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Georgian rocker Nash Albert has one of the year’s best albums (so far) with ‘Yet’

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Georgian rocker Nash Albert has one of the year’s best albums (so far) with ‘Yet’ (Photo by Maria Popova)

Musician Nash Albert is more than a little scared for many of his friends these days. The Georgian-born rocker, who currently resides in Moscow, says he is devastated with the news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Albert would much rather be celebrating the release of his sublime new album, “Yet,” but he’s preoccupied with the horror unfolding in his neighboring country.

“We condemn this invasion,” Albert wrote in an email update for this story. “It’s very, very sad that millions of people are hostages of someone’s crazy political ambitions.”

When I spoke with Nash Albert in early February, he was feeling confident that a peaceful resolution to the conflict wasn’t far off. Russian troops were positioned on Ukraine’s border but hadn’t yet made a move.

“I don’t think there will be a war,” Albert said then, adding “You live only once and life is too precious and too short to spend it on war.” What he said.

Nash Albert is a proud peacenik with a deep love for rock and roll. The singer, songwriter and musician just issued one of the best records I’ve heard so far this year with “Yet.” The album was realized with help from his former bandmates and a few music industry icons.

“I’ve had an amazing life and this record is the culmination of my life experience and everything that has happened to me in music,” he says, adding “It’s been a wild ride man.”

While growing up in the former Soviet Union, Albert, 54, remembers hoping and wishing he could somehow find access to rock and roll records banned by the Soviet government as a verboten symbol of western influence.

“There was no way for us to get rock records unless they were smuggled from abroad,” Albert recalls.

Nash Albert’s father was a physicist who often gave lectures in other countries. One day he came home with a surprise for 8-year-old Nash tucked away in his luggage.

“My father brought me two records: The musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and a best-of album by The Beatles. I was blown away man, I couldn’t believe it,” Albert said, adding it was the moment his future was decided.

“I didn’t know English all that well at the time but I knew all of those Beatles songs. From that moment, I knew that rock and roll was a great thing and I was going to be a rock and roller. The Beatles were the tree for me and the branches that developed from that tree are the other bands that changed my life.”

Nash assembled his first band at age 16. Salamandra was a hit on Moscow’s college circuit, Albert says, thanks to the loosening of the rules that arrived with the implementation of Perestroika. The newfound freedom brought Nash and his band to America in 1991.

“There were six of us, four musicians and two friends,” Albert says. “We had a total of $200, that’s it, man. All we knew about America was from the music we’d heard and the pictures in magazines. It looked like cool luxury.”

The reality was decidedly different. Albert recalls riding across America in a rickety van playing shows wherever they could, and the crowds could be tough. “We love America but because we were from the former Soviet Union some people called us commie-pinko punks. Still, it was an incredible time. We went deep into American rock and roll culture.”

What had been planned as a brief initial U.S. tour for Salamandra turned into a 6-year non-stop struggle for success in the U.S. for Albert. The former Soviet was often reminded that the Cold War may have been over, but things were still a little chilly in the hearts of some Americans.

A cold call to the office of Atlantic Records president Ahmet Ertegun boosted spirits all around when the label head returned the call. The industry legend, a native of Turkey (located near Georgia) was impressed that a Georgian band had the gumption to give it a shot in America.

Two tracks were recorded for Atlantic that saw some airplay on Georgian alt-rock stations, but it wasn’t the break Albert anticipated for his band.

When Albert returned to Moscow in 1996, the city had become almost unrecognizable, he remembers.

“Lots of clubs, lots of freedom, lots of music and 24/7 parties,” Albert says of the period when he put together a new band, Blast. Within two months Blast became one of Russia’s most successful indie rock bands and were ultimately dubbed “godfathers of the Russian alternative scene” by England’s NME. One of their albums was produced by Geordie Walker, guitarist for Killing Joke. Blast’s final and most successful album was produced by Killing Joke’s bassist, Martin “Youth” Glover, a producer for Paul McCartney, U2 and Crowded House.

Blast toured England for 15 years but ultimately split due to lack of proper management, Albert says, which led to his first solo album recorded in Liverpool and produced by Ian McNabb of the band Icicle Works.

In 2019, Nash received a call from one of his former Salamandra bandmates informing him that he’d just built a beautiful recording studio in the Georgian mountains and suggested Albert use it for his next record. Since the rest of Salamandra lived nearby, the album “Yet” became a full-circle record for Albert featuring contributions from every member.

“Yet” is a remarkably varied and compelling rock record with a richly produced sound. It opens with the powerfully affirming “Kill the Fear,” a track prefaced with the voice of a child before it takes a turn toward thrash and punk imbued with a Beatle-esque vibe in the verses.

“You hear us playing live in the studio on that song,” Albert says. “It’s about how fear holds people back from developing as a person,” Albert says. “People are afraid to take risks because of fear. We all have it but can overcome it.”

“Lost in Jerusalem” is one of the record’s highlights, a sweeping stunner of a song that Albert says he’s tried to record numerous times since it was written in 1994. “We’d never recorded it properly until now,” he says. “The song has never left my mind and I am so pleased with how it came out,” he says.

Nash doesn’t deliberately try to mirror his influences when it comes to songwriting but it’s clear they’ve all made a lasting impact.

“Monkey Blues” sounds almost like a long-lost Traveling Wilburys outtake. Albert even sounds a bit like Bob Dylan and he says he’s definitely a fan.

“Dylan is one of my favorite songwriters and musicians so you may hear a bit of influence,” he says.

The album’s first single “Autumn Rain” is a beautiful melancholy ballad featuring Albert’s baritone delivering a meditation on the season of change that could have graced any number of Leonard Cohen records or a late career Bowie album.

The sweetly innocent “Marabella” sounds like something Ray Davies might have written for The Kinks in the early 1970s. Purely unintentional, Albert confirms but he loves them. The song’s purity of lyrics and wistful melody could bring a tear to your eye.

“Yet” was mixed by Tim Palmer, best known for his work behind the board with David Bowie, U2 and Pearl Jam. “Tim’s contribution to this record is huge,” Albert says. “He was a great advisor and also added some guitars and keyboards.”

“Yet” was mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering in Portland, Maine.

Even though “Yet” has just been released, Albert is only three weeks away from starting sessions for its follow-up utilizing the same studio and personnel.

Albert knows his new album contains some of his life’s best work.

“I’m so pleased with the record, the sound, the songs, this one is so important to me for many reasons,” Albert says. “Listening to this record is like looking back at my life and it’s been pretty great man.”

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 March 2022 06:41

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