“Roads to Moscow” by Al Stewart

Song of the Day

September 23, 2017

Written by Al Stewart
Produced by John Anthony
Recorded at Trident Studios, London, April 1973
Released on the album Past, Present and Future in October 1973

“Roads to Moscow” is an extended folk/rock song by Al Stewart, which paints a vivid picture of several events late in World war II as told from the perspective of a Russian soldier. Each verse of the song covers a different story on the journey of this soldier, ending with a twist as the hero is nonetheless sent to the Gulag after his victorious return to Russia.

Al Stewart

This haunting and mesmerizing tune uses minimal music arrangement, using just a pair on acoustic guitars through most of the the song to complement Stewart’s storytelling vocal expressions, with other rhythmic, orchestral and a chorus elements startegically added at parts. Stewart claimed that these potent, poetic lyrics were the result of reading about 40 books on the subject.

Listen to “Roads to Moscow”:

Song Lyrics

They crossed over the border, the hour before dawn
Moving in lines through the day
Most of our planes were destroyed on the ground where they lay
Waiting for orders we held in the wood
Word from the front never came
By evening the sound of the gunfire was miles away
Ah, softly we move through the shadows, slip away through the trees
Crossing their lines in the mists in the fields on our hands and on our knees

And all that I ever 1as able to see
The fire in the air glowing red, silhouetting the smoke on the breeze

All summer they drove us back through the Ukraine
Smolensk and Viasma soon fell
By autumn we stood with our backs to the town of Orel
Closer and closer to Moscow they come
Riding the wind like a bell
General Guderian stands at the crest of the hill
Winter brought with her the rains, oceans of mud filled the roads
Gluing the tracks of their tanks to the ground while the sky filled with snow

And all that I ever was able to see
The fire in the air glowing red, silhouetting the snow on the breeze

In the footsteps of Napoleon the shadow figures stagger through the winter
Falling back before the gates of Moscow, standing in the wings like an avenger
And far away behind their lines the partisans are stirring in the forest
Coming unexpectedly upon their outposts, growing like a promise
You’ll never know, you’ll never know which way to turn, which way to look you’ll never see us
As we’re stealing through the blackness of the night, uou’ll never know, you’ll never hear us

And the evening sings in a voice of amber, the dawn is surely coming
The morning roads lead 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
It’s been almost four years that I’ve carried a gun
At home it will almost be spring
The flames of the Tigers are lighting the road to Berlin
Ah, quickly we move through the ruins that bow to the ground
The old men and children they send out to face us, they can’t slow us down

And all that I ever was able to see
The eyes of the city are opening now it’s the end of the dream

I’m coming home, I’m coming home, now you can taste it in the wind, the war is over
And I listen to the clicking of the train-wheels as we roll across the border
And now they ask me of the time that I was caught behind their lines and taken prisoner
“They only held me for a day, a lucky break, ” I say they turn and listen closer
I’ll never know, I’ll never know why I was taken from the line and all the others
To board a special train and journey deep into the heart of holy Russia

And it’s cold and damp in the transit camp, and the air is still and sullen
And the pale sun of October whispers the snow will soon be coming
And I wonder when I’ll be home again and the morning answers “Never”
And the evening sighs, and the steely Russian skies go on forever

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