The popular, affable product of a Russian family of musicians, Oleg Frish brings together a multitude of American music legends for this unique collaboration. After gaining popularity in Russia for his work as a radio personality, Oleg Frish began making waves in the New York music scene in the early 1990’s, and it wasn’t long before kingpins like B.B. King and Donna Summer began associating with him. Ever the master of variety, Oleg Frish can sing in 24 different languages.
The 2014 release “Duets with My American Idols” brings Oleg full-circle, back to the early American music that influenced him as a kid. The songs themselves span decades of classic American hits and include cameos from greats like Tony Orlando, Bobby Rydell and Ben E. King. After an introduction from Connie Francis sets the mood, the listener is treated to the tune, “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You”, performed with Gary U.S. Bonds. Oleg is adaptable enough to mix his swooning style with Gary’s, making for a very palatable introductory first track. There does seem to be a sense that the music is a little over-produced, but Oleg does a fantastic job of staying true to the originals.
If you enjoy swing music that is bridled with simple, punchy horn accompaniment, you’ll love most of tracks on this album. There isn’t much left to be desired after hearing “On the Sunny Side of the Street” with Tony Orlando, because Oleg and Tony share such great charisma and obvious love for this genre.
Interestingly, Oleg takes a few opportunities to take on some American music hits on his own, starting with “The Things We Did Last Summer”. So, while the title of the album alludes to it being comprised solely of duets, there are tracks that are solo performances from Oleg. If you’re a purist, you might be put off by this. However, the tempo of the album keeps a fairly steady pace and you’ll probably find yourself bopping along to every track, whether it’s just Oleg or not.
For true fans of Oleg Frish, the highlight of this album will certainly be it’s final track, “Volare” with Bobby Rydell. This is because Bobby Rydell was the first real American music influence on Oleg, and the two of them do an astounding job at covering this hallmark American staple of lounge jazz.
There are moments during the album when those who haven’t heard Oleg before might raise an eyebrow because his distinct, Russian accent does sound through during certain verses. This characteristic of his singing actually grows on you – there’s also his inherent singing talent mixed with the accent, making for an interesting, crooning style of singing that sticks with you. The vocal harmonies achieved by Oleg and his duet partners are pleasant, and the piano, horns, drums and bass components tie all of the music together very nicely. Overall, the album “Duets with My American Idols” is a lively, important and culturally accurate offering from Oleg Frish.