Curved Air 2018
If now you desire it look and see: rare live recording from the most phantastic period of a group who defied definition.
Strange as it is, for all their vintage and vitality CURVED AIR have been severely underserved on the live albums front – whether official or bootleg one – and that’s why it’s difficult to underestimate the value of this historical document from the early period of their trip. Recorded in Germany, during a recurring event which started a year earlier and would see the greasy elite descend on the banks of the Rhine in 1972, the good-quality tape is unique in terms of not only looseness but also set list: short in numbers yet long time-wise, and unlike the rest of the ensemble’s concerts from that era. Based around the recently released “Phantasmagoria” which would propel the group to glory, there’s a lot of improv on display – and if the band weren’t prepared to some on-stage issues, they unleashed a sonic assault vigorous enough to get on top of the situation and render such deficiencies part of the performance.
This is how “No-Guitar Blues” came to be, with a titular instrument out of order and the artists making up for that by weaving folk reel around progressive jive to get a solid groove going between Florian Pilkington-Miksa’s drums and Darryl Way’s violin, and feed it, when Mike Wedgwood’s bass has been thrown in, into the vertiginous medley of “Everdance,” “Cheetah” and “Vivaldi” – the boiling cauldron which is heated again, madly so, at the end of the show. There, the latter piece will emerge from under “The Germersheim Jam” adding to the finale’s intensity and span that doubles the duration of the entire concert. As Sonja Krtisina changes her persona’s mood from electric rage of “Phantasmagoria” to acoustic worry of “Melinda (More Or Less)” which should contrast the backseat-sort of vocal lines on “Over And Above” – a vehicle for the instrumentalists to flex their fusion muscle and let Francis Monkman’s funky six strings shine – the overall dynamics change, too.
So, perhaps, it was to avoid landing on anticlimax that the quintet engaged in the extended interplay for an encore, quoting familiar themes yet taking them, vid vaudeville licks, to the Great Unknown. Raw in places, but delicious, this record is a testament to CURVED AIR’s ability to go for the jugular and kiss it instead of ripping out.