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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Curved Air

Live Atmosphere

Review by Gary Hill

This new live album from Curved Air is quite strong. In a lot of ways much of this reminds me of a proggier Jefferson Airplane. There’s a great cohesive show quality (particularly impressive when one considers that these recordings are from different shows) to this that’s driven home by the fact that they book-end it with recurring themes. All in all, this is quite a cool set and it comes with a DVD as a nice bonus.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Atmospheric Overture (intro)

This is just a very brief bit of atmosphere to open things in appropriate fashion.

Marie Antoinette
Coming out of the previous piece, this really does a great job of combining mellower movements with harder rocking ones. This has some great blues meets jazz meets psychedelic rocking sounds. At times, I think of what a progressive rock version of Jefferson Starship might have sounded like. They drop it way down after a time, though, for a musical interlude that’s sedate and intricate. Then it powers back out into harder rocking music from there. It seems a more developed and purely prog sound that is conveyed there. After this instrumental movement works through we’re brought back to the earlier Jefferson Airplane meets prog section to continue. This thing is just plain awesome!
Propositions
Percussion leads this off and we’re launched into another high energy prog rocker that is quite cool. The changes here are more unusual and unexpected and at times this gets quite theatrical. The instrumental interplay can be amazing at times along this musical road. I’d say that, while the previous track was more accessible, this is more powerful in terms of the progressive rock instrumental exploration. It gets some real psychedelic jam band sounds as it continues. I love some of the world music based melodic movements that emerge. There are definitely sections that work out into pure fusion, too.
Easy
There is more of a straight rocking approach here than there was on the previous number. It has some world music elements and is quite cool. It’s still very progressive rock oriented, but less exploratory than the previous tune was. There are some particularly impassioned vocals on this thing. They take it into a fusion jam later and the pull it back out into something closer to the earlier section afterward. The arrangement, though, seems more developed and complex when that comes around.
Hide & Seek

This number is quirky, yet powerful. There is definitely a theatrical nature to it. It is at times symphonic and at times more like pure rock. There are bits of guitar that seem almost like movie soundtrack music. The cut really feels like a work of contrasts and varying elements played against one another. Yet the whole thing works together effectively. At times the vocals call to mind a female David Byrne. We’re taken into a tasty instrumental section beyond that point with some tasty melodic guitar soloing.

Screw
Psychedelia with symphonic progressive rock elements open this and the cut has an almost classical sensibility in a lot of ways. It grows out gradually, building slowly in intensity. Symphonic strings solo overhead adding a lot of drama to the piece. The instrumental section that takes this out seems to combine an Allman Brothers kind of sensibility with symphonic progressive rock.
Phantasmogoria
There’s definitely a lot of fusion in the mix on this one, but it also has elements of musical theater. At times I’m reminded of something Jean-Luc Ponty might do. They create some definite variety in sound and direction as this continues.
Melinda
A delicate and intricate balladic piece, there is a lot of world music and classical in this. In some ways it feels quite operatic.
Everdance
With a nicely off-kilter rhythm section, this is another powerful cut that seems to combine progressive rock with symphonic theatrical sounds and some Jefferson Airplane-like hard rock. They really do craft some great instrumental sections on this thing. There’s a great middle-Eastern based melodic movement later in the piece that I like a lot. Of course, I’m a sucker for those modes.
Back Street Luv
Starting in dramatic, this works out to a rather funky jam that seems to combine fusion with Pink Floyd. That motif serves as the backdrop for the verses, but it powers out to more inspired and powered up progressive rock (again I think of Jefferson Airplane at times) at the end of these sections. There is a soaring, powerhouse, hard rocking jam later in the number.
Stretch
Combining a hard rocking almost country based approach with symphonic progressive rock, this is an effective tune. That Jefferson Airplane comparison is valid here, too.
It Happened Today
Somehow the opening of this makes me think of a proggy version of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” It works out from there into something more like the prog meets Jefferson Airplane kind of rocking approach heard on a lot of the stuff here. Mid-track we get a melodic jam that’s got more of a smooth fusion sound.
Atmospheric Overture (outro)
As one can gather from the title of this track, they close this out with more of the sounds that began the show.
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