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Curved Air - 'North Star' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/2d/8a/c2/curved-air-north-star-35-1418077382.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     December 08, 2014    
 
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There always was more to this band than ‘Back Street Luv’, and clearly there still is.

Curved Air are perhaps best known for their 1971 hit single ‘Back Street Luv’, for “iconic” vocalist Sonja Kristina and for offering a mid-1970s drum stool to Kristina’s later husband, Stewart Copeland. It’s also easy to forget that the first three CA albums all breached the U.K. Top 20; there always was more to CA than ‘Back Street Luv’ (great track though it is).

‘North Star’ is the first CA album to feature significant lashings of new material since 1976’s ‘Airbourne’. Of the fourteen tracks wagging their tails here, seven are new, four are re-recordings of early CA or Kristina solo material and three are covers of tracks by The Police (‘Spirits In The Material World’), Snow Patrol (‘Chasing Cars’) and The Beatles (‘Across The Universe’).

While it is true that only Kristina and drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa remain from the original line-up, returning “classic-era” guitarist Kirby Gregory (who played with the band back in 1972-73) adds further authenticity. In addition, Chris Harris (bass), Robert Norton (keyboards) and Paul Sax (violin) have all been with the band for most of the period since the bands 2008 reformation, with Norton joining and Sax replacing original violin maestro and founding member Darryl Way in 2009.

The new material sounds surprisingly fresh, with Carl Glover’s sleeve design giving the album a light, bright feel and a real lift. Rousing opener ‘Stay Human’ is masterful, capturing the essence of the band’s Classical and Folk-infused Progressive Art-Rock, with Gregory and Sax on fire; ditto ‘Images and Signs, ‘Interplay’ and the instrumental ‘Spider’. In fact, the best of the new material easily eclipses the re-recordings and covers.  

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“And the people grow older” sings Kristina in ‘Old Town News’ and while that’s evidently true of the assorted band members age-wise, musically the current incarnation of CA sound fresher and more vital than ever. There are tight band performances throughout, with Harris and Pilkington-Miksa selflessly creating a platform for the soloists and Norton adding warmth and drama at every turn.

The only point of concern, loathed as I am to admit it, is Kristina’s voice itself. Fans will point to its enduringly ethereal qualities, though to these ears, occasionally here it sounds a little thin; nevertheless, that’s a minor quibble. I’m sure existing fans will be delighted with what’s on offer, while potential new fans could do far worse than follow the ‘North Star’.

As I say, there always was more to this band than ‘Back Street Luv’, and clearly there still is. In remaining sensitive to the Curved Air sound and tipping its hat to the band’s history, the mix of material on this album proves it.

Michael Anthony

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