It's probably fair to surmise that few would have seen this one coming, after a hiatus of almost 40 years. One of the pioneers of prog rock, Curved Air only ever achieved one (unrepresentative) hit way back in 1971 and despite critical acclaim never enjoyed the widespread success that their distinctive talent undoubtedly deserved.
Of the original band only singer Sonja Kristina and drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa remain on board, along with original-era guitarist Kirby Gregory. The new line-up delivers seven new songs alongside re-interpretations of three old ones, a re-working of "Colder Than A Rose In Snow" from Kristina's first solo album and covers of songs by The Police, Snow Patrol and the Beatles.
Complex, varied, satisfying and often exhilarating, 'North Star' marks a successful if wholly unexpected return. Kristina's once sensational voice still holds up pretty well after all this time, the increased vibrato now making her sound, at times, uncannily like Joni Mitchell.
"Time Games", "Images and Signs", "Old Town News" and the jazz-fusion instrumental "Spider" are particularly memorable. Of the covers, "Spirits In The Material World" and "Across The Universe" are surprisingly effective with only Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars" failing to fully ignite.
An album that is in danger of giving prog rock a good name.