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Curved Air - 'Retrospective' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/45/ec/42/954_CurvedAirRetrospective_1296776054.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     February 03, 2011    
 
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This is a great potential purchase for those of you who do not detest digipacks and also those who enjoy digging into quality rock history.

You will excuse me starting this review with two confessions. The first is that I have purchased the first two Curved Air albums twice: when they were first released, on vinyl – and then (when I could resist it no longer) - I repurchased them on CD (and despite retaining the vinyl albums for their individualistic presentation). The second is that – along with most young men of my age, I lusted after vocalist Sonja Kristina – a lust that was fuelled when I saw the band perform live, and one that only faded very slowly with time! You might just call me human!

Turning now to the package under consideration, this is a retrospective that unsurprisingly leans very heavily on the contents of those first two albums, because the material contained therein was not only the most consistent but it was also the most groundbreaking and (dare I use the word?) progressive with their classically-infused rock anthems. The near 13 minutes of 'Piece Of Mind' is – it could be argued - a tour-de-force of symphonic rock that was at least 20 years ahead of its time. And then there's Darryl Way's showcase number 'Vivaldi' – an instrumental that would be astounding if it were to first appear on an album now. The band had its five minutes of real fame with 'Back Street Luv' (from the 'Second Album') which the excellent and detailed notes by respected rock journo Chris Welch tells us was based upon a relationship with SC had with a man when she was in her teens.

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The 'Retrospective' also includes tracks from six further Curved Air releases: 'Phantasmagoria', 'Air Cut', 'Midnight Wire', 'Live', 'Airborne' and 'Love Child' and perhaps, surprisingly, also three tracks from SC's current multi-media project 'Mask'. I have never owned any of these later Curved Air albums, shunning them as the band shed original members, and reviews seemed to became less and less ecstatic. However, I have been floored by how good most of the tracks from the six later albums included here are, and that is especially true of the four culled from 'Air Cut' (only SC remaining from the original line-up) and which Welch reveals to be "many peoples' favourite album" by the band. The highlight is the epic 10:41 of 'Metamorphosis' but the other three very varied songs are also quite wonderful – although the balance of instrumentation has now changed from that provided by the original musicians. Elsewhere, songs such as 'Desiree' (with stupendous Claptonseque guitar), the majestic 'Broken Lady' and plaintive 'Love Child' are all triumphs. Only 'Woman On A One Night Stand' really fails to hit the mark, and seems to derive from an alternate universe!

I did think that including three numbers from 'Mask' was also an extravagance, but 'Lambent Spire' and 'Beloved' from 'Heavy Petal' and 'Space In Between' from 'Technopia' are more than valid inclusions here and round off the two CD package in fine style. This is a great potential purchase for those of you who do not detest digipacks and also those who enjoy digging into quality rock history.

Paul Jerome Smith

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