Now, I do not confess to have the greatest knowledge about the progressive rock music of the 70’s. Still I do like listening to the classics whenever they play on the radio or when a friend plays a song. And the influence and impact it had on the music timeline is undeniable, and as far as I know, almost every country that got in contact with the American super groups tried for themselves to emulate the style, with some more successful results than others. The countries that were behind the Iron Curtain of the time had a bit more trouble to try their hands on this new music genre. Still, there were the bands that somehow got a green light to record and release an album, influenced by the “capitalist super groups”, and ივერია(Iveria) was one of those bands!
ივერია was formed sometime 1968 in Soviet occupied Georgia, but didn’t release their first EP until 1974. Their first full length album, named after themselves and the after the old archaic name of the same region of today’s Georgia, was released in 1975, but may have been recorded sometime in the two years before. Released in the mid 70’s, it came during a upswing of Georgian music to become more interesting and more nuanced than before. Many different Georgian funk/jazz/pop/rock bands released more challenging music to the ire of the Soviet regime, which started to take a stronger control over the music. The album was also reprinted in ’77 with a different cover and under a new catalog number, to the confusion of record collectors, I am however glad it was released at all.
ივერია is a very upbeat and energetic album with lots of fun melodies and a sort of feeling of “aliveness”, noticeable right from the start! Maybe from the experimental, inspired sound of progressive rock, or maybe the fact they managed to keep the songs free from explicit Soviet/Russian propaganda and instead were able to sing lovingly about their home country and their artists. As the first two songs, სიმღერა საქართველოზე(Georgian Song, ფირსომანი(Pirosmani), are a song about Georgia and one of the most famous Georgian painters Niko Pirosmani. Several tracks on the album are based on the different regions of Georgia and the different people there. The track აზიმათ(Azimat) is sung in the Abkhazian language, and ჩაგუნა(Chaguna) which is a really great folksy track and sung in the Megrelian language! Only missing a Svanetian track to make it a complete trip around Georgia. Though for some reason, Iveria features a Ukrainian song called Закохани(The Beloved), I guess they had to include at least one track in Cyrillic to please the censors or whatever. It beaks the flow of the album somewhat but it isn’t a bad track in itself.
I’d say the other biggest influence on Iveria other than the music of Georgia was Uriah Heep. They cover not one, but two Uriah Heep songs on the album, July Morning, and Sunrise. These track show how different the focus of the music is between the two bands. Iveria with their focus on the odd synth and shorter, more energetic songs, and not nearly as long guitar solos. But this was as close you could come to “hard rock” in the music scene at the time of Soviet oppression. The fact they could not get official copies of Uriah Heep’s albums, and had to listen to smuggled bootleg cassettes, show how dedicated they were, and a bit why the pronunciation is so iffy. Here’s another fun note while on the topic of covers, Iveria’s song მოგონებები(Reminiscences) was sampled by the American hip-hip/horrorcore artists Mr Hyde & Necro on the track Street Veteran, on their compilation CD Brutality Part 1. And it works quite well!
ივერია(Iveria) is one of my favorite old-school rock albums/artists from Georgia, together with ბერიკონი(Beroikoni). Their energy and marvelous melodies and vocal harmonies never fail to put me in a good mood!
Also, big thanks to RamShemqmnaAdamianad for his info on Iveria and the Georgian music scene in general! Be sure to check out his wonderful blog, ქართული მუსიკის შესახებ, which is about Georgian music, and inspired me to write these posts!
Since we took a look at how “hard” rock could be during the Soviet years, next up let’s see how “DOOMY” and “GLOOMY” they have become, and how much ENNUI they have been able to record!