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Curved Air - North Star CD (album) cover


Curved Air

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Hmmm ...Till now no one seems interested to write a review about this legendary band that colored the prog scene in the seventies. It's a pity also that in fact I have never written any single review about this band through out their music career through six studio albums. In principle, I actually love the music of Curved Air because it has violin component in their music which I really like it very much. You might categorize the band as prog folk or whatsoever but to me the music is captivating. North Star is the first studio album of mostly new material since the band reformed in 2008 by its constant member , Sonja Kristina, following 2008's Reborn (mostly re-recordings of material from their first five albums, with two new tracks), 2010's Retrospective (a "best-of" anthology of original recordings from 1970-1976 plus three tracks by MASK) and 2012's Live Atmosphere (live performances from 2010/11). There are basically seven new songs, plus three songs that originally appeared on the first two Curved Air albums were re-recorded, plus one from a Sonja Kristina solo album, and three covers of songs originated by other bands.

As far as my personal experience listening to this album, I have been quite impressed by their excellent musical composition of new materials plus the audio quality that resembles the seventies sound with raw sounds as its key characteristics. I am really impressed by the beautifully crafted opening track Stay Human that blends nicely the Sonja's vocal quality with violin work that maneuvers beautifully through various passages. The basic is basically something like pop or even folk music but the add-ons of violin as well as vocal have made it quite progressive in nature. In principle I enjoy the first five tracks of the album as every single song delivers its unique characteristic which is quite progressive but not quite complicated to enjoy. I don't think any music buff has problem enjoying this album, really. One special note I can put that during the song called as Interplay, the guitar solo by Kirby Gregory is truly stunning. I am really happy that the old school prog bands like Curved Air still can make an excellent composition. An excellent music, really. Puppets is actually a rerecorded version from the band's second album written collaboratively by Sonja Kristina and Darryl Way.

The sixth track Spider sounds differently than other tracks and it's an instrumental track featuring excellent combination of bass guitar, guitar as well as violin and keyboards. It's really an enjoyable track. Again the guitar solo is really stunning and it's very seventies despite new recording technology. The next track Magnetism brings back the nice voice of Sonja Kristina. The guitar solo is really stunning and vintage. The Police cover Spirits in the Material World has been rearranged beautifully to suit with Curved Air music style. It's a very nice cover, really. Also this album covers The Beatles' Across the Universe.

Overall, I think this album has been carefully crafted by the band to produce a very nice an engaging music that hooks me to have it spun from start to end. I am sure I will have some more spins later after this review. Even though Kristina is the only consistent member of the band, I think she has been successful to convince her bandmates to produce music in line with the band's style. With no single doubt at all I rate this album as an excellent addition to prog music collection. Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#1176033)
Posted Friday, May 16, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
4 stars This was a pleasant surprise for 2014.

Curved Air were always lesser known prog band, perhaps second or third tier to their better known contemporaries. As it was, my first encounters were used copies of their first two albums that I found browsing at used record stores in the late 70's or early '80's.

Having subsequently picked up other albums in LP and/or CD format, that I like to varying degrees, I am really glad that Sonja decided to have another go at making a Curved Air album. What I have hear in the original material is as good as, if not better than the rest that came before. Well done cover tracks and remakes of old Curved Air songs.

I was a little disappointed to see Darryl Way not back, but he's been up to his own thing and has put out a new album this year...

Report this review (#1205355)
Posted Saturday, July 5, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Even if Curved Air is an old and established band, "North Star" was my first encounter with it. The band recorded it's first record back in 1970 and they did six records and one live record in the seventies, one record fourteen years later 1990 and now twenty-four years later the band's eighth record is released 2014. It is a lengthy record which cover has a lot of colours with perhaps a rainbow theme and a red star in the highest place.

What's significant with Curved Air's music is the vocals of Sonja Kristina. I like them very much. They aren't musically perfect and it isn't very strong but it's very unique and warm. The vocals has a folk touch and Kristina's does sound a bit like the Swedish singer Marie Selander which I love. Of all fourteen songs eleven was more than good and five of them was very good. They come from a rich musical world with vibrating violins everywhere and a lot of great guitar solos too. The most eclectic and interesting songs are "Young mother" where the sympathic melody, violin and solo make a wonderful composition and "Images and signs" which also is noble(9/10). "Interplay", "Magnetism" and "Situations" are also fantasic pieces of music I really recommend. The whole record is full of virtuosity and warmth so I think you will like it. If you like the spirit of the psychedelic late sixties I think you will find glimpses of that too.

So the efforts of singer Sonja Kristina, drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa, guitarist Kirby Gregory, violinist Paul Sax, keyboardist Robert Norton and Chris Harris are worth praising. My rating for this album will be 3,57, which I round up to four stars.

Report this review (#1250815)
Posted Saturday, August 16, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Only the 4th review of this album! CURVED AIR's halcyon days were the early 70's. Playing prog with lots of classical elements, featuring a sexy vocalist Sonja Kristina and two classically trained musicians, violinist Darryl Way and keyboardist-guitarist Francis Monkman, they were important in the British prog scene but never shared the popularity of the major acts. Gradually their albums (amidst continuous changes in the line-up) became weaker and weaker. 24 years since their preceding studio album Love Child (1990) this new release is an unexpected surprise. Surely not an object of enthusiasm and high hopes like the new YES album, but the easier it is to be positively surprised at the high level.

As all the other reviewers have rated this with four stars, I'm rounding my 3½ stars down for balance. The sound is very good (especially the violin by Paul Sax is absolutely delicious), and with as many as 14 tracks - and over 70 minutes of music! - there are many that are really enjoyable. One highlight is 'Time Games' which has an energetic fusion spirit. Also 'Magnetism' has a charming, personal identity. Some songs are recycled; 'Puppets' and 'Situations' originate from Curved Air's classic era and their new versions are good enough to justify their making. 'Spirits in the Material World' is originally by THE POLICE (from Ghost in the Machine, 1981). I personally prefer the fast-tempo original, but it's respectable how Sonja & Co. have made a notably different, much slower version. The album closes with a dreamy, beautiful version of the BEATLES classic 'Across the Universe'.

I hate to point this out but the age clearly shows in Sonja Kristina's voice. This is definitely not a problem, as the musical performance seems to come first. One of the weakest tracks to me is 'Colder Than a Rose in Snow', a serene and romantic ballad, maybe because the vocals in it are more central than on the album in general. There are some other not-so-interesting compositions, but all in all this is a very positive surprise indeed. Worth hearing for any listener of female-fronted prog with classical and fusion elements, and a must for fans of the group.

Report this review (#1274622)
Posted Thursday, September 11, 2014 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars It happened today!

North Star is the first Curved Air studio album containing new material for nearly 40 years (1990's Love Child contained material recorded in the 70's). The new songs are mostly excellent and several are every bit as good as the band's best classic material if not better! My favourite tracks include Time Games, Images And Signs, Interplay, Spider, and Magnetism. The sound is most similar to 1973's Air Cut which is my favourite Curved Air album. The violin heavy passages also remind me of the Symphonic Prog of Kansas.

After many listens I would gladly have given this album a higher rating if it wasn't for the fact that it also contains several re-makes and cover songs. Why couldn't they just have concentrated on the new songs alone? The re-recorded versions of Situations (originally from 1970's Air Conditioning), Puppets and Young Mother (both originally from 1971's Second Album) are all good, but unnecessary. The same must be said of the cover of The Beatles Across The Universe which has been done by so many others.

Other songs that have a history is Colder Than A Rose In Snow which apparently first appeared on Sonja Kristina's self- titled 1980 solo album, and the two covers Spirits In The Material World and Chasing Cars by The Police and by Snow Patrol respectively. I haven't heard any of these songs in their original versions so I cannot comment on how these versions compare to the originals, but even though I enjoy listening to them here I can't help but to feel that this album would have been better had they focused on only new material of their own. Especially as their new songs are really good I don't understand why they felt the need to include covers and re-makes of older songs. Just over 40 minutes of new music would have been enough!

Curved Air is yet another classic progressive Rock band that has returned to the stage in excellent form in recent years and thus proving that the genre is very much alive.


Report this review (#1313700)
Posted Saturday, November 22, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Not sure why, but I had high hopes on this album. Hopes that came to be thrown into the ground in the very beginning of North Star (2014).

Truth is, from the old 70's bands very few bands achieved great comeback albums in the 2010's. I can name less than a hand full like Museo Rosenbach's Barbarica, Alphataurus' AttosecondO are two that comes to mind.

That being said, Curved Air's 8th studio album it's a GIGANTIC mixed bag! There are seven new songs, three re- recorded tracks of their old material, one track from a Sonja Kristina solo album and also two covers... Cover The Police and Beatles was completely NOT needed.

To begin with the album clocks terrible 76 minutes. As if the band didn't even try to filter the material, `we have 80 minutes let's put everything we have'. This is terrible. The reason why we have classic albums in Prog history is because we have bands with a `no filler only killer` philosophy, not this.

The original new material is not bad, even though sometimes they put the whole band on the very back of the sound and push Sonja's vocals to the very front.

This album is very weird for me because I cannot spot precisely where Curved Air want to go with this. For the old fans I don't think they'll say it's their best albums, for new fans... I don't think they'll get many, not with this one.

They had YEARS to prepare 40/45 minutes of killer material, instead they came out with 76 minutes, half of which, unnecessary. Sad.

2.5 stars

Report this review (#1344863)
Posted Monday, January 12, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars Curved Air - North Star

"North Star" is the seventh (eighth if you count the re-recordings album "Reborn") studio album by progressive rock band Curved Air and their first studio album with new material since 1976. Curved Air is an often forgotten band of the 70's progressive rock scene, and like Renaissance they were one of the more classical-influenced bands. They make extensive use of violin and on their first album even had a song titled 'Vivaldi'.

On "North Star", we have seven new songs, three re-recorded songs, one re-recorded Sonja Kristina solo song, and three covers. Personally, I don't care for the covers and re-recordings but the new songs are excellent and some of the best songs the band has made.

Something I find amazing about a lot of the songs, is that the band rocks but at the sometime makes the music very calming and easy to listen to. Songs like 'Stay Human' and 'Time Games' both have some pretty rockin' guitar and bass work, but the peaceful keyboards and violin really add a different feel. Parts of the latter especially almost sound other-worldly, it's hard to explain, but the way all the instruments play together makes it rock and calm at the same time. 'Images and Signs' has a particularly great combining of violin and guitar, with the guitar supplying climbing riffs and sometimes getting menacing while the violin and keyboards bring a calming presence.

Now that I think about it, the band actually rocks quite a bit more than they used to. Now, this isn't hard rock or anything, but they really put the rock into 'progressive rock' with this album. While a lot of the new songs have great guitar work, the instrumental 'Spider' really has some awesome riffs. It combines more typical symphonic rock sections with really catchy riffs with a real jump to the guitar. There are also some space-y parts in the song that fit in really well.

The production is very organic and natural sounding, and it has a real warmth to it. I think this production works perfectly with the sound of the music, as I said the music feels very relaxed and if it wasn't for the filler of re- recordings and covers, the album would flow perfectly. A good idea of the feeling the music and sound gives, is a feeling of sitting by a fireplace calm and content but also tapping your foot to a catchy riff and rhythm.

Overall, it's rare for a classic 70's band's best work to be their most recent after being split-up for many years. However, I think this is the case with Curved Air, and this would get an easy five stars if it wasn't for the filler. I'll have to settle for 4.5, but I can't wait for anything else new that Curved Air has up their sleeves. I highly recommend this album for any fans of symphonic rock that want something both rocking and relaxing. 4.5 rounded down to 4.

Report this review (#1521251)
Posted Wednesday, January 27, 2016 | Review Permalink

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