Curved Air were a pioneering British progressive rock group formed in 1970 by musicians from different artistic backgrounds like classical music, folk and electronic s. Those differences resulted in a mixture of progressive rock, folk rock and fusion with classical elements. Like the American bands It's A Beautiful Day, The Flock and The United States Of America before them, Curved Air belonged to the first European rock bands that featured a violin along with High Tide and East Of Eden. Curved Air released eight studio albums of which the first three reached the UK top-20, and they had a hit single with Back Street Luv (1971) that reached number four in the UK singles chart. The main members in those days were Sonja Kristina (vocals), Darryl Way (violin, keyboards, backing vocals, guitars, drum machine), Francis Monkman (keyboards, guitar) and Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums). Also well-known musicians like Mike Wedgwood (ex-Caravan, bass guitar, vocals, guitar), Eddie Jobson (UK, keyboards, violin), Stewart Copeland (The Police, drums) and Tony Reeves (Greenslade, bass, keyboards) used to be a member of the band that split up and reformed several times.
Early 2008, the band regrouped again after a very long time. In a message to the Curved Air Yahoo Group, Sonja Kristina advised that the new line-up would consist of herself, Darryl Way, Florian Pilkington-Miksa, Andy Christie (guitar) and Chris Harris (bass). Francis Monkman, who was originally pictured with Kristina, Way and Pilkington-Miksa for the reunion, left the project. “Unfortunately, he didn't have the same vision as the rest of us as to how the new project should be approached and he wasn't prepared to compromise, so our ways had to part”, commented Way. And Kristina confirmed: “Francis was in at the beginning, but had extremely different ideas from Darryl, about how he wanted this new Curved Air to prepare and develop. Eventually, he withdrew. We continued with Darryl at the helm as our musical director and producer.” In 2008 the CD-box set Reborn was released containing twelve re-recorded tracks and two new songs: Coming Home and The Fury.
In 2008, the new line-up performed in Southern England, Italy and Malta. In January 2009 the band played twice in Japan in Kawasaki with guitarist Kit Morgan, who had replaced Andy Christie. In August, Eddie Jobson replaced Darryl Way during a gig in Chislehurst. In October, Darryl Way was indisposed and Robert Norton (keyboards) and Paul Sax (violin) stood in for him. This line-up (Kristina, Pilkington-Miksa, Harris, Morgan, Sax and Norton) eventually continued to perform as Curved Air. In 2011 they played at the London High Voltage Festival and they even did some concerts on the European mainland.
Live Atmosphere, a live album consisting of recordings from the previous British tour, was released in April 2012. While listening to this album I clearly noticed that the band still sound as strong as in the early days. I was most curious to find out how singer Sonja Kristina sounds nowadays. Of course she has grown older and her voice sounds a bit different compared to her voice in the seventies, but that certainly doesn't mean that she can't sing anymore. Her voice is still important for the band's music and it's a pleasure to hear her sing all those classic Curved Air tracks. The sound of the electric violin has always been an important feature in their music as well. On this live release Paul Sax − who was one of the first entrants to the Yehudi Menuhin School − demonstrates to be a master violinist. He's a passionate and adequate performer, who's well qualified to follow in the footsteps of Darryl Way.
During this almost one hour long souvenir from the previous British tour you can enjoy several classic and well-performed Curved Air songs. Most of these tracks originate from the first three albums. I think people who possess these albums will be pleased to hear outstanding versions of Marie Antoinette, Propositions, Melinda, Everdance, It Happened Today and the hit single Back Street Luv. I'm sure that many people would have loved to hear more tracks from Air Cut, but unfortunately only Easy is featured from their best album ever.
However, more songs from Aircut are performed live on stage as you can see and hear on the bonus-DVD that comes along as a nice extra. During this way too short DVD of hardly twenty minutes, you can enjoy short fragments of Metamorphosis and Armin, but also footage of the High Voltage Festival 2011 has been included. A short version of Vivaldi, another classic Curved Air track can be enjoyed as well, but strangely enough it hasn't been included on the live album. Instead you can enjoy the nice instrumental piece Atmospheric Overture, which was used for the intro and outro of the live album and the live shows.
It's great that Curved Air is back in the spotlights perfectly performing their music from the old days with a lot of passion. Let's hope they will continue playing those classic songs live on stage. Hopefully their next step is recording an album with newly written material. That's really something to look out for. In the meantime I'll play this strong live album!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
Where to buy?
All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2013