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CURVED AIR

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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Curved Air picture
Curved Air biography
Founded in London, England in 1970 - Disbanded in 1977 - One-Off reunion in 1990 - Reformed in 2008

CURVED AIR were formed in 1970 by Sonja Kristina (vocals), Darryl WAY (violin), Francis Monkman (keyboards), Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums). The group decided the name using a shortened version of Terry Riley's composition "A rainbow in curved air". In their first album "Air Conditioning", a prominent role was given to vocals and violin; the album reached number 8 in the British charts. Then, in 1971, they released "Second Album", highly recommended example of CURVED AIR sound (a mix of acoustic folk and progressive rock).

1972 was the year of "Phantasmagoria", with Mike Wedgwood as bass guitarist. After a long tourney the band fell apart and Way formed the WOLF, while CURVED AIR showed a new line-up with Eddy Jobson as violinist, but they will never reach the performance level of the early two albums. In 1973, after "Air Cut" (with a sound hard oriented), Wedgwood joined with CARAVAN and Jobson with ROXY MUSIC. The four members of the original project made the first reunion in 1975 for a tourney (album "Curved Air Live"). Afterwards Kristina and Way carried on with drummer Stewart Copeland, bassist Tony Reeves, guitarist Mick Jacques and released "Midnight Wire". Their last album was "Airborne", published in 1976. The second reunion of the four former members was in 1990 for a concert in London (album "Alive 1990"). In the same year was released an album of previously unissued tracks recorded in 1973 ("Lovechild"). Finally, in 1995, an album of BBC sessions, called "Live at BBC".

: : : Silvio Chiarioni, ITALY : : :

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Buy CURVED AIR Music


PhantasmagoriaPhantasmagoria
Esoteric 2018
$16.48
$19.97 (used)
Air Cut: Official EditionAir Cut: Official Edition
Remastered
Esoteric 2018
$11.48
$10.07 (used)
RebornReborn
Curved Air Records 2019
$12.01
$11.07 (used)
Second AlbumSecond Album
Esoteric 2018
$14.72
$14.28 (used)
AirborneAirborne
Repertoire 1999
$7.99
$7.00 (used)
The Best Of Curved AirThe Best Of Curved Air
Repertoire 2008
$98.72
Live At Under The Bridge: The 45th Anniversary ConcertLive At Under The Bridge: The 45th Anniversary Concert
Curved Air 2019
$13.64
$17.55 (used)

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CURVED AIR discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

CURVED AIR top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.32 | 176 ratings
Airconditioning
1970
3.57 | 207 ratings
Second Album
1971
3.80 | 233 ratings
Phantasmagoria
1972
3.65 | 149 ratings
Air Cut
1973
2.44 | 62 ratings
Midnight Wire
1975
2.57 | 53 ratings
Airborne
1976
3.03 | 10 ratings
Reborn
2008
3.32 | 57 ratings
North Star
2014
3.33 | 12 ratings
Curved Space & Infinity
2016

CURVED AIR Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.68 | 68 ratings
Curved Air Live
1975
3.43 | 23 ratings
On Air - Live at the BBC
1995
3.52 | 12 ratings
Alive 1990
2000
4.09 | 3 ratings
The Lost Broadcasts
2011
0.00 | 0 ratings
Air Waves
2012
4.04 | 5 ratings
Live Atmosphere
2012
3.95 | 3 ratings
Tapestry Of Propositions - The Curved Air Rarities Series Vol. 1
2016
3.00 | 2 ratings
The Second British Rock Meeting 1972 : The Curved Air Rarities Series Vol. 3
2018
0.00 | 0 ratings
Live Under the Bridge - The 45th Anniversary Concert
2019

CURVED AIR Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

2.97 | 14 ratings
Masters From The Vaults: Curved Air
2002

CURVED AIR Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.56 | 14 ratings
The Best of Curved Air
1976
2.62 | 33 ratings
Lovechild
1990
4.00 | 5 ratings
Retrospective - Anthology 1970-2009
2010
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Curved Air Family Album
2019

CURVED AIR Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 3 ratings
Vivaldi
1971
3.04 | 4 ratings
It Happened Today
1971
3.04 | 5 ratings
Back Street Luv
1971
3.00 | 3 ratings
Sarah's Concern
1972
0.00 | 0 ratings
Baby Please Don't Go
1976
0.00 | 0 ratings
Desiree
1976
0.00 | 0 ratings
Renegade
1984

CURVED AIR Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Second Album by CURVED AIR album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.57 | 207 ratings

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Second Album
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars If one was to ask 100 CURVED AIR fans and interested critics to name their favourite album by this early 1970s art rock band, the numbers would probably be split more or less equally between their first 4, which implies that the band was commendably dependable but also that they never managed to attain the peaks of most of their contemporaries. And, while "Second Album" lacks a "Vivaldi", "Melinda More or Less" and "Metamorphosis", my conclusion is that it is neither better nor worse than any of the others, just perhaps slightly more consistent.

It's hard to pick out highlights but I enjoy the hook laden "Back Street Luv" (which reached UK #4) and "You Know", as well as the ballads "Jumbo" and "Puppets". Way's violin technique really elevates the upbeat "Everdance". If the epic closer "Piece of Mind" achieves more girth than emotional resonance, it's still worthwhile just for its avant garde vocal and piano runs.

Like other CURVED AIR releases, "Second Album" falls short of being the complete package, like a delivery that was opened and adulterated before it ever got to your front door. Sure it's mostly functional but it suffers a bit from a lack of this and a excess of that.

 Airconditioning by CURVED AIR album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.32 | 176 ratings

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Airconditioning
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars CURVED AIR's debut firmly established the band's identifiable mix of classical, folk, rock and psychedelia which would persist throughout their initial run. This was by far their most commercially successful long player in the UK both in terms of peak position (#8) and weeks on the chart (21). How much of this had to do with its being issued as one of the first picture disks and the photogenicity of Sonja Kristina is unclear, but what was apparent from the start was that CURVED AIR managed to be unique rather than special. Today they are regarded as influential but somehow fall short of legendary. Very few if any of their numbers have been acknowledged as classics, possibly because they just aren't very memorable, the ambitious opuses lacking fluidity and the more "traditional" songs somehow failing to ignite beyond their initial promise.

On the flip side, I'm not sure CURVED AIR knew how to spell "sell out" let alone attempt it, and they could sure play, which helped compensate for generally mundane lyrical content. They even stumbled on a few ear worms, the very first being album opener "It Happened Today", the first and by far the best of their radio ready tracks which culminated commercially in "Back Street Luv" off the next album. The transition from rocker to neo classical in the middle is a harbinger of their eclectic attitude. Unfortunately, the toe-tapping is brutalized by "Stretch", a shambles of a boogie- blues that sounds more like a lesser JEFFERSON AIRPLANE. The album reaches its apex on "Vivaldi", a Darryl Way ode to the Italian baroque master that is equal parts classical rock and sonic experimentation, and "Hide and Seek", an eerie slice of heavy stoner prog with superb guitar from Monkman and even some impressive harmony vocals. Most of the rest is distinctly average for the reasons already mentioned.

"Air Conditioning" may have established CURVED AIR as a fleeting sensation and, like all their albums, has enough highlights to steer clear of redundancy, but somehow they were never cool or hot enough to fulfill their potential.

 Air Cut by CURVED AIR album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.65 | 149 ratings

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Air Cut
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars Perhaps on the strength of their sultry female "frontman", their kickoff picture disk, and a top 5 single in the early going, CURVED AIR stormed out of the gate at the dawn of the 1970s. Unfortunately, being an archetypal super group assembled before the members solidified their reputations, they were cursed with steady attrition of those members who were clearly at war at least in a musical sense. By the time of "Air Cut", both Monkman and Way were out, 17 year old EDDIE JOBSON was in on both violin and keyboards and their profile hit the skids, at least in their homeland.

Speaking from my own experience, in Canada, where their early albums had, even cumulatively, barely eroded the cheapest stylus, "Air Cut" soared in relative terms, entirely on the strength of the 10 minute opus, "Metamorphosis". While it might not be quite as original as their earlier highlights, its warmth exposes the virtuosic iciness of most of their previous offerings, in case one hadn't noticed already. It's also a near perfect piece that combined angelic (!) vocals, cryptically resonating pagan lyrics, martial drumming, lofty lead guitar, and, most of all, astounding synthesizer, organ AND piano courtesy of Jobson. It's astonishing that the band never did anything else that remotely compares in style, composition, arrangements or achievement, and in fact it's one of the keynote prog epics of any era.

The rest is the uneven potpourri following its antecedents' precedence. By far the most exciting is "Armin", which showcases Jobson on the violin with which he would soon become inseparably associated. The maudlin "Elfin Boy" highlight's Kristina's more maudlin side, but it can't hold a candle to "Melinda More or Less" from "Phantasmagoria" in case you were wondering. "Easy" is a worthy closer with Kirby Gregory conveying expert leads throughout, trading the spotlight with more Jobson jabs. Beyond this, we have a tepid attempt at another fluke hard rock hit in "Purple Speed Queen" and the ill advised and dire foray into male lead vocals in "Two Three Two". Even Sonja can't save the only marginally better "UHF".

Worth it for "Metamorphosis" alone - well, really off key ambulance sirens would be worth listening to if Metamorphosis was embedded in their somewhere - "Air Cut" is otherwise slightly inferior to, say "Phantasmagoria", which would have been CURVED AIR's closest approximation of unity even as the inevitable cuts loomed.

 Phantasmagoria by CURVED AIR album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.80 | 233 ratings

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Phantasmagoria
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars It seems somehow contradictory to conclude both that CURVED AIR were pioneers of violin led prog rock and that their music has not aged especially well. One of the few bands of their ilk to have a legit run at the UK charts, It's not for lack of talent or innovation that they are barely mentioned anymore. While they produced 4 notable albums in their initial run, all were packed with an excess of foam peanuts at which even a foam elephant would turn up its trunk, and too few bonafide classics to defeat most one "hit" wonders in the prog world. The Monkman-Way tandem played like virtuosi and unfortunately composed like them too, and, while the arrangements are cluttered with too many at the same volume, it's unclear how much of this is due to a mixing engineer who gave his master the wrong address and quickly flashed his learner's permit in the studio security line. Don't get me started on Sonja's would be powerful voice that sounds too hypoxic to maintain a consistent level of clarity.

In spite of, or perhaps due to all these shortcomings, "Phantasmagoria" still projects the band as an unsung hero of their day. The melodies are imaginative, particularly on the first two tracks. "Melinda More or Less" hints at what CURVED AIR might have been had they actually gone folk rock, that is to say, had the impossible happened with the personnel on hand. Instead the jazzy inflections of "Over And Above" elicit fascination even as they flit capriciously from theme to theme. The xylophone and vibraphone of Monkman, the equally improvisational violin of Way, and the hired brass section string this one up on its high heels and festively explode the petard on which it precariously balances. "Once a Ghost Always a Ghost" wraps it all up in a similar vein assuring that the album live up to its name a bit too much for its own good.

 Airconditioning by CURVED AIR album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.32 | 176 ratings

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Airconditioning
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by Progfan97402
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I own the original picture disc and I've played this disc plenty of times and the paint never faded off. That's because the artwork was actually embedded in between the vinyl, not on top. Regardless, as everyone ever commented, it's not exactly audiophile quality. I also own an American green Warner black vinyl copy of this in which the sound quality wasn't that great either, despite it being on standard vinyl. Regardless, Curved Air is one of the great prog bands that been forgotten in time. While I run across older folks (older than me) who know of Curved Air, the younger generation hadn't discovered them, perhaps they didn't have "hipster" cred, I don't know.

It seems at this phase in their career, they were having trouble keeping bass players, but the rest remained fairly intact until about 1972, with Sonja Kristina, Francis Monkman, Darryl Way, and Florian Pilkington-Miksa. If you wondered what a British take on It's a Beautiful Day or Jefferson Airplane would be like, look no further than here. The It's a Beautiful Day comparison mainly for the violon, and Airplane for the female vocals (although Sonja sounds nothing like Grace Slick). "It Happened Today" was a song in my younger years I thought was a tad repetitive, but I've really grown to love it, especially Darry Way's violin solo. "Stretch" bears more than a passing resemblance to Jefferson Airplane, perhaps because of the combination female and male vocals, the male vocals reminding me of Paul Kantner. "Screw" features some low-key Mellotron and nice violin passages, while Way's "Vivaldi" is not only the album's highlight but a highlight in their live performance. A clear Vivaldi influence in obviously heard in the violin, but he really gets noisy as this piece progresses to the point you can tell Vivaldi would be turning in his grave. "Hide and Seek", "Propositions" and "Situations" are more great pieces that I have a hard time describing, but "Vivaldi With Cannon" is as described. The same "Vivaldi" piece with VCS-3 synth simulated sound of cannon fire. It seems as if Francis Monkman just bought a VCS-3 while recording this and likely just as the sessions were winding down ready for release, as he uses the VCS-3 nowhere else (luckily he totally remedied that on their next two albums).

To me a good album worth getting, but their next two album (Second Album, Phantasmagoria) are even better.

 Back Street Luv by CURVED AIR album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1971
3.04 | 5 ratings

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Back Street Luv
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

3 stars "Backstreet Luv" (or "Back Street Luv") b/w "Everdance" was a released as a single in 1971 in a number of European countries and in Australia. Both songs were taken from Curved Air's Second Album. It also appears on compilations like The Best Prog Rock Album in the World...Ever.

"Backstreet Luv" was Curved Air's second single, following "It Happened Today," taken from the group's 1970 debut LP. The songs are somewhat similar, although "Backstreet Luv" is an improvement. Both feature doubled lead vocals by singer Sonja Kristina, but since the two takes aren't very tightly synchronized, the effect is quite different from the chorus-like reinforcement that is usually the purpose of vocal doubling. It kind of worked for the somewhat mysterious "It Happened Today," but doesn't seem suited to "Backstreet Luv."

Stylistically, "Backstreet Luv" strikes me as 1960s psychedelia updated for a new decade - - kind of contemporary psych-pop. Or contemporary psych-rock. Lots of keyboards predominate an unhurried arrangement with kind of an unresolved mood. This unresolvedness is emphasized as the song fades during instrumental verse music, implying that there's more to the story, which itself is punctuated by unanswered questions (e.g., "Did she give love? Could she feel love? Did she find love? Was it real love?" and "Where's your smile today? Did she let you down?").

Compared to the a-side, "Everdance" is somewhat unsophisticated. It has that groovy late-1960s beat that was revived in the 1990s for hits like "Right Here, Right Now" (Jesus Jones, 1990) and "Two Princes" (Spin Doctors, 1993). The sound quality and mixing is a bit less than you'd expect from a Warner Brothers album recorded in London in 1971. It sounds like the lead singer is isolated in a booth while the band is playing in a separate room. But more to the point, it just isn't as interesting as "Backstreet Luv," which puts it on a par with most b-sides.

"Backstreet Luv" is a nice period piece, though not essential. It's a good example of the intersection of progressive rock and 1960s psychedelia.

 The Second British Rock Meeting 1972 : The Curved Air Rarities Series Vol. 3 by CURVED AIR album cover Live, 2018
3.00 | 2 ratings

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The Second British Rock Meeting 1972 : The Curved Air Rarities Series Vol. 3
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

3 stars The third album in the Curved Air Rarities Series finds the band headlining the second British Rock Meeting at Germersheim in Germany on 22nd May 1973. What is of real interest to many fans will be the sheer panic which set in when the band realise that for some reason the guitar isn't working. The band start playing a blues as they put themselves into a holding pattern instead of opening with their normal 'It Happened Today' while they tried to resolve the issue, and we can hear Sonja say 'what shall we do?'. This means the set we have is quite different to the norm, with the band improvising when they need to, and close with a 32-minute jam, which also incorporates some of 'Vivaldi'.

My favourite is the simplicity in all the chaos, as the band gently work through 'Melinda (More Or Less)'. This has always been one of my favourite numbers by the band, and with just gentle acoustic guitar and sympathetic bass, Sonja' vocals are incredibly powerful. The reverb coming through the microphone is the only treatment she needs on her voice and puts all of today's auto-tune singers to shame. The sound throughout is very good indeed, thanks to Armed Forces DJ Paul McGowan who had been allowed to record the whole festival, and booklet contains essays from both Paul and Christoph Wagner along with an introduction from Francis Monkman. These, along with the photos and of course the wonderful music, capture a band at the height of their powers (this was not long after the 'Phantasmagoria' album). Due to the issues on the night, it isn't a perfect set in some ways, while in others it shows a band on the edge, relying on intuition and musicianship to get through.

 Second Album by CURVED AIR album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.57 | 207 ratings

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Second Album
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars I had forgotten to review this album for some strange reason even though I've owned it for decades but here it is; Curved Air's second album called the Second Album because it was their second album and it was the follow-up to the great debut Air Conditioning. Once again it boasts one of the great collaborations with Monkman and Way who is outstanding on Violin as usual that most fans will remember until they dissolved their involvement a few albums later.

This second release has some great tracks such as Piece of Mind which was their effort to produce a mini prog epic. The classical influences are evident of course but the whole album is subjugated by and dominated by the one huge track that became a live staple in the set list Back Street Luv. It was this single alone that was enough to make the album a top seller and of course it was the groups biggest hit without a doubt but by no means their best track.

The main drawcard for most listeners including me was the beautiful Crystaline vocals of Sonja Kristina who is simply an outstanding performer. Overall the album is nowhere near as prog as subsequent releases such as Phantasmagoria, but it still has some nice moments. Some of the tracks are quite mediocre but the band was still yet to reduce their best work. The album finds the band in the early phase of its career, so this is generally a prog curio for all who dare to venture in.

 Second Album by CURVED AIR album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.57 | 207 ratings

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Second Album
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by RossJWarren

4 stars At the start Curved air were treated with suspicion due in part to their first LP being one of the very first picture discs and their massive signing advance of 100,000 an eye watering sum at the time, they were seen as a hyped band, unfairly maybe but that feeling persistent up until 2nd Album which confirmed them as one of the most important acts of the early 70's prog explosion. Prog is most certinly what this album has in spades. It remains a great example of early prog with its experimentation and is from a time when their was still a sparkle in the eye of youth and hope in the air, Even so like Crimson some of the themes are on the darker side, and it is Way who carries the gravitas best of all. This LP is their most likable in my opinion although to be fair all of their output is 4 star at the least. This one is just shy of five due to one or two less than perfect songs. Saying that at no point does this recording become unpleasant, remaining fairly light listening . A strong 4 stars IMHO.
 Airconditioning by CURVED AIR album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.32 | 176 ratings

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Airconditioning
Curved Air Eclectic Prog

Review by Luqueasaur

3 stars A pioneer which couldn't keep up with its ideas: 7/10

CURVED AIR's debut indicates its belonging to the early progressive rock scene thanks to its crudeness. When I speak of crudeness, I do not refer to technical terms; instead, it's more of a conceptual one.

AIRCONDITIONING is undoubtfully progressive rock. It is mostly focused on hard rock with psychedelic leanings, confirming the "rock" part, but punctual moments of jazziness with the constant influence from classical music and its structures solidify the "progressive" amount. This is where the aforementioned "crudeness" comes in: these attributes aren't well mashed together. They're disparate, played separately in their own sections, with very brief moments of syncretism among these two lines of thought. CURVED AIR certainly wanted to bring something new on the table by bringing classical music in a hard-rockish environment and that is pretty ingenious - this is classical at its purest form, with Vivaldi-inspired violins and symphonic elements - but sadly they weren't able to adequately make them feel natural and complimetary to each other.

Does this mean, then, this album is incoherent or bad? Definitely not. It is quite a listen! Sonja's soprano vocals played along the reverbed guitar in songs like It Happened Today or Hide and Seek sounds great. In no moment, AIRCONDITIONING lack eclectism. The composition and styles are visibly different between songs, such as one being distinctively calm while the next is a powerful surf-rock-esque frenzy, etc. And besides, as I said, there are brief moments of well-done mixture among prog and rock; specifically, on It Happened Today's second half (where the violin plays under a jazz fusion ambiance), within Rob One's extreme serenity and sweetness brought by the violins and through Vivaldi with Cannons, an over-the-top distorted and loud violin performance of, well, Vivaldi. On... yeah. Violin.

In the end, AIRCONDITIONING might not be the to-go choice for anyone thirsty of progressiveness or technicality; instead, it is the optimal choice for those looking for lighter, less ambitious things. Assuming the nature of this site I can't go much further than saying yes, this is good; but no, not in any way essential.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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