Curved Air [Release date: 05.10.18]
Dawn breaks grey on the last day of the 1972 Second British Rock Meeting at Germersheim, Germany.
The festival has included sets from Pink Floyd, Humble Pie, The Strawbs, Savoy Brown, Lindisfarne and many other luminaries from Britain, along with the US’s Pacific, Gas & Electric, Buddy Miles, Tom Paxton and more, and Continental Europeans such as Amon Duul ii, Eloy, Guru Guru and yet more.
True, there have been glitches: The Kinks and The Faces are no-shows and Uriah Heep are booed off, indignantly stopping play after a drunk lobs a bottle into drummer Lee Kerslake’s testicles.
And indeed, in the grand tradition of the day, the festival administration has lost control of the crowd of over 70,000 souls.
Ranging from indigenous hippies to GIs serving at local US military bases, many are in varying states of disorientation brought on by lack of sleep, narcotics, drink, and often all three. The local hospitals are being kept busy.
Giving the last salute to this mayhem falls to Curved Air. As if the hour and the devastation before them is not enough to drive the band backstage, worse is the realisation that the guitar is not working and not likely to for the duration of the set.
The outcome is curiously magical. Opener ‘No Guitar Blues’ is an instrumental jam set to stall audience indifference while vocalist Sonja Kristina tries to push her way to the stage. Drifting mysteriously to a rendition of ‘Shortnin’ Bread’, the band gets underway with what is to be its most improvised set ever.
Latest album ‘Phantasmagoria’ is to be plugged and energetic takes on ‘Cheetah’ (segued from ‘Everdance’ and briefly into ‘Vivaldi’), and a taste of the title track are duly dished up. Assuming their guitar-free state means getting off early, Kristina has announced they are going “to go on or possibly finish” with ‘Over And Above’, but the band then picks up the opening bars of what is to be the near mythical ‘Germersheim Jam’.
This extraordinary impromptu monster takes a steady riff that builds gradually before descending into a sonic synth n’ violin hell of extenuated shrieks and squalls.
Were kraut-rockers Duul to have tangled with Tangerine Dream, the ‘Jam’ would be their bastard offspring. Running to over half an hour in length, it has a passion and energy to muster the most catatonic of crowds, and closing with another heavy dose of ‘Vivaldi’, it’s met with much approval.
This strange yet somehow wonderful performance renders exceptionally well given it was recorded in a converted VW Camper by local DJ Paul McGowan, who had struck a deal with the organisers to advertise the festival on his radio station in return for being allowed to record the entire thing for broadcast.
Of course, this is a must-buiy for fans, but the package overall serves the event well, too, its accompanying booklet with an introduction by album curator Francis Monkman along with two essays written by fellow attendees bolstered by previously unseen pictures.
Which leaves only one question: what happened to rest of the performance tapes? Paul? Paul – are you there? ***
Review by Peter Muir
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