Monday, 28 July 2008

Curved Air - Reborn

There are some bands that you just can’t leave alone. I have such an attachment to 1970s classical progrockers, Curved Air, mainly because they opened up a window to a new and exciting musical world back in 1971 but partly because of Sonja Kristina (see previous post).

I have followed this band through thick and thin, I have every album they have ever released including all ‘Live at the BBC’ type compilations, the reunion albums and a cassette copy of ‘Lovechild’, the sessions that followed ‘Air Cut’ but which were never formerly released. Many of them are not that good but when you’re dealing with this type of joined-at-the-hip type band nothing is ever that bad. And so this brings me to ‘Reborn’.

‘Reborn’ is the latest release from a partly re-formed Curved Air comprising original members Darryl Way (Violin & Keyboards), Sonja Kristina (vocals) and Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums) with guitar and bass backup and is only available from their
official website. So, have I bought a copy? What do you think?

Despite the fact that it is little more than a set of reinterpretations of old material by a band dangerously close to middle-age, I have taken the plunge and so now have a total of five different versions of ‘Back Street Luv’ in my collection (two on this album alone). Where will it all end?

Actually, I have been pleasantly surprised by ‘Reborn’. One of my grouses about the original early 70s albums is that the recording quality is pretty poor but as these re-workings stay fairly close to the originals, they show how they should’ve sounded given today’s technology. Darryl Way’s violin playing is still wonderful and Florian’s inventive drums now sound like real drums rather than soggy cardboard boxes and saucepan lids. But it is Sonja’s older, deeper register vocals that have surprised me the most. Whilst not re-capturing the untamed energy of youth, she has left behind her mid 70s raucousness and carefully not attempted to over sing. This has produced a beautifully balanced performance that sounds in part eerily close to the originals but with the added emotional weight of er...maturity.

I still can’t get to grips with ‘Marie Antoinette’ which even now drags its feet but the new versions of some of their oldest material, ‘Screw’ and especially ‘Young Mother’ gave me the shivers. Mercifully Way’s party-piece, ‘Vivaldi’ has been pared down from its previous excess and given a sort of semi-dance treatment which makes it eminently more listenable. There are also a couple of brand new songs that sound remarkably like they could’ve been recorded in about 1972 and are almost worth the price of the CD alone.

Thankfully, for a Curved Air Aficionado like me and considering some of the substandard stuff I’ve bought over the years, this is one of their better releases and one that I have been playing constantly. Yes, recommended! Go buy it now!
(To read more about my book which describes the effect of Curved Air and others in my life - see 'Memoirs of a Music Obsessive'.)


Anonymous said...

thanks for the revieuw, i`ve seen them in Amsterdam in the concertgebouw in the early 70`s
and never seen or heard a better show after that.(by the way , i was on acid)
This is the push i needed to buy this cd.
I live in Holland so it`s more difficult to buy it.( no creditcards in my wallet)

musicobsessive said...

Hi - I'm glad that you have discovered this album, especially as you clearly enjoyed seeing them at about the time most of the material was written!

This post gets the most hits of all my efforts so there are clearly many people who agree that Curved Air are still a band to be reckoned with!