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Curved Air - Phantasmagoria CD (album) cover

PHANTASMAGORIA

Curved Air

 

Eclectic Prog

3.84 | 149 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Raff
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Curved Air's third album is a more than worthy effort, though nowhere as good as its follow-up, the brilliant "Air Cut", which I reviewed some time ago. The band, led by sultry, Swedish-born vocalist Sonja Kristina Linwood, are a prime example of that elusive subgenre of prog called Art Rock, compounded of diverse influences of which the symphonic component is only one. As a matter of fact, the folk component is particularly evident on this record, seen as Sonja Kristina used to be a folk singer before forming the band.

As others have already pointed out, the best tracks on the album are the first three, the long, variegated "Marie Antoinette", celebrating the exploits and the tragic end of the notorious French queen, the wistful, folky "Melinda (More or Less)", and the quirky, risqué "Not Quite the Same", a tale of masturbation with a very catchy chorus. Kristina's voice, though sweet and haunting, is neither very powerful nor very clear, and suffers even more from poor production values. She was indeed a charismatic figure for the band, but as a vocalist she is certanly not on a par with Renaissance's Annie Haslam or Pentangle's magnificent Jacqui McShee.

However, the real stars of the album are guitarist/keyboardist Francis Monkman and violinist Darryl Way - both of whom had left the band by the time they recorded "Air Cut", to be replaced by whizzkid Eddie Jobson. Way really comes into his own in the instrumental "Cheetah", while Monkman provides the backbone of the band's sound, getting his chance to show his chops in the other instrumental, "Ultra-Vivaldi", an electronic take on the Venetian composer's work.

Much less successful is the experimental "Whose Shoulder Are You Looking Over Anyway", in which Sonja's voice is fed through some electronic gadgetry - mere filler, not really interesting from any point of view. Actually, the whole second half of the album is not as good as the first, with lengthy "Over and Above", which sees an impressive array of guest musicians (including an orchestra), ultimately coming across as not particularly memorable, at least to these ears. The same could be said of album closer "Once A Ghost, Always a Ghost" which has an endearing, lilting rythm but not much substance.

All in all, this is a more than pleasant listen from an interesting band, though certainly no masterpiece. Anyway, its originality should be enough capture the attention of those who want to discover the output of lesser-known British prog bands of the Seventies.

Raff | 3/5 |

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