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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Curved Air

Air Conditioning

Review by Gary Hill

This new Curved Air remaster release is classy. The first disc has the original album in its remastered glory along with one bonus track. Disc two features single versions, alternate takes and John Peel recordings. This set captures Curved Air's blending of psychedelic rock and progressive very well. It also comes with a nice booklet. All of this would make this a great first introduction to the band. Yet, it is highly recommended for long time fans, too.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
CD One
            
It Happened Today

There is a lot of psychedelia in the mix here. This is high energy, fast paced and cool. I love the guitar work around the top of the arrangement. There is an instrumental break later in the track that includes a lot of symphonic elements. I love the bass work on the section along with the way it evolves during its expanded duration. That segment takes the cut to its close.

Stretch
Violin opens this, and the cut grows outward from there with a rather fusion based sound. When the guitar arrangement takes over, this is part blues rock and part proggy Grateful Dead. The vocals make me think of Jefferson Airplane. There are some pretty crazy, but also cool shifts and changes in the instrumental section. This is such a classy tune.
Screw
Folk prog and symphonic elements unite at the start of this. As it moves into the song proper it becomes a very psychedelic styled piece. When it grows outward from there it takes on more proto-prog tendencies. It grows into some powerful progressive rock after a time, taking on symphonic leanings as it does so.
Blind Man
This is a bouncy kind of folk psychedelia at the start. This is classy stuff.
Vivaldi
As you might have guessed from the title, this instrumental is a rocking rendition of Vivaldi. The drumming is powerhouse, but the violin really drives the piece. The mid-sections of the cut are strictly violin solo. It grows into rocking territory within that format. It gets quite noisy as it approaches the five and a half minute mark. That section ends and the cut is reborn with the violin bringing the familiar themes back into it. From there other instruments rejoin, and we're taken into the song proper again.
Hide and Seek
This comes in with some hard rocking nearly jazzy weirdness. It grows outward from there. It's almost a minute and a half into the running time before the vocals enter. This cut has a great combination of prog and psychedelia built into it. It works through a number of changes along this route. This is one of my favorite songs here and has some killer guitar work. I love the melodic movement at the end of this.
Propositions
Drums kick this into being. Cool psychedelic rock joins from there. To me this feels very much like a proggier version of Jefferson Airplane. The instrumental section takes it more to Grateful Dead territory. As it moves outward from there it takes on some classical elements merged with that prog Airplane sound.
Rob One
Piano starts this instrumental and holds it for a time. The cut works out from with a slightly jazzy folk prog sound. The violin brings something special to the piece. It turns things a bit classical as the number continues to evolve.
Situations
Mellower psychedelic folk makes up the backdrop for the vocals here. It grows into more of that proggy Airplane sound on the powered up movement, but drops back down the mellow from there. Around the two and a half minute mark it turns to something that feels like a completely different song. It has a very psychedelic prog vibe, but a bit more rocking than the earlier motif. A guitar solo section brings it upward into more pure psychedelia from there. It gets pretty intense before dropping back to mellower psychedelic territory for the return of the vocals. It revisits some other section as it winds through.
Vivaldi with Cannons
They revisit the Vivaldi piece, but this one gets a lot of freaky psychedelic space elements added to the mix. It does end with a sound like a cannon. This is much shorter than the other version.
Bonus Track
       
Thinking on the Floor

Fast paced psychedelic rock, this is classy. They take it into some cool progressive rock territory further down this musical road. I really love some of the jamming on this instrumental movement. That eventually takes the song out in style.

CD Two
      
A and B Sides of Single Released January 1971
            
It Happened Today (single version)

This is a single version of the opening track from the album proper. I think it works a bit better in this configuration. That said, you really can't complain either way.

What Happens When You Blow Yourself Up
Starting with some cool progressive rock instrumental work, this shifts out to something closer to a faster paced melodic psychedelic vibe for the entrance of the vocals. I really like this cut as well as anything on the album proper. It's a classy number that works so well. The instrumental work includes a killer keyboard solo.
Recorded at Island Studios London September 1970
                   
It Happened Today (Take 9)

A different take on the opening cut from the album, this one feels more rocking and guitar oriented to me. I like this one quite a bit.

Rob One (Take Two)
I like this alternate take a quite a bit. It has a healthy helping of classical music along with jazz and really works well.
BBC Radio One John Peel Session - Recorded 10th November 1970
            
Propositions

This thing screams out of the gate here. The Jefferson Airplane vibe is particularly strong on this take. There is some seriously intense jamming underway on this thing. I think I might like this better than the version on the album proper.

Vivaldi
This rendition seems more restrained than the version the album at the start. They include a bit of country swing into it, too. When it works to the trippier stuff it really explodes, though. They even bring some vocals and more pure psychedelic rock into the mix during the number this time.
It Happened Today
Here we get a fourth rendition of the album proper's opener. I love the violin at the start of this take. The whole cut seems to have more energy and fire to it. This is one of the more effective versions as far as I'm concerned.
BBC Radio One John Peel Session - Recorded 5th January 1971
                  
Young Mother in Style

This one starts with an introduction from John Peel. The cut has a pure prog rock vibe. The recording quality seems a bit muffled and constrained, though. There are both male and female vocals on this one. It has a real psychedelic rock basis to it. It's energized and pretty freaky. The instrumental section later has some great prog rock work in the mix, but it shifts to more pure psychedelia right at the end of it.

Situations
Again John Peel introduces this cut. The recording on this seems a bit more natural to me. The song itself has a great vibe in this take.
BBC Radio One John Peel Session - Recorded 27th January 1971
              
Stretch
I love the sound of the violin as it brings this into being. Here's another that takes on a bit of country swing groove at times. This is a killer rocker that works well here. It really has a lot of that Airplane sound to it. They take this into some killer instrumental territory here really emphasizing the progressive rock angle to it.
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