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Curved Air - Second Album CD (album) cover

SECOND ALBUM

Curved Air

 

Eclectic Prog

3.60 | 177 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars After a rough but promising debut, the follow-up album by British female-fronted rockers Curved Air called `Second Album' (not the most inspiring album title, or cover artwork for that matter) displayed the band attempting many styles, succeeding with all of them and slowly inching forwards to proper progressive rock in many moments throughout. In addition to leading lady Sonja Kristina's seductive voice, the stars of this line-up were later prog notables Darryl Way (on electric violin and piano) and Francis Monkman (guitar/keyboards), with each composing one side of the LP, the result an eclectic yet always accessible assortment of pieces and a hugely impressive prog-rock blowout at the end.

Opener `Young Mother' is a blur of Sonja's treated siren croons, swirling violin, 60's flavoured trumpet, loopy electronics, Florian Pilkington Miksa's rattling drumming and somber piano. Monkman's spiraling VCS 3 solo in the middle and some nice dank bass from Ian Eyre lurking in the background are real highlights. For a poppier track, hit single (and well-deserved too) `Back-Street Luv' has a nice dark undercurrent, perhaps it's the creeping relentless electric piano or the driving drumming, maybe the gothic organ or confronting lyric perfectly conveyed by Sonja's sympathetic vocal. Next up, Sonja's voice has never sounded so controlled, confident and more impressive than on the curiously titled `Jumbo', a name that holds no clues to the extravagant and lush theatrical orchestrated ballad it actually is, full of shadowy drama and glorious rises. `You Know' is a slightly repetitive dirty groover, but the fuzzy riffs and fiery jazzy guitar soloing gets it through. Most impressive of all is the experimental `Puppets', eerie Mellotron, gloomy piano and a thoughtful lyric set to a maddening metronome beat, creating a somewhat suffocating and nightmarish mood with moments of fragile beauty.

The manic and energetic `Everdance' kicks off side B with blasting Bolero rythms worked through with furious rollicking jazzy drumming, and Darryl Way's scratchy violin alongside Sonja's line `Go the the Devil and dance forever...' makes me think of that sinister Pied Piper-esque demonic minstral on the cover of Goblin's `Roller'! The brief and slightly grating `Bright Summer's Day '68 is fuelled by harpsichord and a frantic vocal, it's fun but drifts a little too close to being a cute throwaway, but I could almost imagine Roxy Music having made more of it. Then the band really flexes their prog strengths on the 13 minute `Piece of Mind' that really gives fellow female fronted prog band Renaissance a run for their money! It's overloaded with big dramatic instrumental builds, a brooding unease, stark narration, sweeping and dark classical refinement, jazzy instrumental runs and drifting spacerock. Gleeful ghostly violin, lonely piano, a malevolent and commanding vocal from Sonja conveying all sorts of wounded and breathless chanteuse charm, far away electric guitar soloing crying, and there's an eerie Van der Graaf Generator-style delirous imperial suffocating tension throughout. Phew!

While mostly not quite there yet (their next one `Phantasmagoria' was the first full signs of real greatness, with their fourth album `Air Cut' a long held personal favourite of mine), `Second Album' showed Curved Air maturing, experimenting and growing in sophistication. It's a strong little collection of varied pieces from a talented band, with some moments of incredible emerging progressive musicality that makes it a charming and confident work overall. It seems to be a little ignored by some fans due to the total prog-rock immersion that their next few albums would offer, but that's no reason to let it pass you by. What a great album!

Three and a half stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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