What does it sound like?:
Curved Air were always a better idea than a reality, perhaps explaining their inability to retain any one line-up for any great length of time. Air Conditioning was their debut and, shall we say, very much of it’s time, 1970, the time being ripe for a classical violin and rock rhythm section fusion, fresh with, ever mindful of the potential TOTP audience, a dad-friendly hippy chick on vocals. And, to be fair, who outside of these portals remembers them for anything else? (And no, Back Street Luv was on their 2nd album.) So what do we get here?
2 discs, the first being a remaster of the original recording, with both sides of the debut single, reprising the different version that opens the album, and it’s flip. Disc 2 is loads of motley alternate versions, the compulsory John Peel sessions and, significantly, a studio recording of the apparently otherwise unreleased Daryl Way live showstopper, Thinking on the Floor. A fancy booklet would be included, were this not a stream, effectively also nuancing the sonic virtues of the remastering, but, hey, beggars can’t be choosers. It is probably clearer than the copy I have on my i-pod already. Or the 2 songs I felt worthy of keeping last time I listened to it. This is both good and bad. First the positives. Ever the sucker for a fiddle, I find Daryl Way’s playing is as superb as I remember, with that silky and honeyed vibrato tone soaring overhead, whenever his democratic turn to solo is allowed. The keyboards and guitar are less to my taste, both, in the indubitably competent hands of Francis Monkman, a little predictable. Bass and drums plod a little, even if sticksman Florian Pilkington-Miksa deserves a place in history for his name alone. As for Sonja Kristina, well I get the channeling of Grace Slick. But it is in all but voice. Sadly the voice is more a composite of Joan Baez and, on occasion, Julie Andrews. Honest. Yes, each track has it’s moments, usually when Way is leading the pack, but with always a time signature change never far away, dashing it all away into derivative guitar solos and those vocals. Track 6, Hide and Seek can be used as a template for both this dismissal and for the whole album, apart from the stand out set piece, Vivaldi, which, as on the original, appears twice, the reprise with cannons. Utterly bonkers, it is a marvellous indulgence and is alone worth the price I paid for the LP back in the distant. Pretentious? I should cocoa. I am playing With Cannons as I write, smiling broadly.
What does it all *mean*?
What were we smoking? OK, that’s harsh, it has aged no less well than many of it’s era, when to get all killer no filler was a rarity anyway. But I wish I had retained the memory rather than it’s invocation, sticking to Vivaldi and Back Street Luv as all I needed. OK, I now have the rarity, outside a later live LP “At the BBC”, Thinking on the Floor. Or I think I have, as the numbering of the tracks on disc 2 are all muddled and awry. Which was careless, unless a trick to confirm all review copies were listened through…. (STOP PRESS: Spotify also has the wrong track labelling for Thinking on the Floor, presenting yet another listen to It Happened Today, which is fast becoming an ear worm of unwanted proportions….)
Goes well with…
A short memory span.
Might suit people who like…
Jig a Jig, Devil’s Answer, Living in the Past, all those fab singles, ruing the day they bought the long-player.