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Curved Air - Second Album CD (album) cover

SECOND ALBUM

Curved Air

 

Eclectic Prog

3.60 | 193 ratings

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FragileKings
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Wikipedia describes Curved Air as a band with a sound that was "a mixture of progressive rock, folk rock, and electronic sound". Indeed all these elements are present on their second album, imaginatively entitled, "Second Album". Additionally, we find the band having already reached a crossroads in their career. The album features mostly shorter songs with one epic piece. Though this in itself is nothing unusual, it is significant because the shorter songs were written mostly by Francis Monkman and the longer composition plus two short songs by Darryl Way. In fact, Monkman wrote side one and Way side two, delineating a clear split in their desire to express themselves independently of one another through the same band. Monkman enjoyed improvisation while Way was a perfectionist who wanted to create a real "epic". This was the writing approach that would at last disintegrate the core line-up of the band after the third album.

As one can expect by the Wikipedia description above, the music is quite diverse. There is some fairly standard early seventies rock with a bit of fuzz-tone guitar, the standard bass / drum set up and a lot of piano and organ plus harpsichord and some electronics provided by E.M.S. London. "Young Mother" features a violin solo and a synthesizer solo which I think sounds really great at times but is also a little shy of imagination in that it establishes an arrangement of notes, then repeats that arrangement, then comes a new set, repeat, another new set, repeat and so on. Still, it is my favourite of the shorter tracks on the album and I really enjoy the synthesizer sound. It works very well in the song. The presence of the violin and also a fairly strong piano presence give the music a classical feel. The 12:52-long "Piece of Mind" includes other strings as well, and some of the piano passages in this song as well as a couple of others bring the band close to the sound of Renaissance. You'll also hear some brass on the album, and I am sure I caught a bassoon in there as well.

Songs like "Young Mother", "Back Street Luv" (the band's bit hit single), "You Know" and "Everydance" show Curved Air's rock side with rock guitar and a more standard pop song format, "Young Mother" stretching the boundaries with its violin and synth solos and a bit of brass, too, and "Everydance" featuring more violin and some very active drumming.

"Jumbo" sounds more like something from a musical, a slow piece for piano and violin. And "Puppets" follows a similar style with more piano and either strings or a Mellotron and percussion provided without the standard rock drum kit. Neither of these songs do much for me, I admit, though I give the band credit for working outside a standard rock music format. "Bright Summer's Day" is a jaunty piece that borders between a pop song and another track from a musical. It shows the band's humorous side with some light-hearted lyrics about a break- up, and listeners will note that the bright summer's day in question occurred "in the middle of May".

Had the album been entirely comprised of these shorter tracks it would have been a fairly standard early seventies album as many bands experimented with instrumentation and new approaches to the pop rock song. The twelve-minute plus "epic" track "Piece of Mind" takes the band into prog territory not with tentative steps but a big bold stride. Essentially a long song with some strong classically-influenced music (piano, harpsichord, strings, and brass providing much of the drama), "Piece of Mind" also includes some great piano and violin solos and two short mini-instrumental parts at the end. The first part is a lively piece with a synthesizer solo and (what spoils it for me somewhat) silly duck quacks; the second is a more subdued piece with a different synthesizer sound and a more cosmic feel. Though these two additional sections extend the song and add to the breadth of the musical landscape, they are so different from the rest of the song that they do sound like separate ideas that were tacked on because they were too good to waste but not enough time was granted to develop them into complete songs of their own.

Sonja Kristina provides a solid vocal performance of course. I don't find her voice to be as broadly reaching as her Renaissance counterpart, Annie Haslam; however Sonja's voice lends itself more to the rock sound of the band, having a hint of an edge to it at times.

As this album shows the band attempting to stretch into broader territory, I give it a favourable review and a strong three-star rating. It doesn't quite reach four stars for me. I could do without the musical-type music and replace them with another mini-epic, but that's just my preference. This is my first and only Curved Air album so far and I think it is a great first purchase to acquire of that band.

FragileKings | 3/5 |

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