Even on the oldies stations, you never hear Al Stewart any more. In my youth he was a pretty big deal though, and had mega-hits with Year of the Cat and Time Passages. Roads to Moscow wasn’t a big hit but it was always my fave among his songs. I listened to it again the other night for the first time in years, and I was moved again by its story, and by its melodic grace.
Al’s always been a bit (to use a British word) naff; goofy-looking, yucking it up, not much of a voice, not rehearsing much. But boy, some of those songs can get their hooks into you.
Roads to Moscow is a pretty straightforward end-to-end narration of the Second World War from the point of view of an ordinary Soviet infantryman, from being overrun in Operation Barbarossa to marching inexorably on Berlin. I think it’s reasonably historically accurate. I’ll sample a few lines:
And the 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
Go and read the whole story; it’s not long. It has a sad ending; most war stories do, but especially this one.