/The Gulags if you are younger than I, who was born just after WWII and grew up with it all in post-war UK. Tragic and appalling stuff.

BTW Al Stewart's unfortunate protagonist, a loyal Russian soldier, gets sent to the gulags just because he had brief contact with Allied forces....it's true. It happened to many Russians. Paranoia and inhumanity on a massive scale from Beria and Stalin.
After Trail of Dead's "Russia" and this, there can only be Kenny Ball's "Midnight in Moscow" or perhaps "Lara's Theme" from Dr. Zhivago. Or "Back in the U.S.S.R."
Surely one of the be best anti-war songs ever, if only by telling the truth... Stalin, or Steel, as his name meant, was worse than Hitler...
 sgt8986 wrote:

It is a beautiful song and a story about something other than love.  Something real and overwhelming.
 

A sad story story of a war that killed orders of magnitude more Germans and Russians than all the WWII fighting involving the western powers.  The protagonist is a Russian patriot killed by Stalin for the crime of having been taken prisoner by the Germans.  Sad, powerful, awesome and so unlike any other song.  Thank you RP.  Thank you Al.



 
{#Clap} Stalin's paranoia knew no bounds, and he murderously crushed anyone whom he thought might possibly pose even the tiniest threat to his power, victorious soldiers included. It was his cull, literally, of the Soviet officer corps before Hitler's invasion that rendered the USSR so weak in the face of the invasion, and allowed the Nazis to advance so quickly and kill so many Russians. Even those who were ultra-loyal members of the Bolshevik party, such as Bukharin, or who'd proved themselves on the battlefield, such as General Tukhachevsky, were denounced and executed. The word "monster" doesn't even come close to describing the man, as even the most fevered imagination could not have dreamed up the horrors that he and his regime perpetrated on the Soviet peoples resulting in the deaths of tens of millions of the workers and peasants whom his regime ruled in the name of. If there is a Hell, then even the deepest circle wouldn't be enough to punish him.
A truly unique and evocative song. I listened to it often in my college days. Quiet passion, awesome imagery, telling a great and terrifying tale of war and destruction. The piece is pervaded by existential loneliness. The overwhelming, staggering firepower and casualties at the Russian-German war front dwarfs anything else in human history. No, the West did not win WWII on D-Day. A huge myth. The Brits and G.I.s had it going on with massive resources, but the Russians had already just about accomplished victory, bleeding the Nazis of their lifeblood and machinery, at the loss of 25 MILLION HUMAN BEINGS: perhaps or perhaps not including China, that number is more than the combined losses of all other combatant nations. Think about that. 

Two broken Tigers on fire in the night.
Flicker their souls to the wind
We wait in the lines for the final approach to begin 


I still remember when I first heard this song in 1976.  It made quite an impact and it still sounds awesome.
Epic this way and that - utterly timeless.
Great talendet musician!
Wow, awesome piece! Just heard this for the first time. Not sure how I missed this over the years. (Guess I should have listened to A.S'.s stuff other than Year of the Cat. )
And I wonder when, I'll be home again, and the morning answers,
Never,

And  the evening sighs, and the steely Russian skies go on...
Forever. 
Hey boys.... how about taking your childish name-calling somewhere else?
 kcar wrote:

Oh yes, because actually backing up your words with evidence and/or links is such a douchey, pathetic thing to do.  {#Roflol}{#Iamwithstupid}{#Ass}

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. 

You speak your mind, rdo, that's true: but over and over again your words amount to nothing. It really is amazing how often you run away from an argument when challenged to support your assertions ("oh, you're an academic"; "I'm busy with work and don't owe you an essay"; "you're a troll", etc, etc, etc...). You are an obnoxious middle-aged child. 

Congrats on reading the dust jacket or a book review of "Armageddon." If Max Hastings makes that statement, I'd be interested to read his thoughts on the matter instead of looking at your scatterbrained remembrance of a shadow of the original notion. 

Interesting that you didn't bother to refute my assertion that you're using more than one username on RP song comment pages. That's explicitly against Bill and Rebecca's rules, btw. 

GFY.  

To everyone else: yes, love this song. I have it as an 8.  

 
You are a parasitic, disturbed, crazy, psycho, stalker, troll, loser, pseudo-intellectual fool.  I regret ever answering your original PM to me or ever wasting any of the time I spent in the debate with you on the LE song.  A debate which you lost quite badly and obviously.  Worst of all, I regret saying you wrote that rebuttal well, in order to give you some kind words of encouragement (I was merely lying, being polite).  Prior to that, I had been reading these RP comments pages for several years, and I had never even noticed "kcar", not one single comment came to mind, not one stood out in my mind — you were an absolute cipher.  Since you started stalking me, I went back and read some of your tedious and lame, poorly written comments, utterly humorless and boring.  I would ban you from this site in a heartbeat if I could.  The idea that I would "defend my views" to an idiot like you is laughable.
An epic song, worth of the tale.
 Love this song. I have it as an 8.  

I do wonder whether calling someone "a pathetic fool" and "utter douche bag" is a violation of RP board policies, but perhaps I should look up those policies on my own time and focus my comments instead on Al Stewart's unusual selection of a song subject. Western mass musc audiences likely don't give much thought to Soviet infantrymen and the struggles they went through, but Al's made a song that captures their world very well. 
 DaveInVA wrote:
I've seen (and heard) him do this live 6 times over the years.
I still think it would be nice if they'd follow this up with Renaissance's "Mother Russia". 

 
also Red Army Blues by The Waterboys
I've seen (and heard) him do this live 6 times over the years.


I still think it would be nice if they'd follow this up with Renaissance's "Mother Russia". 
Pretentious and endless. Endlessly pretentious.
It's immortal.
 mikeyrad wrote:
How literate are these lyrics?
 
I don't care:) he could be singing about fish and chips and I'd still love the music and voice
How literate are these lyrics?
One of those rare occasions where a song of the early 70s doesn't make me cringe. Just a beautiful mix of voice and music. 10{#Clap}
 LuvWilloughby wrote:

 

The amazing Peter White on guitar.
I remember hearing Al Stewart in the 1970s on WRIF in Detroit and I liked him then. He tells stories in his songs and though his voice is a bit odd, I still like him. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
 sgt8986 wrote:

I first heard this song at about 2 AM in 1978? while processing a wrecked Porsche in a dark tow yard and it was a surreal experience.  (The irony just dawned on me, as I write this, that I was sitting ("in the night") in a steaming vehicle of post WWII Germany.)  The Porsche was steaming and losing it's battery power.  I barely heard lyrics about, "Two broken Tigers on fire in the night," and was desperate to try to hear and understand the song.  I didn't know the title or artist and didn't hear the song again for at least a decade.  Hearing the song again and trying to figure out why it sounded so important and familiar was another story.  I'm sure others have had this experience with this song.  


It is a beautiful song and a story about something other than love.  Something real and overwhelming.
 

A sad story story of a war that killed orders of magnitude more Germans and Russians than all the WWII fighting involving the western powers.  The protagonist is a Russian patriot killed by Stalin for the crime of having been taken prisoner by the Germans.  Sad, powerful, awesome and so unlike any other song. 

Thank you RP.  Thank you Al.



 
Thanks seconded by the Nottingham jury, which votes a rare 10 for this moving tale.
7 for the lyrics only.
I found my comment of ten years ago. Now a favorite song of mine for almost 40 years.

gillespp
(Portland, OR)
Posted: Nov 15, 2003 - 10:00
 

This song has sent shivers down my spine ever since I understood it was ultimately about how, after WWII, the Russians exiled to the gulags -- forever -- soldiers who'd been captured for as little as a day by the Germans. 

A favorite song of mine for almost 30 years.
 kcar wrote:

I never called the rest of the war a sideshow. That was rdo, who wrote

"WWII should be renamed to The German-Russian war, the rest was a side-show." 

As I have posted elsewhere,  I am beginning to suspect that h8rhater and rdo are actually one person trying to drum up discussion on RP. The writing styles seem to be the same, although h8rhater tends to be more abusive in his/her posts.

If I'm right, that's fine--but it would be tiresome if one person were taking different sides of a discussion only for the sake of creating an argument. 

H8rhater: it's "Kesselschlacht" not "kesselschacht."  "Kesselschlacht" can be translated in this context as "battle cauldron."

If you and rdo want to debate with each other (or just yourself) whether the theaters of WWII outside of the Eastern Front were just a "sideshow" or not, keep me out of it. Maybe you could have a three-way tag team match/Mexican standoff with the respected historian Norman Davies and his contention in the Sunday Times that "Since 75%–80% of all German losses were inflicted on the eastern front it follows that the efforts of the Western allies accounted for only 20%–25%".

I think it's a fairly non-controversial matter to say that the significance of the Soviet Union's war against Nazi Germany in terms of ending WWII has long been discounted in Western histories. 

Finally, h8rhater: you claim as a side-issue that the Murmansk Run was "the single most dangerous assignment (read: highest casualty rate for troops involved) in WWII." I have no idea what the casualty rate was for that assignment. Was it the most dangerous? I guess it depends on how you define assignment and what scope you give to the battle area and troops involved. I have read, though, that at the height of the Battle of Stalingrad, the average lifespan of a Soviet infantryman in combat was not 6 months or 3 weeks but only half an hour. 

I have no further interest in discussing this matter on this thread. 


sgt8986: you wrote "The protagonist is a Russian patriot killed by Stalin for the crime of having been taken prisoner by the Germans.  Sad, powerful, awesome and so unlike any other song."

Many Soviet troops were put into prisons by the Communist Party for simply returning to Soviet-held territory after their positions were overrun by the Germans during battle. The party's fear was that these men might have been turned into traitors and so could not be trusted.




 
You are a pathetic fool...

I speak my mind...

i could be an utter douche bag like you and quote many sources, but my main source is the eminent British historian Max Hastings, who used the phrase sideshow in his book Armageddon..
 DigitalJer wrote:

I just love this comment

 
Thanks for that! 
 southcoastsounds wrote:
Al's a great songwriter, right from the earliest days at Les Cousins Club in Soho where he was resident singer back in the 60s.  Ah, dear dead days, Al, Roy Harper, John Martyn, Renbourn and Jansch, Stefan Grossman, all in a dingy cellar where greatness waited in the concert halls outside.

 
I just love this comment
I prefer the live version on Rhymes in Rooms with Peter White. However, this one is still incredible. A remarkable achievement, really.
Al's a great songwriter, right from the earliest days at Les Cousins Club in Soho where he was resident singer back in the 60s.  Ah, dear dead days, Al, Roy Harper, John Martyn, Renbourn and Jansch, Stefan Grossman, all in a dingy cellar where greatness waited in the concert halls outside.
I like the guitar work very much. I'm not too crazy about Al's voice. Has a tendency to sing sharp in various parts. Overall I like it, though.
I have LOVED this song ever since I first heard it back in the 70's....  I love the history, the imagery, the aliteration, the sound and the feel.  Easily Al Stewart's BEST song...
 
I'd like to mention that there is a superb podcast (iTunes) that covers from the run-up to the German invasion of the Soviet Union through to the taking of Berlin.  It is a real guilty pleasure.  The series is called "Dan Carlin's Hardcore History" and the four episodes are called, "The Ghosts of the Ostfront" (I thru IV).

Dan is dramatic and blunt and starts the episodes with a comment to the effect that there are no good guys in this story.   I highly recommend it.  
 h8rhater wrote:

The Soviets also lost 400,000 killed/wounded in a brief pointless war with Finland just prior to WWII while the Fins lost roughly 27,000 killed/wounded. 

The fact that they threw their troops away as a due to an incompetent officer corps resulting from the pre-war purges of Stalin does not prove that they carried the burden of the war.  In the early portions of Barbarossa the Soviets gave up men and materiel at unprecedented rates in exchange for space and time.  As the war went on, the Soviets developed much more effective leadership and their casualty rates declined.  Your citing of the Kiev kesselschacht in 1941 (and there were several such envelopments that year that resulted in similar losses to the Soviets) shows that their losses in military manpower were front loaded.

Russian tactics also tended to lend themselves to a higher casualty rates in combat.

That being said, there can be no doubt that the Russian front (with a front line extending over 2000 miles)  consumed massive amounts of Nazi resources and manpower.  Had that manpower been freed up for use elsewhere, the outcome of the war could have been quite different.  I just wouldn't go so far as to say the rest of the war was just a sideshow. 

And lets not forget that the single most dangerous assignment (read: highest casualty rate for troops involved) in WWII was that of the Merchant Marine involved in the allied Murmansk convoy run that delivered much needed supplies (especially food) that helped to keep the Soviet war machine functioning.  Through the Murmansk Run, the United States supplied the Soviet Union with 15,000 aircraft, 7,000 tanks, 350,000 tons of explosives, and 15,000,000 pairs of boots. American boots made a difference on the Eastern Front, especially during the harsh winters.
 
I never called the rest of the war a sideshow. That was rdo, who wrote

"WWII should be renamed to The German-Russian war, the rest was a side-show." 

As I have posted elsewhere,  I am beginning to suspect that h8rhater and rdo are actually one person trying to drum up discussion on RP. The writing styles seem to be the same, although h8rhater tends to be more abusive in his/her posts.

If I'm right, that's fine--but it would be tiresome if one person were taking different sides of a discussion only for the sake of creating an argument. 

H8rhater: it's "Kesselschlacht" not "kesselschacht."  "Kesselschlacht" can be translated in this context as "battle cauldron."

If you and rdo want to debate with each other (or just yourself) whether the theaters of WWII outside of the Eastern Front were just a "sideshow" or not, keep me out of it. Maybe you could have a three-way tag team match/Mexican standoff with the respected historian Norman Davies and his contention in the Sunday Times that "Since 75%–80% of all German losses were inflicted on the eastern front it follows that the efforts of the Western allies accounted for only 20%–25%".

I think it's a fairly non-controversial matter to say that the significance of the Soviet Union's war against Nazi Germany in terms of ending WWII has long been discounted in Western histories. 

Finally, h8rhater: you claim as a side-issue that the Murmansk Run was "the single most dangerous assignment (read: highest casualty rate for troops involved) in WWII." I have no idea what the casualty rate was for that assignment. Was it the most dangerous? I guess it depends on how you define assignment and what scope you give to the battle area and troops involved. I have read, though, that at the height of the Battle of Stalingrad, the average lifespan of a Soviet infantryman in combat was not 6 months or 3 weeks but only half an hour. 

I have no further interest in discussing this matter on this thread. 


sgt8986: you wrote "The protagonist is a Russian patriot killed by Stalin for the crime of having been taken prisoner by the Germans.  Sad, powerful, awesome and so unlike any other song."

Many Soviet troops were put into prisons by the Communist Party for simply returning to Soviet-held territory after their positions were overrun by the Germans during battle. The party's fear was that these men might have been turned into traitors and so could not be trusted.



I first heard this song at about 2 AM in 1978? while processing a wrecked Porsche in a dark tow yard and it was a surreal experience.  (The irony just dawned on me, as I write this, that I was sitting ("in the night") in a steaming vehicle of post WWII Germany.)  The Porsche was steaming and losing it's battery power.  I barely heard lyrics about, "Two broken Tigers on fire in the night," and was desperate to try to hear and understand the song.  I didn't know the title or artist and didn't hear the song again for at least a decade.  Hearing the song again and trying to figure out why it sounded so important and familiar was another story.  I'm sure others have had this experience with this song.  


It is a beautiful song and a story about something other than love.  Something real and overwhelming.
 

A sad story story of a war that killed orders of magnitude more Germans and Russians than all the WWII fighting involving the western powers.  The protagonist is a Russian patriot killed by Stalin for the crime of having been taken prisoner by the Germans.  Sad, powerful, awesome and so unlike any other song. 

Thank you RP.  Thank you Al.


 BLADERUNNER wrote:
As the famous general once said, War is all Hell.
 
I do not have personal experience (thank God and the timely end of the draft) but I agree with the famous general.
Shivers. Tears. Military history.  All from a pop song. Incredible. 
It would be nice if they'd follow this up with Renaissance's "Mother Russia". 
 ottojschlosser wrote:
Simply one of the best pieces of pop music ever.

 
Agreed. I haven't heard this for ages and had to stop, crank it up and sit back to enjoy. Al Stewart is just a great writer.
Hi best album
Simply one of the best pieces of pop music ever.
 h8rhater wrote:

The Soviets also lost 400,000 killed/wounded in a brief pointless war with Finland just prior to WWII while the Fins lost roughly 27,000 killed/wounded. 

The fact that they threw their troops away as a due to an incompetent officer corps resulting from the pre-war purges of Stalin does not prove that they carried the burden of the war.  In the early portions of Barbarossa the Soviets gave up men and materiel at unprecedented rates in exchange for space and time.  As the war went on, the Soviets developed much more effective leadership and their casualty rates declined.  Your citing of the Kiev kesselschacht in 1941 (and there were several such envelopments that year that resulted in similar losses to the Soviets) shows that their losses in military manpower were front loaded.

Russian tactics also tended to lend themselves to a higher casualty rates in combat.

That being said, there can be no doubt that the Russian front (with a front line extending over 2000 miles)  consumed massive amounts of Nazi resources and manpower.  Had that manpower been freed up for use elsewhere, the outcome of the war could have been quite different.  I just wouldn't go so far as to say the rest of the war was just a sideshow. 

And lets not forget that the single most dangerous assignment (read: highest casualty rate for troops involved) in WWII was that of the Merchant Marine involved in the allied Murmansk convoy run that delivered much needed supplies (especially food) that helped to keep the Soviet war machine functioning.  Through the Murmansk Run, the United States supplied the Soviet Union with 15,000 aircraft, 7,000 tanks, 350,000 tons of explosives, and 15,000,000 pairs of boots. American boots made a difference on the Eastern Front, especially during the harsh winters.
 
To paraphrase Stalin, "Yeah, your boots, our blood."
 kcar wrote:


LizK, you have it right. I have read that slightly over 80% of German casualties during WWII occurred on the Eastern Front. You cite 430,000 US deaths during WWII. The Soviets repeatedly lost 400,000 troops or more in single battles during the war, for instance near Kiev in Sept. '41. I have seen respected documentaries that put total Soviet military and civilian deaths at 27 million. 

According to Wikipedia, the US began fighting near Europe in November of '42, as part of Operation Torch, when General Eisenhower attacked Axis forces in North Africa. US troops according to Wikipedia began fighting in Europe itself in July '43, during Operation Husky, an amphibious assault on Sicily.  The main US and British assault on Nazi Germany, D-Day in Normandy, was June 6 1944, less than year before VE day (May 8, 1945). 

Fighting in the USSR began in June '41. The Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe inflicted overwhelming losses on the Soviet military but eventually suffered devastating losses of their own because of incidents such as the USSR's Operation Uranus, the Battle of Stalingrad (at least 300,000 Axis troops), and the battle of Kursk (500,000 Axis casualties and POWs). 

Finally, I point anyone still reading to footnotes 8 and 9 of the Wikipedia article on the Eastern Front. Winston Churchill and the historian Norman Davies agree in summarizing that the Eastern Front and the Soviet Union primarily caused the end of the Nazi war machine. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Front_(World_War_II)#cite_note-7



 
The Soviets also lost 400,000 killed/wounded in a brief pointless war with Finland just prior to WWII while the Fins lost roughly 27,000 killed/wounded. 

The fact that they threw their troops away as a due to an incompetent officer corps resulting from the pre-war purges of Stalin does not prove that they carried the burden of the war.  In the early portions of Barbarossa the Soviets gave up men and materiel at unprecedented rates in exchange for space and time.  As the war went on, the Soviets developed much more effective leadership and their casualty rates declined.  Your citing of the Kiev kesselschacht in 1941 (and there were several such envelopments that year that resulted in similar losses to the Soviets) shows that their losses in military manpower were front loaded.

Russian tactics also tended to lend themselves to a higher casualty rates in combat.

That being said, there can be no doubt that the Russian front (with a front line extending over 2000 miles)  consumed massive amounts of Nazi resources and manpower.  Had that manpower been freed up for use elsewhere, the outcome of the war could have been quite different.  I just wouldn't go so far as to say the rest of the war was just a sideshow. 

And lets not forget that the single most dangerous assignment (read: highest casualty rate for troops involved) in WWII was that of the Merchant Marine involved in the allied Murmansk convoy run that delivered much needed supplies (especially food) that helped to keep the Soviet war machine functioning.  Through the Murmansk Run, the United States supplied the Soviet Union with 15,000 aircraft, 7,000 tanks, 350,000 tons of explosives, and 15,000,000 pairs of boots. American boots made a difference on the Eastern Front, especially during the harsh winters.
 I liked it as well  idiot_wind wrote:
What a strange context for a song..but's it so freaking beautiful.  So it's cool.

Al needs more air play. 
 

As the famous general once said, War is all Hell.
What a strange context for a song..but's it so freaking beautiful.  So it's cool.

Al needs more air play. 

One of the most interesting things I have read about Operation Barbarossa was the fact that it totally took Stalin by surprise.  I mean total, absolute, shocking surprise.  He was even warned ahead of time via a spy from Japan.  He refused to believe the intelligence and ignored it.  For days after the invasion he was incapacitated and out of commission.  Some feared the shock had killed him.  He could not believe his pact with Hitler (the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact) had been broken.  What amazes me about this is that two people as evil as this actually trusted each other.  It's strange how Stalin never read Hitler's own very public writings about how he felt about Russians.


 WonderLizard wrote:

Sadness of all sadness. Love, joy, wit—a profound sense of what she needed to give back. I never knew her. Would have liked to.

Thanks for the link, romeo. 
 
You're welcome, friend...  miss her so much...

 
 Cynaera wrote:

After reading the other comments, I realize my own comment was totally self-involved and ignorant.  Sorry. Let's get back to politics now. Guessing the music takes a second fiddle to the actual events. Which only makes Al Stewart's music that much more powerful. His light, lispy voice decries the incredible, powerful message about which he sings. People really have to listen to his songs in order to actually hear them. I just woke up, metaphorically.

Don't underestimate that voice - it packs a serious wallop.

 
It is an intense song that one must stop all that they are doing to truly listen to what is a very sad tale. The closing lines almost too painful to hear.
Wow. That was amazing.
sigh
Great to hear this here.  The album is outstanding with a lot of historical references.  Post WW2 Blues from the same album is one of my favorites.
 kcar wrote:


LizK, you have it right. I have read that slightly over 80% of German casualties during WWII occurred on the Eastern Front. You cite 430,000 US deaths during WWII. The Soviets repeatedly lost 400,000 troops or more in single battles during the war, for instance near Kiev in Sept. '41. I have seen respected documentaries that put total Soviet military and civilian deaths at 27 million. 

According to Wikipedia, the US began fighting near Europe in November of '42, as part of Operation Torch, when General Eisenhower attacked Axis forces in North Africa. US troops according to Wikipedia began fighting in Europe itself in July '43, during Operation Husky, an amphibious assault on Sicily.  The main US and British assault on Nazi Germany, D-Day in Normandy, was June 6 1944, less than year before VE day (May 8, 1945). 

Fighting in the USSR began in June '41. The Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe inflicted overwhelming losses on the Soviet military but eventually suffered devastating losses of their own because of incidents such as the USSR's Operation Uranus, the Battle of Stalingrad (at least 300,000 Axis troops), and the battle of Kursk (500,000 Axis casualties and POWs). 

Finally, I point anyone still reading to footnotes 8 and 9 of the Wikipedia article on the Eastern Front. Winston Churchill and the historian Norman Davies agree in summarizing that the Eastern Front and the Soviet Union primarily caused the end of the Nazi war machine. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Front_(World_War_II)#cite_note-7
 

Lizk, if she or he had bothered to read just a little more, would have quickly realized that she or he was reiterating my own point.
 romeotuma wrote:

Miss you so much, Ann...

rest in peace... 
 
Sadness of all sadness. Love, joy, wit—a profound sense of what she needed to give back. I never knew her. Would have liked to.

Thanks for the link, romeo. 
 coloradojohn wrote:
One of the best stories set to music ever.  Superb job of choice and arrangement of appropriate atmospheric elements without going over the top, as well.  I must sit and devote my whole innerscape to this, every time I hear it, whether on my iPod or here at RP.  Floors me, without fail... Thanks, RP!
 
Y E S ! !  {#Music}
Probably Al's best album (at least my fav). I played this to DEATH in college.
 Cynaera wrote:
I was running a virus-scan while this song was on, and had my browser off so couldn't respond before....... But I just LOVE Al Stewart!  I love his wispy, clear voice and the way he strings the words together to make magic.  My all-time favorite song of his is still "Time Passages," but I'm hearing more of his music on RP and loving it.

He feeds my muse - NaNoWriMo is coming up (National Novel Writing Month) and if I can continue to hear wonderful music like this (and if my stupid keyboard will let me type as fast as I think!), I might sign up again. It was a harrowing, stress-filled month, and there were times when I didn't meet my self-set quota of however-many-words-a-day would net me that magic number of 50,000, but I did it last year. Of course, the story was total crap, but it was never about quality - it was about quantity. That's what makes it so much fun.

Yeah, I guess I'll do it again this year. I have a germ of a story idea, and since I'm on unemployment right now, it's the perfect time to write a novel.  Please, let Al Stewart be prevalent on the RP playlists in November, because I'll be up to my neck in writing.

I love Al Stewart. Okay, I know I already wrote that, but it bears repeating, because if I can't meet the word-quota for NaNoWriMo, I'ma blame the lack of Al Stewart. {#Lol}
 
Miss you so much, Ann...

rest in peace... 
Haunting...
 Art_Carnage wrote:
Well, this certainly goes on... and on... and on... and on... and...
  Just be glad you weren't in Moscow...