Thursday, September 15, 2016

strident purity / witchy 'n' commanding / That Voice, the Return

A band I always wanted to like more than I do, for some reason, Curved Air.

I mean, I like 'em well enough - the clean swagger of this one, frinstance:

overall quite enjoy the way the Curved Air sound is ornate and floridly frilled out but still quite tough and energetic

But in truth I've never felt the compulsion to delve too deep into their stuff, or go back to it after I've done the initial delve

so why would I like to like them more than I do?

well it's the name partly

also the singer, to be honest

Sonja K was one of a certain ilk of Euro songstresses whose voices had a strident piercing power and purity with few precedents in Anglo-American rock singing apart from maybe Grace Slick, and Dorothy Moskowitz of United States of America

now i think about it, I have blogged about that style of female vocal before, long time ago, calling it That Voice - with follow up blogs here and here and here  - containing the thoughts of other folk.

Actually looking at it again I did come up with a few other precursors, most notably Lynn Carey who did the lead vocal on the songs of the Carrie Nations in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. 

However apart from Sonja K I didn't in those 2007 blogs mention any of the Euro ilk really (Nico doesn't count because while ice-queeny she doesn't have the sheer belting lung power that is a prerequisite)

Here are some more Euro Queens of Strident Purity

Anisette Koppel of Savage Rose

Edna Bejarano of The Rattles

and my favorite out of this whole lot  - singer, maybe;  song definitely -  (although "The Witch" is not far behind)

Mariska Veres of Shocking Blue

Common denominator for all of them is a certain witchy dark beauty and commanding aura of imperious hauteur

Any more?


postscript 9/16

Anonymous in the comments has a couple of suggestions, both by "the mighty Earth & Fire" - another Dutch band

And Andrew Parker finds this little gem of a quote from Sonja K about the inspiration for "Back Street Luv"

“When I was 15, I used to skip off school and one day noticed a blond man standing on the steps at the local snooker hall. I became fascinated with him, and ended up chasing and seducing him. He looked like a pop star, although I found out he'd been in prison and had a wife and child. But that didn't deter me from my interest in him and also some of his friends. However, I could never think about taking him home as my father ran a borstal, and this guy had once been an inmate there. So my dad would know who he was.

“I got found out eventually, and was suspended from my convent school. But the whole episode gave me the idea for the song.”

postpostscript 9/17

Andrew P further points out there's a fair few modern exponents of the strident purity vocal thing, and directs me to the "Hail The Witch Queen" section of this blogpost by A.S. Van Dorston at Fast 'n Bulbous (scroll down a bit), which is dedicated to "female-lead psych noir"

These actually make me thing of Heart if anything! But then I think I included Ann Wilson as a potential That Voice-er in one of the original blogs.

Certainly the image is very much in the Witchy 'n' Commanding tradition

this group actually have the Wilson sisters look, if not the sound

Quite a lot of black metal strays into this zone, via paganism

Something I just stumbled on via YouTube - from Finland, Jess and the Ancient Ones

from Italy, imperious-femme-vocaled  "Occult/Stoner/Blues Rock"

perhaps a bit bluesy-raunchy (vocally and musically) to really fit the mold...

postpostscript - later on 9/17

ooeee -  with a shudder i discover that I already blogged, here, on this very subject, only four years ago. Senility, ahoy! Or perhaps it's just that Music History has simply become for me a series of inwinding and overlapping ever-decreasing-circles I traverse, such that inevitably I will retrace my footsteps, indeed the same mental tracks carved into my brain...   as i wander the Archives looking to kindle sparks of amusement/amazement out of often unpromising or already-used-up materials

postpostpostscript - 9/19

Andrew P suggests Renata Knaup

Definitely commanding, slightly screechy though

Now Knaup must be the same roots as Knapp, my mother's maiden name (one of the oldest words in the language - as in knapping flints, and also apparently, a word for a hill).


  1. Also Dutch - the mighty Earth & Fire:

  2. This one is great too:

  3. Well I'm glad you have re-visited this cos otherwise I might not have discovered The Rattles. Thanks!

  4. it's such an exciting tune isn't it

    reminds me in feel and drive of this song by the George Baker Selection, "Little Green Bag"

    something about those European takes on American sound

  5. Not as good as Curved Air, or the Rattles, but maybe the voice of Silvana Aliotta in the Jefferson Airplane influenced italian Circus 2000 is closer to "that voice"

    i prefer them in the rare occasion they have sung in italian: