Check out this article about the booming genre of Russian pop music inspired by crime, prison, and gulags -- perhaps a Russian version of "gangsta rap." The article calls Vladimir Vysotsky, who died in 1980, the "godfather" of this genre. A previous post of mine on Vysotsky is here. Hat tip: Todd Seavey.
On my recent post on Russian chanson, commenter M writes: "And it's terrible- even worse than generic Russian pop, which in turn is worse than generic American pop. (There are many very good Russian musicians and bands, but this stuff is just amazingly awful.)"
I'm going to Moscow in a couple of weeks. In light of the dual observation in commenter M's parenthetical, what music should I get? Like Eugene, I like Okudzhava very much (see, e.g., Eugene's posts here, here, here, and here). Vysotsky is not bad, but I find him somewhat hard to understand (in a literal sense). While I was in St. Petersburg last year, a store clerk recommended Yuri Vizbor, which was a good choice. I also enjoy Alexander Vertinsky, as well as the Russian romansy.
What else should I try? You don't have to recommend "bards"; Russian pop or rock might also be acceptable, but this is iffier, given what I understand of Russian pop music standards.