Part One – Darryl Way
GOLDMINE: How are things with you in England?
DARRYL WAY: With the isolation I am spending more timing writing music and keeping my mind off of what is going on as much as possible.
GM: Your new instrumental album Destinations is beautiful. My wife Donna really enjoyed your prior album that we discussed last time, Four Seasons in Rock, which we play in the car and now we have Destinations for dinner music. Recently we were struggling on a project in our office and vocal music was becoming distracting, so I changed the CD to Destinations, and that was the soothing and calming backdrop that we needed.
DW: Oh, thank you very much indeed. What is ironic is that I have released an album inspired by different destinations and now people can’t travel.
GM: Before we get to the new album, let’s look back on a couple of Wolf songs from the era when you were away from Curved Air. In 1973 there was a single released, separate from the Wolf albums that year, called “Five in the Morning,” with a galloping rhythm, reminding me of a jazzy version of the “Overture” from The Who’s Tommy. On the flip side was “A Bunch of Fives,” where everyone had a solo, reminding of the style of Focus’ “Hocus Pocus” and melodically recalling their song “Sylvia.” It is a lot of fun.
DW: Yes, these two songs were released as a single on Deram. I wrote the A side, “Five in the Morning,” and the flip side, “A Bunch of Fives,” was written by John Etheridge, our guitarist and he did most of the heavy lifting on that flip side.
GM: Your violin is certainly prominent, but so are the other instruments.
DW: We formed an instrumental quartet that we hoped would push the envelope for endless possibilities. I found a really good jazz guitarist with John Etheridge and he could basically blow over anything. The idea was to get four musicians who were really good players and see where it would take us. The only problem is that John was really jazz oriented and hadn’t really come from the rock circles but he was operating in the rock circles. His main forte was jazz and he became a very influential jazz guitarist. I am definitely not jazz. I decided a long time ago that it wasn’t for me. I could spend a lot of time getting on top of it, but it didn’t seem to appeal to me. I come from a classical side and we met somewhere in the middle. Ian Mosley was a very talented young drummer at the time and our bassist Dek Messecar helped to hold us together.
Flip side: A Bunch of Fives
A side: Five in the Morning
Deram DM 395
GM: In terms of guitar, in addition to violin and keyboards, you are also playing guitar for the first time on the new album and sounding great. When I listen to the fast paced opening number “Downtown L.A.” your guitar style reminds me of southern rock, like Dickey Betts from The Allman Brothers Band.
DW: All right. That’s very sweet. I guess I spent my whole life suffering from guitar envy, trying to make my violin sound like a guitar, so it just dawned on me to take it up. I should have done this forty years ago. I am really enjoying it. When I pick up the guitar, in the back of my mind I think of all the blues passages that I find quite hard to play on the violin.
GM: What kind of guitar did you buy? Was it a smaller model, to better fit your violin background, like a Les Paul?
DW: No. The electric guitar is full size. It is only a fifty quid Fender, but my classical guitar is 3/4 size, because I bought it for my daughter. She didn’t get on with it, so I just picked it up.
GM: Your song “Metropolis” is very lively. There is a Singapore violinist Vanessa-Mae who my family enjoys and I saw perform in 2002 in Switzerland. This song reminds me a bit of her.
DW: All right. She is a talented lady. She hasn’t been prominent recently, but sure was when you saw her. She was right at the top of the tree, wasn’t she?
GM: She sure was. When I listen to your song “The Stars” I think about Henry Mancini’s “Love Theme from Romeo & Juliet” which reached No. 1 in 1969 here in the U.S.
DW: I promise you that I did not rip it off, ha ha. I try to not listen to music when I am writing, as I find myself absorbing it and then reproducing it. It is one of those strange things, so I try to keep my ideas as fresh as possible.
GM: My favorite new song is “The Wild West,” which sounds like a film soundtrack.
DW: Oh yes. It was influenced by the film composer Ennio Morricone. I had these scenes in my mind from the film Once Upon a Time in the West. That was the template for the song as a homage to Ennio Morricone and the great spaghetti westerns.
GM: Our daughter Brianna is a big fan of his and I look forward to sharing this song with her. The first time I heard one of his compositions was in 1968 as the theme for the film The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, the same year as Once Upon a Time in the West, and I bought the single, orchestrated by Hugo Montenegro.
DW: I have done a couple of live shows to go with the album and I have made videos to go with the songs, including a section of Once Upon a Time in the West, and the spookiest thing happened. When I was putting the film to the music and the scene that I had in mind played through perfectly with the length of the music. I just couldn’t believe it. I didn’t do any editing. Somehow it got deep into my brain.
GM: That is great when it works out like that. On “A Rainy Day in Vienna,” the notes sound like steady raindrops as it begins.
DW: Yes. It is about Mozart’s death. If you remember the film Amadeus, it starts off with Mozart’s death. It was a famously rainy day in Vienna. The funeral procession stopped at the gates of Vienna and didn’t follow him out to the burial ground, which was a pauper’s burial ground, because it was raining, so he was buried alone in a pauper’s grave, so the song is to be about that particular occasion.
GM: On “The Restless City,” you play a very lively piano part.
DW: The template for that was the film Koyaanisqatsi about a city, but it was all sped up, like time lapse photography. I guess “The Restless City” could have been called “New York” because it is basically a city that never sleeps.
GM: “Riviera Blue” has some wonderful Latin guitar. Of course, I think of Santana with this one.
DW: That is one of my favorites. It is fun to play. I was thinking of the French Riviera on hot days on the coast under the sun, having a refreshing drink. There is a slight jazz feel, but not a massive one. It is a simpler guitar performance. I didn’t go crazy on that one.
GM: It is melodic. “Mystic Mountain” is a beautiful finale.
DW: That is pop rock, I suppose. It is trying to evoke people climbing mountains and the struggle to get to the top. It has a flow to it, moving toward the climax. Then at the top, you look around and enjoy the beautiful panoramic vista. I suppose in the back of my mind I was thinking of Pink Floyd for a song style. I was trying to create that ethereal guitar sound that David Gilmour achieves.
GM: How were the concerts with the film backdrops for all these songs?
DW: They were mainly small venues with me playing to a backing tape. I had bigger venues planned but had to cancel them due to the coronavirus epidemic. Hopefully when this thing blows over I will get back and do more shows. I thought if I was going to play the venues with my backing tapes, the audience would get pretty bored looking at me. The videos offer a different vantage point. Due to using backing tapes, I was able to put the videos to the music and it all fits together and becomes a bit of a multimedia show. It goes over really well, fortunately.
GM: Do you have anything planned with Curved Air? I just heard from Sonja on her work on the new Keith Emerson and Greg Lake tribute album.
DW: There was talk of a 50th year concert but it has been put on the back burner, unfortunately. We did a reunion show about three years ago. You never know. Something might happen. We have to get through this epidemic.
GM: In the meantime, Destinations offers peaceful and fun moments for us to enjoy with people staying in, for dinners, and other times around our homes.
DW: That’s lovely. That is very heartwarming to know. It is certainly nice to know your music is appreciated. Thank you so much for your continuing support of my music.
Part Two – Sonja Kristina and other artists
GM: Sonja, I am enjoying the new releases from Curved Air members. In addition to Darryl’s Destinations, there are a variety of artists who participated on A Tribute to Keith Emerson & Greg Lake. I am so pleased to hear you sing “Still…You Turn Me On.” In America, “From the Beginning,” from ELP’s Trilogy album was only in the Top 40 for a couple of weeks. I had hoped that Greg’s other soft songs that followed would have made it to the Top 40 here as well, “Still…You Turn Me On” from ELP’s Brain Salad Surgery and “C’est La Vie” from Works. With classic rock oldies, it is generally “Lucky Man” that we hear.
SONJA KRISTINA: Greg Lake was such a fine singer and lyricist. It was an honor to be asked by Billy Sherwood to create my own vocal for this lovely song. “Still…You Turn Me On” to me is about stardom and knowing that fans, in their adulation, can’t ever truly know you, but desire can still be mutual. It is the second Greg Lake song I have been asked to perform. The first was “C’est La Vie,” which Fernando Perdomo invited me to perform with him on the Cruise to the Edge in a Greg Lake tribute.
Some other noteworthy performances from the new eleven track tribute album are highlighted below.
“C’est La Vie” – Yes’ current vocalist Jon Davison delivers clear and rich vocals and is joined on this gentle number by synthesizer whiz Larry Fast, who we first heard in the 1970s with his band Synergy.
“Lucky Man” – Wishbone Ash’s vocalist and bassist Martin Turner is joined by keyboardist Geoff Downes, known for his work in Yes and Asia, on this popular ELP classic. Rich chorus harmonies are present on this beautiful performance.
“From the Beginning” – A jazzy treatment is delivered with Focus’ Thijs Van Leer on flute and Florida’s John Wesley on guitar and vocals, best known for his work with the band Porcupine Tree.
“ELP Suite: ‘Tarkus’/’From the Beginning’/’Tarkus (reprise)’” – The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra provide this beautiful instrumental bonus track to the CD version of the new tribute collection. The first violinist stands out beautifully on the “From the Beginning” segment.