Though not Russian nor gypsy, Theodore Bikel's renditions of traditional Russian gypsy songs are done with all the enthusiasm and spirit one would expect from the prolific performer. Backed by balalaika, accordion, violin, bass balalaika, and guitar, Bikel brings out the mystery and adventurous qualities of this vibrant music. Though Russian gypsy music might seem a little unpredictable to Western ears, as most songs progress through slow pensive passages only to swell with emotion and explode into heavy, hard-driving endings, the raw visceral energy of the music quickly becomes infectious. No doubt, the level of authenticity is not to be questioned, with Sasha Polinoff providing two balalaika instrumentals that feature virtuosity which brings to mind that of the great bluegrass mandolinists. So, even if you don't speak a word of Russian (the original packaging included fully translated lyrics), these wonderful songs have the timeless quality that marks all great folk songs and should be a welcome addition to any fan of the genre.
AllMusic Review by Matt Fink