Curved Air - Alive 1990 - 2000

intro

There seems to be a lot of bands getting together with their original lineups and putting out live albums these days. In some cases, it turns out to be a disaster and often, it is an interesting experiment.

review

Curved Air fits into the latter category. Their "Alive 1990" CD, released last year houses over 70 minutes of a one time only concert. There are many faults with this CD but there are also many strengths.

The most visible surprise of this CD is Sonya Kristina’s Voice. Once angelic, but limited, Kristina’s voice has now matured and shows more depth and grit. It adds edge to the recordings that the band never had before. Francis Monkman and Darryl Way – both multi-instrumentalists and the musical masterminds of the band - play as well as ever. In general, the songs have a new energy that they originally lacked and with a more modern recording, fans have a chance to hear some better versions of old classics.

For those who unfamiliar with Curved Air, the 70s band was an excellent example of the fusion of rock with classical in a progressive vein. The band’s albums ranged from soft, ethereal ballads to scorching hard rockers. They experimented a bit with the atonal and avant-garde as well and their first four albums (and a live one) remain progressive rock classics to this day. However, many of their early works were so poorly recorded that even re-mastering (if it ever happens) would not help.

Some of the downsides of the CD are the horrible song of the electronic drums which really betray the acoustic roots of the band. Though drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa is a talented and skilled drummer, he made a wrong choice to play on such a kit. The band is rounded off with a special appearance by Rob Martin who plays bass on Vivaldi.

Another fault of the album is the fact that it seems to take a few songs before the band warms up. It seems from the recorded applause, that the audience was quite small and this may have had something to do with it.

The opening song, "20 Years On" was composed especially for the concert and though a great song, it was not, for some reason, not recorded. The recording done on a cheap mono recorder in the audience is included on the band’s insistence.

The band proceeds to warm up through several songs until their classic, "Marie Antoinette", track 5. This track is beautiful to begin with, but here the band rocks their way to a fierce finale. From here on, the CD never lets down. "Melinda" (More or Less), another ethereal classic is given fine treatment. "Situations" and "Young Mother" are both fusion-esque rockers and feature the great electric violin that Darryl Way is noted for. A version of "Vivaldi", the band’s 10 minute Opus, is included here and adds as much to the original version as it takes out.


conclusion

Curved Air’s music is something that requires many listens and if you have been eager to discover the band, here’s a modern "Best of" version that certainly will give you a taste. I only wonder why the band didn’t take the time to record more original material in the last decade.

author - date - rating - label

Richard Zywotkiewicz - February 2001 -   - Mystic Records