published: 23 /
Lisa Torem is impressed with Laura Shenton's well-researched and informative book about progressive rock band Curved Air's early history in the 1970s.
Curved Air, which formed in the 1970s, remains renowned for its impressive, eclectic catalogue. In her new book, author Laura Shenton, in alignment with the 'Decades' series, focuses in on the British band’s ambitious run.
Shenton notes that band members, violinist Darryl Way, keyboardist Francis Monkman and drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa were originally members of Sisyphus. Shortly thereafter, bassist Robert Martin came aboard. But it wasn’t until the addition of sole female performer, the colourful Sonja Kristina, that these pioneers really found their footing.
Women vocalists were still anomalies then, but this singer “had a very hippie bohemian sort of charisma about her.” Her roots may have been in folk, but she was discovered, remarkably, during a production of the hip, rock musical, 'Hair'—need I say more?
The timing could not have been better; youth of the late 1960s and early 1970s were wholeheartedly receptive to musical innovation. As such, it didn’t take long before they fell into line with the ensemble’s vision: a free-wheeling amalgamation of amplified classical and experimental sonics, and beyond.
After engaging in label bidding wars, and releasing debut ‘Air Conditioning', the British band wooed the press with ‘Back Street Luv’ which successfully charted. But over the years, with success taking its toll, and perspectives colliding, line-up changes were imminent. Interestingly, drummer Stewart Copeland became a major force during one such iteration before becoming indispensable in The Police.
As one can imagine, there are innumerable changes of the guard; members drop out, and move forward with individual and collective pursuits. That said, Shenton continues to imbue a high regard for the talents at-hand.
The detailed analyses provide a rich portrait of Curved Air’s legacy. The back stories inspire the reader to discover, or rediscover the band’s catalogue. I especially enjoyed the interviews about songwriting and the images which showcased Curved Air’s unique styles. The “Appendices” also serve to round out the story, with extensive tour date and lineup information.
Shenton was inspired to write the book because nobody else had, and she wanted to be part of the documentation process. She completed that goal, but accomplished so much more.
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