The story of Curved Air is important to Air Cut, and it started with budding classical musicians Francis Monkman (keys, guitar) and Darryl Way (violin, keys) teaming up with Sonja Kristina (vocals) and ace drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa of the glass family fame, plus Ian Eyre on bass, to form one of the first classical rock bands. And in the face of a lot of scepticism, they were actually pretty good, both on record and live. The first LP, a picture disc called Air Conditioning sold well and was followed by CA Two, also a top seller and full of fabulous tunes. The third, Phantasmagoria, was met by very mixed reviews and indiffrent sales (for the time) and introduced Mike Wedgwood on bass, fresh from The Overlanders and The Nicky James Band. Apart from bass, though, Wedgwood, a relation of Josiah Wedgwood, the potter, Charles Darwin and Ralph Vaughan Williams, had a perfect-pitch voice, could play guitar, sax, clarinet, drums and keyboards very well and could also score for a full orchestra if needed.
However, after citing musical diffrences and the usual, Darryl, Francis and Florian all left after Phantasmagoria leaving ..... Sonja and Mike. Surprisingly, they decided to soldier and and went recruiting, and what they recruited was this: Eddie Jobson, aged 17, ex-Fat Grapple, on keyboards and violin, Kirby (Gregory), ex Armada, on guitar, and Jim Russell on kit. This bought the average age of the band to about 21. What nobody quite twigged, even then, was that Eddie was actually a genuine fully signed-up musical genius. And off they went to record the fourth album for Warners, Air Cut. And it was and is an absolute cracker.
Much punchier than its predecessors, it nonetheless had their extraordinary musicality and flair. There are some fantastic highlights, but I have to mention Eddie's epic "Metamorphosis", starting with a lovely piano solo, seguing into bass, drums, volume control guitar and then into a killer riff and a lovely song. It goes on for about three and a half days and is absolutely brilliant. All the band play like folk possesed and Eddie's musicianship and playing skills at that age are just, well, unbelievable, actually. Mike's "2 - 3 - 2" is a powerhouse rocker with a massive solo from Kirby on his Dan Armstrong perspex guitar, "Easy" is a bitter-sweet but frightening ballad rocker with Mike and Sonja sharing vocals, "Elfin Boy" is a soft and sad tribute to her son from Sonja, "Armin" is a blazer with cracking violin and guitar from Eddie and Kirby, and the whole brew powered by Jim Russell's power drumming, which, just very occasionally, is not quite in synch, but this is nit-picking. Other tracks display all these qualities and the playing throughout is superb. This is a lost masterpiece, and it is rumoured that WB lost the masters.
Equally important is that they were just mind-blowingly good on stage. This bunch of kids, basically, used to blow concert halls apart and I saw one performance at the old Finsbury Park Rainbow that still sticks in my mind as one of the best rock shows I ever saw. Eddie had to play Darryl's classic cod violin piece "Vivaldi" but he did it without five minutes of arpeggio screeching, Praise Be. What a performer, equally at ease on silver/perspex violins, grand and electric pianos and also the pretty primitive synthesizers of the day.
Sonja is still on the road, Mike plays and works in Denmark after a productive spell with Caravan, Kirby works in rehabilitation, Jim, I know not, and Eddie went on to add spine and quality to Roxy music, and on to Zappa, Jethro Tull, UK, and later musical director for Nash Bridges.
This CD release should be trumpeted from the hilltops. It is a one-off from an incredibly talented and musical ensemble and thank goodness they stayed together long enough to produce this fantastic fresh-as-new recording. Indispensible proof of the quality of some of this decade.
The great news is that Kirby has reformed Stretch and will be supporting Jeff Healey later in the year (posted 24/3/7).
Mike Wedgwood has recorded a great new album, Thrive, with his exemplary band, and has also produced and played bass and keys on a fantastic new five track CD, Keeping On, by Isobel Thatcher. Look up Isobel on Google, Reverbnation or Facebook, Isobel Thatcher Music