Album review: CURVED AIR – Air Conditioning (reissue)

CURVED AIR - Air Conditioning

Esoteric [Release date: 26.01.18]

Whether by design or default, Warner Bros hit something of a mother lode when they launched their UK music arm back in 1970 with the much trumpeted signing of this then-unknown talent.

It was a leap of considerable faith to stump up the eye-watering advance of £100,000 which overnight placed a champagne and limo lifestyle the way of members of Spirit-influenced Sisyphus and the ex-folk singer and actress that were to become Curved Air.  But the label’s A&R antennae were right to quiver.

The band’s debut – a UK charter – was to become one of the most important progressive rock releases ever (an achievement many have ascribed to, but fewer can evidence) and it’s down to a combination of bravura, timing and musicality.

An exotic line-up included classically-trained Daryl Way wielding a clear Perspex violin, camera-friendly Sonja Kristina (soon a music press pin-up on the walls of all right-thinking teenage boys’ bedrooms) and an Old Etonian drummer called Florian Pilkington -Miksa: in short, PR heaven.

The timing of the release also locked it into that point where progressive music hit its stride with major labels rushing to launch their own respective imprints. And of course there was the music: a distinctly-assured and almost brooding affair that seemed not to sit anywhere else on the scene.

Their compositions slewed rock into classical stylings with Kristina’s individualistic vocals fighting for breath over Way’s wall of wailing strings, Francis Monkman’s churning keyboards and fluid guitar, and Florian’s hammering percussion, amidst churningly muddy production that this re-master has done great service in improving.

‘Curved Air’ remains an impressive and engaging listen and this package effectively supersedes previous reissues by bagging in a bonus disc of the unreleased, A and B sides of singles, and period BBC Radio sessions revealing a hammer hardening of its repertoire when the band got stoked up live.  Enlightening reading in the booklet’s interviews, too.
*****

Review by Peter Muir

Album review (Air Cut)


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