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Curved Air: The Second British Rock Meeting 1972

The third volume of their rarities series, The Second British Rock Meeting 1972, finds Curved Air in Germersheim, Germany on the 22nd May 1972. The synth driven art-prog-folk rockers closing a three day festival that nearly never happened. With the organisers frantically looking for a new venue after their initial choice, Mannheim, had withdrawn at the last minute through fear of what tens of thousands of young music fans would do to their area, the small town of Germersheim agreed to take on the task before quickly having a rethink and cancelling. Threatening to simply carry on with the event as a free affair and thus possibly attracting even more attendees, the authorities relented and the festival, featuring the likes of Buddy Miles, Strawbs, The Incredible String Band, Atomic Rooster, Humble Pie, The Kinks, Family, Rory Gallagher, Savoy Brown, Status Quo, Nazareth and Pink Floyd (although The Faces and The Doors failed to turn up even though their names were adorned on all of the posters) went ahead. Even then there was a shortage of food, toilet facilities and talk of invasion from the local American GI’s who simply broke down the fencing of the venue to let themselves in.

In the end the event passed peacefully, unless of course you were Uriah Heep who, rightly angered when their drummer Lee Kerslake was hit by a bottle (allegedly in ‘the nuts’), refused to continue. Cue a riot, the destruction of the fences separating the crowd from the stage and a quick escape from The Heep as more detritus rained down on them…

Looking to use them for broadcast on the radio Paul McGowan set about recording all of the sets from the two adjacent stages via a mixing desk he was running from his Volkswagen van and from that, some 46 years later we have The Second British Rock Meeting 1972 (so named because a smaller but equally ramshackle event was held by way of preparation the year before) from Curved Air, who also performed at that earlier show. Surprisingly the sound holds up remarkably well and in a true, it feels like you were there, kind of way, makes for a captivating listen. With liner notes added by the band’s guitar and synth man Francis Monkman, he explains that the unexpectedly bitty beginning to the set was the result of a guitar malfunction and while he and the band had expected to open with “It Happened Today” a jammed up “No-Guitar Blues”, which is also instrumental due to singer Sonja Kristina having to fight her way through the crowd to the stage, is what broke out. An ever shifting “Everdance/Cheetah/Vivaldi” follows, violinist Darryl Way in sparkling form as the rest of the band, Florian Pilkington (drums) and Mike Wedgewood (bass), lock in tight. The short, grandiose blast of “Phantasmagoria” from the band’s then latest album of the same name follows, before the equally brief, but this time acoustic guitar and voice only, “Melinda (More Or Less)”, changes the mood entirely.

Given that by the time the band hit the stage, the final night of the concert had elongated into a Tuesday morning sunrise stage time for Curved Air, it must have made for a beautiful, ethereal experience. Although the rather bizarre circumstances might also explain why, only 17 or so minutes into their set Kristina announced that they were ‘going to go on, or possibly finish’ with the romp and roll of “Over And Above”. Thankfully it proves to be a suggestion not kept, the near 32 minute “The Germersheim Jam” closing with another jammed out version of “Vivaldi” and as such is suggested, along with the opening track here, to be the only known recording of Curved Air improvising!

With, as mentioned, liner notes from not only Monkman but also McGowan and Christopher Wagner, who between them piece together the trials of the event being staged and the happenings across the three plus days of music, it has to be said that they add hugely to what will already be an essential purchase for fans of this band. Being honest I can’t really count myself in their number and yet even with that in mind I have to say that this is a hugely engaging, interesting and captivating recording and one which might actually be the album from this band that I’ll return to most often.


Track Listing
1. NO-GUITAR BLUES
2. EVERDANCE / CHEETAH / VIVALDI
3. PHANTASMAGORIA
4. MELINDA (MORE OR LESS)
5. OVER AND ABOVE
6. THE GERMERSHEIM JAM / VIVALDI (REPRISE)

Added: January 5th 2019
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: The Second British Rock Meeting 1972 @ Cherry Red
Hits: 192
Language: english

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