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Curved Air

Second Album (Expanded and Re-mastered Edition)

Review by Gary Hill

This new reissue from Curved Air is exceptional. First you get the entire second album. For my money, that disc is one of their best. It's re-mastered and sounds great. The set also includes a new booklet that is informative and very classy. There are several live recordings at the end of the CD, most of which are previously unreleased. This would be a great set if it stopped there, but it doesn't. There is also a DVD included. That disc has all kinds of video of performances from the band in 1971. A lot of those are also previously unreleased. If you have ever been a fan of this album, you haven't actually experienced it before. Pick up this set. It's a real value and should be in every Curved Air collection.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Young Mother

Weird textures rise upward. As they get above a certain level the sound is more easily recognizable as progressive rock music. This introduction works through in style as it continues to evolve. I love the vocal performance on this song. It brings a texture to the track that feels a lot like something one might expect from Renaissance. There are cool shifts and changes built into this thing. The violin brings a lot of magic to it all. There are some weird keyboard things that bring with them some space rock and early Pink Floyd reference points. A driving, rocking jam ensues around the three minute mark that is decidedly prog rock and very cool. Keyboards solo over the top in an almost ELP-like way. This extended instrumental movement continues to change and evolve. After a time the vocals return, bringing it back to the main song part.

Back Street Luv
I love the airy kind of mix on this cut. The track has a lot of energy. It's very psychedelic rock based, having some elements of Jefferson Airplane. Yet it's also decidedly progressive rock based. This is another exceptional cut on a disc with a lot of exceptional material. There are some cool twists and turns built into this number.
Jumbo
This starts mellower with a lot of symphonic instrumentation built into it. It's very much a classically based piece. It has a rather soaring progression to it despite the more sedate sounds. This isn't really a ballad because it's too complex and freeform to be that. There is a theatrical element at play in some ways, too.
You Know
Now, this comes in as a stark contrast to the previous tune. It's energetic and one of the hardest rocking cuts here. The guitar soloing is meaty and has some killer blues rock texture to it. The main song structure is fast paced and driving. While this is more of a straight-line arrangement than some of the others here, it still has some changes and turns.
Puppets
There is a bit of a playful little thing at the start. A percussive counting is heard and they seem to have a miss-start or two. Eventually it works to a psychedelically based cut that has a lot of piano as the main accompaniment for the vocals. This gets more involved and built up, but carries on as a seemingly freeform jam that's quite cool.
Everdance
Fast paced and rocking, I love the violin on this, but the keyboards add a lot, too. This has so much energy and really is a tasty number. It's one of my favorites here. It shifts through all kinds of changes and has some dramatically intense movements.
Bright Summer's Day '68
Classical music and rock collide on the introduction to this. The cut drives forward with some killer psychedelically tinged prog. This gets pretty hard rocking and a bit crazed at times. The guitar solo has a seriously tasty and noisy rock and roll sound to it.
Piece of Mind
This opens with a jazzy proggy sound that feels like it might have been part of the soundtrack to a film, for a particularly dramatic scene. There are some more mysterious bits that join after a time. Then again this cut is about 13 minutes long, so there is plenty of space for exploration and variety. The vocals come in over the top of this dramatic, driving section. It all continues to grow within that basic structure. There is a section that feels a bit like a resolution before they take it out to some mildly unsettling psychedelia. It starts speeding up and intensifying before firing out into a new prog jam that's fast paced and powerful. There is some intense jamming as it builds to a climax around the three-minute mark. Piano takes over from there with strings joining after a time. The cut turns toward some decidedly classical music as it continues to evolve. Eventually more driving progressive rock textures take over to herald the return of the vocals. It drives onward to around the half-way mark and then shifts to some melodic and exploratory instrumental work to continue. As that gets quite intense, Sonja Kristina joins with a spoken poetry recitation over the top. This just keeps driving onward and upward, and the vocals shift to sung ones again. A weird interlude is heard around the nine and a half minute mark, and the cut explodes out into a powerhouse ELP-like jam from there. There are some weird psychedelic elements in the mix, but overall this section really feels like that other act. Then it reaches a peak, and they drop down to a mellower slow psychedelic section with some cool synthesizer over the top. That section takes the song (and album proper) to its close.
Bonus Tracks
               
BBC Radio One John Peel "Top Gear" Sesssion
         
Recorded 5th January 1971
            
Young Mother in Style

Starting with the introduction by John Peel, this is the first bonus track on the disc. The cut drives in with a synthesizer driven motif. It powers outward from there in style. This turns to some seriously psychedelic rocking stuff. The interaction between Darryl Way's and Kristina's vocals is a nice touch. The piece works through a number of shifts as it grows, and Way delivers some killer soaring violin work on some of the jamming movements here.

BBC Radio One "John Peel Sunday Concert"
     
Recorded 4th March 1971 at the BBC Paris Theatre, Regent Street, London

       

Previously Unreleased
           
It Happened Today

This live version of a Curved Air classic is purely on fire. The quirky fast paced psychedelic prog works well on it, and the whole thing is just strong. The mellower melodic movement is particularly cool, too.

Blind Man
Percussion brings this into being. It rises upward from there with a rather playful and fast moving jam. It has some bouncy, playful parts and is quite psychedelic.
Propositions (Including What Happens When You Blow Yourself Up)

This number is a real dynamic powerhouse that works through so many changes. There are freeform progressive rock elements, psychedelic stuff and all kinds of things in between. I love the keyboard driven instrumental section later in the track, but just about everything on this road works particularly well. This is a smoking hot live rendition of a killer piece of music. The driving harder rocking closing jam does seem to suffer just a bit in terms of the sound quality, though.

Vivaldi

This classical meets rock instrumental number get a cool live performance here. There is a dropped back full on classical part mid-track, but so much of the number is built around the merging of the two styles. That full classical movement gives way to some space stuff, too. They bring it all back after that whole excursion to a full rocking arrangement.

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