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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Metamorphosis
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...
Published 5 months ago by Leonardo27

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Star Shining...just about
I've not given up on North Star but my persevering with understanding it as a complete album is testing me. There are moments throughout the album that really trigger off great pleasure as being very well connected with the jazzy inspired cosmic touch of the first two or three Air LPs, but I find myself wanting to hear the original thing and before I can get through the...
Published 1 month ago by A. Smith


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Metamorphosis, 28 Mar 2014
By 
Leonardo27 (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: North Star (Audio CD)
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.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I LOVE IT... but..., 24 Mar 2014
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This review is from: North Star (Audio CD)
WITHOUT ANY DOUBT THIS IS THE ALBUM FANS HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR, without any real expectation of our wishes ever coming true, since, ...well, since Midnight Wire at the very least, and probably for many more of us, since Air Cut, or even Phantasmagoria. Yes, it is that good; utterly fantastic in fact! ...And yet still I have to say, "but..."

To re-cap; their swan-song '70s album Airborne was something of a disappointment to the vast majority of fans. Despite having a few 'nice' songs and some good playing on it, it was generally well below par, under far too much pressure from both the industry and the era, to be something more commercial than Curved Air were ever intended, designed or equipped to be. Those pressures had already been evident on Midnight Wire, and possibly even earlier, alongside the loss of original or core members. However, for me, both Air Cut & Midnight Wire managed to retain strong identities of their own, albeit with something of an evolving sound each time. They retained sufficient artistic links to the original band's first three classic albums, rather than making too many concessions to the changes or the times.

The late '70s were not good for progressive rock, progressive thinking, skilled musicianship, or music that could be appreciated as art. Many bands bowed to the commercial pressures to dumb-down, and thus went under, proving that the 'suits' applying the pressure didn't actually have a clue. (No surprises there!) They steered, even forced, many previously successful bands away from their existing fan base without any genuine hope of their picking up a new one. A very sorry state of affairs, in which the 'industry' crushed art in it's stranglehold, only now counteracted in part via the freedom offered by the internet. But I digress...

In the 30-odd years since Airborne there have been a number of false starts, false hopes, reunions, revivals and what unfortunately always ended up appearing to be halfhearted attempts at tours or recording; various spurts of activity under the Curved Air banner, usually with Sonja at the helm, some more promising than others, and rarely without some merit. But sadly they generally ending up being brief nostalgia trips, rather than ever bearing the hope of any genuine rebirth.

But then a few years ago, Sonja put together a new line-up, and 'Curved Air' began touring again. So off I went to see them play, my expectations deliberately and perhaps rather cynically limited, to protect me from disappointment. I soon found myself completely blown away, reduced to tears of delighted joy! This wasn't just Sonja and a bunch of session men going through the motions of another 'heritage' or revival tour, this WAS Curved Air! A new Curved Air maybe, there being only one other founding face in the cast, but definitely CURVED AIR nonetheless! ...A vital, new Curved Air with the spirit and the music of that classic original band clearly flowing through their veins and a passionate desire to get out there and play it. Their excellent new live album Live Atmosphere attested to just how much this line-up was the real deal.

Importantly, a genuine band rapport and identity was also very evident. Even talk of their writing new material now seemed as obvious a next step as it would previously have seemed highly unlikely. The first fruits were instrumental 'Spider' and North Star's lead-off track 'Stay Human', both of which go down a storm live and slot seamlessly into this line-up's interpretations of the classic material. Recording ofa new album was reported to be underway. Then worryingly, there was a sudden change of guitarist to assimilate, however the replacement was the 'safe hands' of another old hand, from Air Cut days. We awaited the new album with bated breath.

...And North Star certainly delivers, totally and utterly, as noted in my introductory words above. So why the 'but'...?

Well, because I have a pet hate of these part new, part re-recorded old material, part covers albums, that's why! ...Not enough to knock 'em down a star, or even half a star, but neither is it a gripe I am prepared to allow to go un-griped! Indeed it has provoked me to this my first ever Amazon review.

The 7 new songs/tunes on North Star are all really very strong, fitting perfectly into the classic Curved Air canon, while appropriately updating it, thus carrying this album clean over the bar and easily to the 5-star rating I have awarded it. Amazon's criteria for 5 stars is "I love it', ...and I do! ...Which is not to say that, for me, it couldn't have been even better.

The 4 re-recorded songs, either from the band's or Sonja's own recorded past, are all very well done. It's enjoyable to hear updated versions of Puppets, Situations and Young Mother, although I suspect that we long-term fans are probably far too attached to the originals to shift our preferences now. Will they cause new fans to investigate the older albums? No more so that they would be likely to do anyway, I'd guess. Perhaps Colder Than A Rose In Snow, from Sonja's eponymous 1980 album (also recently reissued) benefits particularly from re-recording. Released as a Christmas download 'single', it was good to hear the song as a full band Curved Air track, and especially without the rather dated sonic palate of the original version.

The 3 covers are also very listenable, and certainly do nothing to spoil the album in any way. Personally I feel that only Spirits In The Material World really works well in this company, as a Curved Air track. One might even argue an extremely tenuous Curved Air link, via Sonja's ex-husband Stewart Copeland, ex-drummer of both Curved Air and The Police. For Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars, as a song, I can summon only minimal enthusiasm, and the Beatles' Across The Universe is just too familiar in it's original form or as covered by so many others, I suppose

In the main I feel it's generally better for an artist to record an album of covers as a perfectly valid side project, if they must, and likewise with albums of their own previous work re-recorded, perhaps sweetening them with a few new tracks, rather than the other way around. Otherwise there is a risk of diluting what ought to be the clear statement of a new album, with material that unavoidably drags it back and forth, in and out of it's own time, imbuing it with something of the feel of a scrap book or Magpie collection of the old, the new, the borrowed and very probably the blue, too. I've often felt that in the past, and far more strongly with albums by other much loved artists (Fairport Convention, The Strawbs) and I must say that the effect is less damaging here than I feared it might be.

Nevertheless, I still believe that waiting for a few more new songs to percolate, would have been preferential to what may have been a populist attempt to widen appeal, by reaching out to both the more backward looking of old fans, and to any newbies who might be drawn further in by the familiarity of something they know?

It's a very small flaw, less than half a star in value, and I've probably made far too much of it because it is a personal bug-bear of mine. It is all that I can find to complain about with this stupendously good and long overdue return to form for Curved Air. I'm looking forward enormously to seeing them live again next month.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done all of you, 24 April 2014
By 
Mr. Thomas Thatcher "Tom Thatcher" (Salisbury, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: North Star (Audio CD)
I'm really very very impressed with this. It's far too good to be a last hurrah from a long-forgotten band, and is genuinely exciting and creative. Sonja and Florian are still there, with some absolutely ace playing from all the band. Paul Sax has a pretty frightening job following Darryl Way and Eddie Jobson, but he stands up loud and proud. Paul's a terrific player, also known for his busking and for other projects with Sonja. Kirby from the Air Cut incarnation easily maintains his fluid rocky style and Chris Harris and Robert Norton on bass and kit are both accomplished in the extreme. This is also a mix of music with some intriguing covers, and Soja gets the notes as well as ever.

Florian deserves a page on his own: he's a truly original and powerful drummer. He's also a deadly timekeeper and he is here.

As somebody else said in another review, this really is in danger of giving prog. a good name.

Seeing them live on Saturday 26th April and can't wait.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real Music, 20 April 2014
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This review is from: North Star (Audio CD)
Simply the best album I have heard in years. Hark back to Airborne which is one of my favourite air albums and yet this somehow may be better still, Blinding prog rock music at it's very best.. It isn't often you can play a new album these days that hits you full on in the face, ears bent towards mind boggling utopia... Sonja leading from the front with those gritty lyrics backed by musicianship that blows all cobwebs from your old prog face, Unbelievable stuff, also just for added flavour a couple of resurrected favourites in the form of puppets and young mother plus covers from the Police and John Lennons Beatle song Across the Universe ..I am stunned by this work and so will any music lover.. A absolute must for Curved Air fans and beyond..
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something Old, Something New... And some covers., 17 Mar 2014
By 
The Soft Machine Operator (COVENTRY, WARWICKSHIRE United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: North Star (Audio CD)
The first album of considerable new material since 1976... This consists of an album's worth of new songs, some covers and a couple of remakes of old Curved Air songs.

Right from the opening (new) track, it's clear this is Curved Air, with Sonja Kristina vocals soaring over an exciting musical backdrop featuring some fantastic violin and guitar interplay and some slightly jazzy sounding keyboard. The next track, Time Games, is a tour-de-force that descends into jazz-fusion territory and sounds like the band are morphing into the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The opening of Images and Signs has a classic Curved Air sound. Magnetism has some crazy vocal acrobatics and a fantastic musical backdrop that wouldn't sound out of place on a Gong album. There is some excellent ensemble playing and soloing on most of the tracks, which gives it some musical depth. The extended opening of Spider, for example, features jazzy keys, bluesy guitar and violin. When this band gets into a groove, you really don't want them to stop!

I didn't know what to expect after so long, but this is really quite something! Highly recommended for not only fans of Curved Air, but also fans of Prog Rock in general.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Waiting For, 18 Jun 2014
By 
D. W. Lees "keep music live" (Bromsgrove UK, Austin TX) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: North Star (Audio CD)
I was surprised just how good this CD was.

The musicianship was superb and Sonja Kristina's voice was as good as I remember it from way back when.

A mix of new an old tracks, new tracks and covers, it made me want to get out my old vinyl!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars career best?, 1 Jun 2014
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This review is from: North Star (Audio CD)
Quite possibly.. It is virtually unheard of for a band to reach their creative and musical peak several decades into their career but i think thats what we have here. This is an astonishingly good album that floored me on my first listen and succeeds in flooring me every time i play it, The musicianship is jaw dropping. Its more than just a return to form - they were brilliant back in the day, but, but now they have surpassed themselves. I know its not all new- that doesn't matter, why should it, by making full use of modern recording techniques and technology they have created something that is beyond compare, I have heard nothing quite this good from any band of late, and i listen to plenty. For my money, Curved Air have with this offering, achieved number 1 top spot as the best prog band (ancient or modern) on the circuit today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still great!!, 30 May 2014
This review is from: North Star (Audio CD)
I had the pleasure of seeing Curved Air in Sheffield on their recent tour. Last time was at Leeds Uni in the early 70's. Expecting to love their old stuff but probably not so much their new material, I was therefore very surprised how good tracks from North Star are. The is a great CD. They really are back!! and Sonja still has it!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars curved air still great, 9 April 2014
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This review is from: North Star (Audio CD)
hi there, a superb cd from a band I have adored for many years and would recommend to any rock fan
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For all Curved Air Fans, 17 Mar 2014
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This review is from: North Star (Audio CD)
Absolutely Brilliant Curved Air Fans will not be disappointed and try and catch them on tour now! This album really harks back to classic Curved Air.
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