Curved Air for me, are one of the most overlooked and underrated Progressive Rock bands to come out of the ‘70s. Among supporters including the great John Peel and Lee Dorrian, founder of Rise Above Records and founding member of Napalm Death and Cathedral, they have never done me wrong when it comes to taking music to higher levels. I first heard their music back 10 years ago when my Mom got me the 4-CD box set from Rhino entitled, Supernatural Fairy Tales: The Progressive Rock Era. The box set has been out of print for a long time, but you can find some copies of it on eBay.
Since their formation in the ‘70s and lead by the amazing Sonja Kristina whose vocals just sends chills down the spine whenever I would put on either Air Conditioning, Phantasmagoria, or Second Album, they would take the dark side of music to a sinister background. This year they released the first volume of the Rarities and it’s titled, Tapestry of Propositions. The song was originally released on their debut album in 1970 released 46 years ago on the Warner Bros. label, and it still packs a punch both the studio and live version of the song.
Here, recorded live between 2013-14, it is a 64 minute and 34 second adventure of the different improvisations of the piece which was done by present keyboardist, Robert Norton. He painstakingly compiled the pieces into one of 15 movements of the song and made into a whole circle. You can close your eyes and imagine yourself at these gigs and watching the band giving the energy and power to delve into.
It is dark, haunting, spiritual, and raw. The variations is right in front of your eyes. Most of the time, it’s Jazz, Fusion, Spacey, Krautrock. Or should I say Space Rock with a Jazz-Krautrock Floydian twist thanks to the keyboard sections done by Norton himself. Guitarist Kirby Gregory is not just channeling the styles of former Curved Air/Sky guitarist Francis Monkman, but he’s going through the voyages between CAN’s Michael Karoli, Hawkwind's Dave Brock, and Ash Ra Tempel’s Manuel Gottsching.
I can imagine the band are in a tightrope after Sonja belts her scream that gives the audience the stamp of approval and then she gives the band the center stage and give them free rein. They want to make sure they don’t fall to the ground and they don’t throughout the entire improvisations. This is not your typical Dead show, this is Curved Air at their finest. Not to mention the dynamic and amazing drum work by Florian Pilkington-Miska and the intense violin work from Paul Sax.
Here they are giving the powers of a high-tech electrical power with thunderous sections that will have jaws drop at the same time. I always imagine Sonja not just as a singer, but I can imagine her as at times Leopold Stokowski. She is to me, like a conductor telling the band where she wants to go into the next section and the first volume of the rarities, I could tell I was on the edge of my seat waiting to find out where they will go next.
For me, while this is a first volume of the Curved Air rarities, I hope they will do more and find some unearthed gems that didn’t make it into the final cut of their albums or live material also. But here with the Tapestry of Propositions, it’s an extended version or a director's cut of the song that you just want to put your headphones and turn this up to 11 and be in awe of the music of Curved Air.