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Curved Air - Air Cut CD (album) cover


Curved Air


Eclectic Prog

3.69 | 189 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars The classic Curved Air lineup disintegrated after releasing their masterpiece, Phantasmagoria, with the result that this album was recorded with an entirely new lineup. Although Sonja Kristina and Mike Wedgewood remain, and whilst Eddie Jobson is just as good an electric violinist as Darryl Way was, the sound of the album is very different from their previous work.

The album is split between comparatively straight-ahead hard rockers, like The Purple Speed Queen and Two-Three-Four, which though fun haven't dated brilliantly, to more progressive (and more interesting) works like Metamorphosis and UHF, which sound a lot like Genesis from the same period - partially because Eddie Jobson's keyboard work puts me in mind of Tony Banks, partly because Kirby Gregory's guitar sound seems modelled on Steve Hackett's at points. Sonja Kristina gets to show a bit more of her vocal range, with the chanteuse-like vocals she applied to the earlier albums scaled back and - as with the music - a bit more of a hard rock approach added; her performance on The Purple Speed Queen is probably the best aspect of that song, and bizarrely enough ends up sounding a lot like a female Geddy Lee. (Or maybe, since Rush hadn't put out their debut yet, it'd be better to say that Geddy Lee sounds a lot like a male Sonja Kristina...)

The album certainly isn't bad, but the shift in sound will certainly prove a stumbling block to anyone who fell in love with the sound of the group's first three albums. If you were hoping for a further development of Airconditioning or Phantasmagoria, you'll probably find yourself disappointed. They are still presenting a mixture of proggier numbers and more commercial-leaning pieces, but when it comes to the latter they have very much shifted into the era of hard rock rather than the psychedelic pop which influenced their early work. (A notable difference is found on Elfin Boy, which is an acoustic, folky number which could be a Steeleye Span off-cut.)

There's no doubt that this is an oddity in the Curved Air discography by any account; it was the only album this line-up made, and though the group would reform in subsequent years, things were never quite the same afterwards; much of the original lineup would come back for a live album prompted by an awkward tax situation, and subsequent would would appear only intermittently. Hardline listeners might only regard the first three albums as the "true" Curved Air, and subsequent releases being either Curved Air in name only or professional obligation knock-offs, but I can imagine a different timeline where this lineup of the band persisted and we'd remember Air Cut as a transitional album which laid the groundwork for better things to come - and there's much to like on here if you are able to make your peace with it not really sounding like the original band.

Warthur | 4/5 |


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