Curved Air
Air Cut


4.0
excellent

Review

by ProgJect USER (31 Reviews)
May 4th, 2012 | 54 replies


Release Date: 1973 | Tracklist


Curved Air were a pioneering British progressive rock group, formed in 1970. Their music was eclectic, offering an inventive blend of melodic symphonic prog (with typical classical influences), enriched with doses of folk and psychedelica (Ă* la Jefferson Airplane), and even harder-edged rock, especially on Air Cut. The band’s main signatures are their unusual combination of instruments (a wide variety of synthesizers, electric violin, flute and trumpet) and Sonja Linwood’s crystal clear vocals. The dynamic and seductively ethereal Linwood was, same as Renaissances’ Annie Haslam, hailed as one of the queens of prog, both being pioneers of female-fronted rock. Much like Haslam, her distinctive voice is one of the band’s strong points. While there are evident comparisons to be made between Curved Air and Renaissance, especially concerning their classical influences, Curved Air were louder and meaner, never afraid of using a gruff distorted electric guitar or a dirty synthesizer tone. The band’s sarcastic and often smutty lyrics were also a far cry from Renaissance’ shining white angelic bliss.

Air Cut is their fourth album, and features tighter, more powerful and less experimental compositions than their earlier works. Most fans did not believe in the band without violinist Darryl Way and keyboardist Francis Monkman, and so Air Cut was not too warmly welcomed by critics and the public at the time. The record strays from the type of music established during the Monkman/Way era, which was more folk-oriented. While Way had strong classical leanings, his successor Eddie Jobson was more on the rock side of the equation, which is one reason why Air Cut is so appealing and entertaining (regardless of what elitists might think). It also sounds more like a full album, rather than as a collection of songs, contrary to their first two LP’s: varied, yet consistent.

After several conflicts within the band regarding their musical direction, Linwood and bassist Mike Wedgwood were the only members left for the recording sessions. They however continued to surround themselves with highly competent musicians, and the newcomers managed to bring a refreshing energy and effective musical ideas to the refurbished Curved Air. The enthusiasm of Linwood’s singing is clear proof of a permanent sense of purpose and faith within the band's ranks, despite the uncertainty of the moment.

The ultimate revelation is the aforementioned Eddie Jobson, who came to the fore with classically-influenced piano, soaring synthesizers and heavy organ sounds, managing to add multi-coloured textures and vibrancy to the group’s music. At only age seventeen, he could already be placed next to the very best keyboard exponents of the era; his performance on the grand piano gives Emerson and Wakeman a run for their money. In time, the new line-up could have been filled with promise, but this was not meant to be. After Jobson left for Roxy Music as replacement of Brian Eno (later moving on to Jethro Tull and U.K.), Curved Air would never again be able to match Air Cut's extremely high standards, which was a pity, as this album shows they definitely were running through a success trail. Soon after, guitarist Kirby Gregory joined a bogus Fleetwood Mac, and Wedgwood would find his way to Caravan.

Jobson's violin skills are well demonstrated by the stunning instrumental Armin, which sees all the instruments interweave seamlessly to create a dynamic bravura piece. The fluid convergence among the musicians is so solid that it is unbelievable that the line-up came to exist in a moment of crisis for the band. U.H.F. is another highlight, a fun, quick-paced song with lots of creative heavy guitar riffs and a sense of urgency in Linwood’s vocals; it changes into a slower song with some intricate time signature changes and very well executed guitars.

Metamorphosis is worth the price of admission alone. It's a lengthy ten minutes of prog epicness: gorgeous grand piano flourishes during the intro, then a change of mood with marching percussion and grinding organ, augmented by Jim Russell's percussions and Wedgwood's loud bass lines. Closer Easy is on the harder side, even if it features some fine piano parts. The harmonies toward the end are incredible, and the overall feel is emotional, the lyrics focusing on a break-up; the short keyboard solo at the end and the passage building up to it, leading into the solo and then the repetition of the chorus that follows, is one of the more magical moments of Air Cut.

Both World and Two-Three-Two are somewhat trivial, neither bad nor unpleasant, but unfortunately not adding anything special to the album's repertoire. Overall though, the greater moments are predominant and Curved Air managed to enhance both their rocky and artsy sides, building a perfect equilibrium between them. Any self-respecting prog fan should get hold of Air Cut, which is filled with original, skilful, inspired and intriguing music.



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user ratings (20)
Chart.
4.2
excellent
other reviews of this album
bullymong (4)
A fantastic progression in style from a pure prog band to a band embracing new ideas such as hard ro...


Comments:Add a Comment 
ProgJect
May 4th 2012


37 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

And there's ProgJect #25! We haven't been too active lately, but rest assured, the prog will not end.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
May 4th 2012


20654 Comments


Great work guys, pos'd.

I need to check this out, Phantasmagoria is great.

Digging: Townes Van Zandt - Townes Van Zandt

tarkus
May 4th 2012


5560 Comments


similar to airplane sweet

KILL
May 4th 2012


71750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

fuck yea at last, awesome review bros

Digging: Invisible - El jardin de los presentes

BarkHammer
May 4th 2012


125 Comments


Checking out as soon as possible.

Jethro42
May 4th 2012


12438 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Speaking of ''the unusual combination of instruments of the band'' at the 1st para and due to the fact that the edit function still hasn't be fixed, we need to add; flutes and trumpet
Thank you Nag, dear colleague. Once again, your magic touch turned out to make the difference.
@Jamie; I have no doubt you're gonna dig this. Same for you, tarkus and KILL. Cheers my friends.

TheNotrap
May 4th 2012


8068 Comments


Have a prog pos ProgJect team.

I read the review tomorrow.

Digging: Cannibal Corpse - A Skeletal Domain

Jethro42
May 4th 2012


12438 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Haha thanks so much for your confidence Notrap and above all, for your loyalty.

TheNotrap
May 4th 2012


8068 Comments


I can't go wrong with you guys. Review is top level for sure.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
May 4th 2012


7391 Comments


The review sucks. Have a pos.

Digging: Lo-Pan - Colossus

Jethro42
May 4th 2012


12438 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^Reported. Have a ban HA! =P

Cheers Notrap, bud.

Jethro42
May 4th 2012


12438 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Best Curved Air album IMO, Phantasmagoria being close second.

KILL
May 4th 2012


71750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

other way round for me but both rule hadr

Nagrarok
May 5th 2012


8245 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Indeed Phantasmagoria is excellent, so I'll be looking into this in the near future. Thanks all.

scissorlocked
May 5th 2012


3510 Comments


great work guys!

band is really good, though I haven't wholly listened neither this nor Phantasmagoria.

keep up the good prog

Jethro42
May 5th 2012


12438 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yes Nag, please do.
Thanks scissor, buddy.

Some great cuts on here:
Easy
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_99eVBMquAg
U.H.F.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlEJ_9UBR4U
Metamorphosis
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZAImsmFGhk



Nagrarok
May 5th 2012


8245 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

^Metamorphosis sounds promising.

Jethro42
May 5th 2012


12438 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Metamorphosis is arguably the proggiest thing the band has ever done.
The short but effective 'The Purple speed Queen' wouldnt be out of place in any early Rush albums.
'Armin' is another outstanding track on here. In short, get the album, you wont regret.

KILL
May 5th 2012


71750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

metalmoarphisis

Jethro42
May 5th 2012


12438 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

moar Phish
On a moar serious note, next ProgJect review is gonna be Locanda Delle Fate - Forse de Lucciole Non si Amano piu, one of the best Italian prog albums.



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