David Randall chatted to Sonja Kristina in May 2015 for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio for a two-part career overview. Part 2 is available here
Curved Air Records [Release date 06.10.17] 2-CD
In a review several years ago I referred to Sonja Kristina as ‘The Helen Mirren of Rock”. There are some similarities: the enigmatic aura, the theatricals and – to be frank – the sexuality.
This release is a first for Sonja – a compilation of her working life separate to her wider known success with Curved Air but several strands intermingle. For example, Robert Norton and Paul Sax with whom she performed in Acid Folk in the 1990s reappear in the latter day Curved Air line-up and Norton has coordinated two new tracks that appear in this collection. One of these is ‘Frank Mills’ a song from the Hair musical that brought her to a wider audience in 1968. (The other is the Greg Lake song ‘C’est La Vie’).
The two disc compilation is not chronological but includes her earlier solo material after Curved Air’s ascendancy had run its course by 1976. It includes half of her self-titled solo debut in 1980, with definite post-punk stylings, and most of ‘Songs From The Acid Folk’ (1991) which was a progressive/psychedelia/folk hybrid. The follow up ‘Harmonics Of Love’ (1994) erroneously referred to in the liner as ‘Cloud 10′ is also represented and points the way to her later chilled-out sorties with Marvin Ayres.
By her own admission Sonja was house-bound for much of the eighties whilst partner Stewart Copeland found world success with The Police. During that period she recorded a version of Carl Orff’s ‘O Fortuna’ with Darryl Way which was originally released on a now very rare 12″ single (the B-side of ‘Walk On By’) but included here.
Sonja has curated this release and made the selections but strangely one of her best tracks, ‘Colder Than A Rose’ – originally on both her debut solo album and ‘Acid Folk’ and later recorded with Curved Air - is excluded. Also missing is a fine cover of Spirit’s ‘Mr Skin’ which featured on the 1980 debut.
So, with one or two exceptions, the bulk of the material has been issued previously (the acoustic take on Lemmy’s ‘I Don’t Believe A Word’ was included on the original reissue of ‘Harmonics Of Love’ on Market Square) and collectors may have preferred to hear the original soundtrack version of ‘Frank Mills’ which featured her lead vocal. Nevertheless, it is a good way of getting acquainted with Sonja’s music and muse since the 1970′s.
Her vocals have more latterly taken on a jazzier, introspective hue with a fragility similar to latter-day Marianne Faithfull. But for those of a certain age she will always be the poster girl for female-fronted rock in the 1970s and, for a moment in time, we all wished we were ‘Frank Mills’. ****
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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