Until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t heard of Troyka. And I wasn’t sure what to expect when I popped in the CD of their 1970 self-titled album. What I heard was a strange and kind of fantastic album. It has elements of early hard rock, particularly in tracks like “Natural” and “Rolling Down The Back Road,” but also bits of folk and funk. Several of the tracks are instrumentals, and those are among my favorites.Yes, it's truly unlike any other album.
Troyka was a Canadian band, a rock trio composed of Mike Richards on lead vocals, drums and percussion; Robert Edwards on guitar, mandolin and vocals; and Ron Lukawitski on bass, bongos and vocals. The band’s name comes from the Russian word “troika” meaning “a group of three.” The name of the band is featured in the title of four of the original album’s thirteen tracks.
The CD includes one bonus track, a previously unreleased tune. The liner notes for this CD release are adapted from an article by Doug Sheppard that originally appeared in an issue of Ugly Things in 2009.
The album opens with “Introduction,” sounding like a bizarre eastern European folk tune with (something like) monks chanting over it. This is short, just over thirty seconds. (There are three other tracks that are all around thirty seconds in length – “Troyka Lament,” “Troyka Solo” and “Troyka Finale.”) The CD then kicks in with “Natural,” a hard rock song. The vocals sound like low gruff growls, clearly not meant to be taken all that seriously. After all, it sounds like a creepy derelict luring a woman “down by the river” and promising her, “I’m going to make you a star.” If she believes him, she has no one to blame but herself for whatever happens next. The tempo picks up briefly, and then the song falls into chaos.
That’s followed by a pretty and interesting instrumental track titled “Early Morning.” There are different sections to this song, and it becomes truly delightful at a certain point. This is one of my favorite tracks. “Early Morning” is followed by another instrumental track, “Life’s O.K.,” this one a fun and kind of funky rock number. It has some deliberately messy-sounding drumming that sort of throws you off. After that, it does get into an interesting jam, dominated by guitar.
“Rub-A-Dub-Dub Troyka In A Tub”
“Rub-A-Dub-Dub Troyka In A Tub” is absolutely absurd, and totally awesome. It begins as a fast-paced rock song. It’s when the vocals come in that the song really becomes interesting (and silly). I absolutely love this track, even before they begin singing the title line, “Rub-a-dub-dub, Troyka in a tub.” There aren’t a whole lot of lyrics to this one, but they sing lines like, “Go to hell, you’re a bunch of bloody fools” and “Don’t try to protect us from ourselves,” which I totally appreciate.
The gruff vocals return on “Rolling Down The Back Road,” a steady hard rock tune. This track doesn’t do much for me until the hard rock jam, which has a great energy. More fun is “Berry Picking,” with its cool, insistent rhythm and funky attitude. And then “Dear Margaret (Malgosia)” has a wonderful, sweet vibe to it.
“Beautiful Pink Eyes”
“Go East Young Man/Beautiful Pink Eyes” is another fun jam. It’s basically a rock instrumental, until the very end, when there is one line sung. Apparently the actual title is simply “Beautiful Pink Eyes,” but, according to the liner notes, the title of an unreleased song became attached to it when it was issued. Anyway, I totally dig this track. It has a cool short section with just bass and drums. And a moment after that brings strongly to mind some of the work of Phish (You’ll know it when you hear it).
This CD contains one previously unreleased bonus track, “The Wedding Song,” an odd, at times haunting, at times celebratory, tune with a certain psychedelic vibe. Partway through, there is a change, featuring fast handclaps and a dark folksy eastern European feel.
CD Track List
- Early Morning
- Life’s O.K.
- Burning Of The Witch
- Rub-A-Dub-Dub Troyka In A Tub
- Troyka Lament
- Troyka Solo
- Rolling Down The Back Road
- Berry Picking
- Dear Margaret (Malgosia)
- Go East Young Man/Beautiful Pink Eyes
- Troyka Finale
- The Wedding Song
Troyka is scheduled to be released on February 4, 2014 through Real Gone Music.