Curved Air 2017
In the air tonight, Acid Folk Queen rounds up her jewels for more or less comprehensive outlook of a criminally obscure career.
Compositions by Carl Orff and Lemmy may seem unlikely bedfellows, and it takes a particular artist to tie pieces so disparate into a common context, but Sonja Kristina has been embracing diversity for five decades now. Known mostly for her work with CURVED AIR whom the chanteuse fronts to this day, there’s always a surprise up her fringed sleeve, although the inclusion of only one number from Kristina’s band – 1973’s defiant “Lovechild” off an album of the same name that signaled the finale of the ensemble’s first lifespan – would hardly be surprising, as Sonja’s personal perspective is quite different from collective agenda. Feisty, yet often perceived as traditionalist, she indeed became a modern musical movement figurehead when “Songs From The Acid Folk” saw the singer return to active recording in 1991 with a fresh spin on her earlier tracks, such as the delicate “Melinda (More Or Less)” which, imagined anew as a gypsy-kissed dance, is included onto “Anthology”: a collection of cuts from various stages of Kristina’s career reflecting her talents as both writer and performer.
Still, Sonja’s excursion into the past starts in the present, with a take on “Frank Mills” – a piece of “Hair” that she excelled in before joining the aforementioned group and after they fell apart – laid down in 2017, together with a tremulous version of Greg Lake‘s “C’est La Vie” where erstwhile songs of innocence inform current songs of experience. Kristina’s affinity for show tunes also obvious on the smoldering expanse of “The Passion” from the “Excalibur IV” rock opera and the new-wave-spiked “Rollercoaster” from her self-titled solo debut. That eponymous LP, out in 1980, revealed a remodeled Sonja, emboldened and independent, a dry anthem “Full Time Woman” pumping “All The Young Dudes” panache via its veins. Yet there’s timeless, ancient pining in “If This Was Love” as well to reveal the depth of the artist’s vocals and her control of the voice, and a very contemporary vigor in the scintillating “Angel” which the veteran released on 1995’s “Harmonics Of Love” with her CLOUD 10 combo.
But it’s the same energy Kristina originally demonstrated on the likes of “Marie Antoinette” that’s on display in the punchy charge of “Street Run” and in the latter-day acoustic gem “Devil May Care” whose heathen swirl and bewitching groove let Sonja’s delivery be as playful as it is profound, and her storytelling on the exquisite “Buccaneer” is as arresting. When she and Darryl Way tap into eternity with the pulsing bombast of “O Fortuna” from “Carmina Burana” and when she shapes a heartfelt ballad out of MOTORHEAD’s “I Don’t Believe A Word” – replacing its throb with an unplugged strum – they acquire another, unexpected continuum. It may shrink for “Citadel” to make the finale of this marvelous collection, yet it’s there that the lovely lady would reach screaming for the comfort of the day-glow; it’s the dreams Sonja Kristina is instilling into our world to make existence brighter. “Anthology” is but a gateway into her fairy fortress.