Curved Air — North Star
(Curved Air Records CRVE002, 2014, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2014-05-02
Who would have thought that a band that’s been around since 1970, gone through numerous personnel changes (with every album), breakups, reconfigurations and reunions, would come back with an album 44 years after their debut that is arguably the strongest studio album of their career? North Star features pretty much the same lineup that played on the Live Atmosphere album a couple years ago, with the exception of guitarist Kirby Gregory (who played with the band on their Air Cut LP) replacing the exiting Kit Morgan. Original members include singer Sonja Kristina (it wouldn’t be Curved Air without her!) and drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa, and rounding out the band are violinist Paul Sax, Chris Harris on bass, and Robert Norton on keyboards. The fourteen cuts are split evenly between seven brand new songs, the remainder being re-interpretations of earlier material and a few select cover tunes, noteworthy among the latter is album closer “Across the Universe” originally from The Beatles swansong Let It Be, and a re-envisioned version of The Police’s “Spirits in the Material World” – in both cases Curved Air makes these songs their own. The disc launches on fire with “Stay Human” and “Time Games,” two exceptionally solid new tunes that bring out the best in everybody in the band, unmistakably Curved Air from the very first note. This is followed by a more folky and gentle version of “Puppets,” the side one closer from Second Album. Four more new original songs follow, none short of excellent, then we are re-introduced to “Colder Than a Rose in Snow,” a reworking of a tune from Kristina’s eponymous 1980 solo album. Also noteworthy among the remaining cuts is a reworking of “Situations” (from the Airconditioning LP) that presents the tune in an entirely new light, perhaps topping the original version. Curved Air have always had a unique sound among progressive rock bands, comparable to no others, driven by Sonja’s voice and the ever-present violin, and that is maintained throughout North Star. Without reservation, I believe this may be the band’s strongest studio effort to date, or at least on par with the first two albums.
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more
Chicago-Based Surabhi Ensemble Tours the World in January – Surabhi Ensemble was formed more than a decade ago in Chicago with the aim of bringing together musicians from varying traditions to make music. Saraswathi Ranganathan, who plays veena, assembled a cast that includes Arabic oud, Spanish guitar, and percussion from Africa and India. This month, the group will be sharing their sounds with concert-goers in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa. » Read more
Seaprog Festival Seeks Donations – Seaprog is a small festival in Seattle that highlights creative music from many genres with artists from around the world. It's also a US non-profit organization. They're seeking donations to help keep the ball rolling. Starting in 2013, the organization has been growing, and has featured such artists as Free Salamander Exhibit, Jack o' the Clock, Nik Turner, Cabezas de Cera, Miriodor, Thinking Plague, and many more. » Read more
The Seventeenth Dream of Dr Sardonicus Festival Tickets Now Available – Fruits de Mer Records and their merry crew of psychedelic explorers are getting set to present the next The Seventeenth Dream of Dr. Sardonicus Festival. The dates are set for August 2-4, 2019 at The Cellar Bar in Cardigan, Wales. They've also announced that the legendary Groundhogs will top the bill. » Read more