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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Curved Air

North Star

Review by Gary Hill

The latest album from Curved Air, this album includes several new songs along with some reworkings of several classic Curved Air pieces and a few covers. Although, one of those covers might fit better into the “reworkings” category because it’s of a song from Curved Air singer Sonja Kristina’s solo catalog. I love the blend of classical, psychedelic art rock and more that we get here. Kristina’s voice is one of the real selling points of the set. This album is quite a strong one, really. It’s definitely worthy of inclusion in their catalog.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Stay Human

As this opens, it wouldn’t be a big stretch to imagine that we’re hearing the opening riff of a new hard rock or metal album. The cut works to more progressive rock territory after the starting segment, though. This is a great piece that alternates mellower modes with more hard edged ones. The vocal arrangement is powerful and dramatic and there is really a lot of magic in this thing. It is the second single from the disc.

Time Games
Fusion and prog merge on the introduction to this. As cool as the opener was, this is even more dramatic. It’s got a bit of a Renaissance vibe to it, but merged with something perhaps rather like Al Di Meola. Wherever you hear the musical links landing, this is great stuff. It’s such a potent and effective piece, really. The first instrumental section on this really showcases the fusion sound in the piece, though. The second one launches out from a more progressive rock based template, but eventually moves out into space turned fusion.
Puppets
More based in folk prog at the start, this grows out to one of the more purely melodic and consistent numbers here. The comparisons to Renaissance are appropriate, but Genesis is a valid reference at times, too. This is a more instantly accessible number than the previous two. That said, it’s no less meaty or compelling. Piano takes control late in the piece. This is a reworking of a song from the second Curved Air album.
Images and Signs
Dramatic and powerful harder edged prog opens this, feeling a bit like Yes mixed with Pink Floyd at times. A more frantic prog meets fusion jam ensues later to accompany the vocals. The track keeps shifting and evolving as it moves along, though. It’s quite an effective piece of music.
Interplay
In many ways this is more stripped back and mainstream. There are more powered up sections, but overall this is kind of a straightforward piece of music. The melodic, but crunchy, guitar solo reinforces that mainstream concept.
Spider
Rock and roll boogie meets fusion and more here. This is another piece of magic. They work it out into more hard edged space rock later, merging Pink Floyd, fusion and more.   
Magnetism
The familiar elements of jazz and prog connect on this piece. The vocal arrangement is in some ways the real winner here. That said, the dramatic instrumental section shines a lot, too.
Colder than a Rose in Snow
Here Curved Air have a go at a song that was originally released on a Sonja Kristina solo album. This (the first single from the album) combines classical, jazz and prog, but all in a song that’s mellower and more ballad-like. The piano and voice dominate.   
Spirits in the Material World
Here we get a space meets prog rendition of the classic Police song. This is quite a cool number. Of course, it’s appropriate for this outfit to cover The Police since Stewart Copeland was in Curved Air before the Police.
Old Town News
We get an energetic rocker that’s part Jefferson Airplane and part progressive rock. It’s another killer cut on a disc that’s full of them. The rather crazed fast paced jam later gets a bit weird, but is also very cool.   
Situations
The first section of this is mellower and more theatrical. This thing powers out into more of a frantic rocker later for the chorus. It’s quite an intriguing piece with a lot of psychedelia and hard edged symphonic rock both competing for control. Jefferson Airplane is another valid reference point. This is another reworked older Curved Air song.    
Chasing Cars
Another cover (Snow Patrol), this is a mellow and dramatic piece that’s delivered as a ballad-like number. It’s evocative and powerful.
Young Mother
Here we get another Curved Air vintage song reworked, this one from the second album. This energetic number is another that combines psychedelic rock and prog. The combination of sounds is great and again we hear some hints of Jefferson Airplane. The extended, exploratory instrumental section takes it more into pure prog. It’s a real soaring section.
Across the Universe
A Beatles cover, to me this feels like Tomita meets Curved Air. It’s an intriguing interpretation, but I think it’s a little too low key for album closer. Still, it’s quite effective.
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