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Curved Air

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Curved Air Phantasmagoria album cover
3.81 | 276 ratings | 32 reviews | 24% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1972

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Marie Antoinette (6:20)
2. Melinda (More or Less) (3:25)
3. Not Quite the Same (3:44)
4. Cheetah (3:33)
5. Ultra-Vivaldi (2:22)
6. Phantasmagoria (3:15)
7. Whose Shoulder Are You Looking Over Anyway? (3:24)
8. Over and Above (8:36)
9. Once a Ghost, Always a Ghost (4:25)

Total Time 39:04

Line-up / Musicians

- Sonja Kristina / vocals (1-3,6-9), acoustic guitar (2)
- Francis Monkman / guitar (1,4), electric piano (1,8), harpsichord (2,4,9), piano (3,6), synth (3,8), organ (6,8), tubular bells & gong (8), percussion (9)
- Darryl Way / violin (2-4,6,8), piano (1), synth (1,3), vocals, tubular bells (1), Mellotron (1)
- Mike Wedgwood / bass, acoustic (6) & electric (9) guitars, vocals (1,6,8,9), percussion (9)
- Florian Pilkington-Miksa / drums, percussion (9)

- Annie Stewart / flute (2)
- Crispian Steele-Perkins / trumpet (3,8)
- Paul Cosh / trumpet (3,8)
- Jim Watson / trumpet (3,8)
- George Parnaby / trumpet (3)
- Chris Pyne / trombone (3)
- Alan Gout / trombone (3,8)
- David Purser / trombone (3,8)
- Steve Saunders / trombone (3,8)
- Frank Ricotti / xylophone (8), vibes (8,9), congas (9)
- Mal Linwood-Ross / percussion (9)
- Colin Caldwell / percussion (9)
- Jean Akers / percussion (9)
- Doris the Cheetah / cheetah roar (4)

Releases information

Artwork: Richard Rockwood with John Gorham (illustration)

LP Warner Bros. Records ‎- K 46158 (1972, UK)

CD Warner Music Japan Inc. ‎- WPCP-4224 (1991, Japan)
CD Warner Bros. Records ‎- 7599-26194-2 (1997, Germany)
CD Repertoire Records ‎- REPUK 1164 (2011, UK) Remastered (?)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
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CURVED AIR Phantasmagoria ratings distribution

(276 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(24%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(46%)
Good, but non-essential (27%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

CURVED AIR Phantasmagoria reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars Again another pleasant album from a pleasant band , isn't it pleasant? This is one of their better effort but it doesn't approach the master group of the times. Curved Air was always seen as second line of prog bands and this their finer album gets only three stars, so I think that everything has been said. Their "soft" prog is always pleasant (especially for the proghead wanting to get cosy with the girlfriend), will never offend ears (more likely to bore them), well made, produced by good musos, but they will never set the crowds ablaze.

Worth a spin and if you like Camel or B J H with female vocals (quite fine , really ), you should enjoy this.

Review by Menswear
5 stars Great Britain is my favorite country. I mean, come on, they have The Police, Genesis, The Beatles (my all-time favorite), Gentle Giant, The Who, ELP, James, Bass and Double Diamond (beer), Gryphon and Camel. Can you really ask for more? Well, you certainly can add Curved Air.

Yep, THE progressive band with THE girl who sings. I know, girls are not always welcome in the prog world, but this time, it actually fits. Sonja Kristina has a mysterious voice. At least, the way she uses it makes it mysterious. She slightly changes her voice throughout the album, depending of the feel of the song. Sometimes she sings tragically (Marie Antoinette, Melinda, Over and Above) and sometimes in a bit of Brigitte Bardot's way (Phantasmagoria). Great news, by now. Plus, a skilled violin player named Darryl Way. I knew this guy from Trace's second album called BIRDS. He obviously have an impressive classical background, and he uses his violin very well in almost every song. The song Cheetah is showing what he's capable of. More good news now! And the general feel of the album is comparable to...humm, Alice in Wonderland on an 'acid lysergic 25' trip? No kidding. Hey, who would really care about Marie-Antoinette, a woman of ancient France who got her head cutten by the Revolution? The theme of Not quite the Same is obvious, and I won't comment it! There's a small number called Ultra-Vivaldi, and it's..well..Vivaldi ultra fast.

More weirdness is coming in the second half. The title song (Phantasmagoria) is catchy and could easily been played in a horror B- movie called The Monster Club (from United Kingdom actually) or in an old Castlevania video game. Man, whatever those smoked in studio has to be prohibited! (maybe the studio's rug? cokcroaches? Licking african frogs?) It's a REALLY WEIRD album. I find it more funny than weird actually.

They had tremendously good ideas. Many songs are very STRANGE but the're actually clever, futuristic (track 7. Hear it and believe it was advanced for it's time!) and catchy. And the keyboards uses are good, excellent I should say, from start to finish. Well, this band had it all. But, there's a major problem. This is THE example of how a good band can be ruined by...bad production. This album sounds muffled and choked. Too bad, because there's lots of subtilities and talent-showing (especially in the keyboards and violin) in the music.

For example, the harpsicord in Melinda More or Less is almost unaudible. More frustrating, many cool guitar and keyboards passages in Marie-Antoinette are inexistant unless you stick your ear to your stereo speakers (no kidding). Man, this is frustrating! Because we're missing a bit the feel of the album with this problem. Remains the songs, sometimes funny (Not quite the same), floating (Melinda More or Less), entertaining (Phantasmagoria), scary (Whose Shoulder are you Looking Anyway?), talent-packed (Cheetah), dramatically spinning (Over and Above). Lots of great ideas, humor, talent by the ton, voice by Kristina (ou la la), dazzling talent of Darryl Way (more ou la la).

I'm telling you, this record has it all....if you concentrate enough to bypass the production.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Off with their heads!?

If the rest of this album was up to the standard of the first two tracks, this would be a four or five star album. Unfortunately, they are not.

"Marie Antoinette", a tribute to the French heroine, is a beautiful haunting piece, with Sonja's voice slightly echoed over a soft atmospheric backing. "Melinda (more or less)" is a highly melodic softer song, very simple in its structure, but wonderfully effective.

The remaining tracks on side one (of the LP) are pleasant, if uninspired, including another reworking of "Vivaldi" (which originally appeared on the "Air conditioning" album) entitled "Ultra-Vivaldi". This time the theme is speeded up, and played on keyboards to a frantic conclusion.

Side 2 is disappointing and rather indulgent. For example, "Whose shoulder are you looking over anyway" consists entirely of Sonja Kristina's voice electronically processed into what is quite simply a mess.

Worth picking up for the first two tracks, but disappointing thereafter.

Review by Proghead
4 stars Amazing followup to "Second Album", the final album with (more or less) the original lineup (the band had trouble keeping bassists), the difference here, of course, the band was on to their third bassist, Mike Wedgwood (later of CARAVAN, for the albums "Cunning Stunts" and "Blind Dog at St. Dunstans"). A more elaborate album than before thanks to the inclusion of strings and horns, not to mention a jazzier album.

The first two songs, "Marie Antoinnette" and "Melinda (More or Less)" are stunning ballads that's firmly in familiar CURVED AIR territory. These two songs gives more fuel in the fire that I feel Sonja Kristina was one of the best female vocalist around! "Not Quite the Same" is a rather dirty number about masturbation, while "Cheetah" is an instrumental piece dominated by Darryl Way's violin. "Ultra-Vivaldi" is Francis Monkan's time to shine, where he gives an electronic take on Vivaldi on his VCS-3 synth (of course this wasn't the first time the band explored Vivaldi, as demonstrated on "Air Conditioning", their debut).

Side two finds the band being more experimental. For example, a Monkman experiment called "Whose Shoulder Are You Locking" which involved Sonja Kristina electronically modifying her voice in to a synthesizer and computer, which ends up sounding like a vocoder (I understand this experiment also involved one of the guys who worked for Electronic Music Studios, the same company responsible for the VCS-3/Synthi "A" synthesizers), and I'm sure this gave Electronic Music Studios (EMS) an idea to develop a vocoder. "Over and Above" is a wonderful jazzy number, dominated by vibraphones, with lots of horns and strings. There are some quirky passages that brings to minds Frank ZAPPA or GENTLE GIANT. "Once a Ghost Always a Ghost" is the closing number, another quirky number, with more jazzy passages and horns. What a great album that I should have tried so long ago, it's not even funny!

My rating: 4 1/2 stars

Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The sound of Sonja Kristina's heavily accented vocals singing "Fire in their hands/Steel in their eyes, they rise chanting "Revolution, Vive le Nation!"" remains my abiding memory of Curved Air's outstanding album Phantasmoria. This follow-up to The Second Album, which spawned a great single Back Street Luv, contains many of Curved Air's finest compositions and most progressive moments. I heartily recommend it.

Of course, the bloodthirsty, (ahem) majestic Marie Antoinette is one of those essential art-rock songs, with rollicking piano, chants, fuzz guitar from Francis Monkman and eerie synths from Darryl Way, and Sonja Kristina presiding over it all. The beautiful folk ballad Melinda (More Or Less) is also unforgettable. With Kristina on acoustic guitar (let's not forget that this former folkie initially replaced Sandy Denny in The Strawbs!), Way's violin, Monkman's harpsichord, Mike Wedgwood's understated bas and a notable guest flute appearance from one Annie Stewart, also succeed in transporting listeners back a couple of centuries.

As great as both songs are, neither is the album-defining classic, an honour that belongs to Monkman's classic Over And Above. Oustanding moments abound in this song that resembles some of the work that Annie Haslam and Renaissance would craft in subsequent years. A swirling, multi-dimensional mini-epic, it's fuelled by astounding guest performances from vibraphonists/xylophonists Crispian Steel-Perkins, Paul Cosh and Jim Watson and also features stellar contributions from Way and Monkman, both with an otherworldly synth solo and some earthier wah-wah guitar (which is largely absent on this record) to close off the piece. With symhonic dashes, jazzy runs and even the yet-to-be-sacred tubular bells, it is arguably the most progressive song Curved Air ever recorded.

The rest of the album is not quite in the same league as this masterpiece, but is generally very strong. Not Quite The Same begins with medieval brassy sounds before evolving into a bouncy folk-jazz with a melancholic chorus, and an unusual Canterbury- influenced synth solo (both Way and Monkman play synth on this one). Cheetah is an upbeat Darryl Way instrumental sees him starring on violin, with just enough unpredictable changes to keep the piece fresh. The title track is another one of those eerie, theatrical Curved Air cuts, although I don't really like the chorus.

The one real downer is Ultra-Vivaldi, a sped up sequenced version of a song that has already been performed twice before by the group on Air Conditioning). The sequencer idea may have seemed worthwhile back in 1972, but it really stinks now. Of the three Curved Air Vivaldi pieces (Vivaldi, Vivaldi With Cannons and Ultra-Vivaldi) the original Vivaldi track is the only one I consider worth listening to. Luckily the damage is over in just 1:24! Whose Shoulder Are You Looking Over Anyway? is another experiment that sounds cool but ain't entirely convincing. The track consists of Kristina vocal tracks fed through a "PDP8/L computer and a Synthi 100 Synthesizer", and it's all edited to create a ghostly atmosphere. It's not as tacky as Ultra-Vivaldi, but does go some way towards making the album feel dated.

The totally wild, unpredictable feel of the album is emphasized by the concluding track Once A Ghost, Always A Ghost, a strange brassy cabaret song that isn't a personal favourite, but does end the album on an offbeat, yet stimulating note, thanks in part to another incredible vibraphone solo. You have to give this album and its creators marks for not resting on the laurels of the previous year's hit single, and going on to craft a daring album despite the increasing friction that developed between the group's two main songwriters.

Unfortunately, the band imploded after this excellent album, losing both Way and Monkman ... and things were never the same. But should you ever need to convince anyone of Curved Air's greatness, kindly direct them here. This is something else. ... 85% on the MPV scale

Review by 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.

Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is definitely the best recording from this band I have yet heard!

The opener "Marie Antoinette" has a good jazzy touch on it, and it's different movements make it as a very good soft progressive classic tune. The singing is done here quite carefully, and the Belgian TV performance on the short "Masters from the Vaults" DVD is more psychedelic, dynamic and yet better with visual dimension. "Melinda (More or Less)", which is also on that DVD, is a classic British folk number, and the version on this album is really good with tasty violins and quite fast tempo. "Not quite the Same" opens with brass instruments introducing a late 60's oriented exceptionally good jazz song. Instrumental "Cheetah" follows this style, having some fast violin driven jazzy rhythms. Would be very interesting to hear live recordings from these lesser played tracks, if such would be found. "Ultra-Vivaldi" is then a short electronic version of the same idea present on their first album, sounding maybe little silly. The B-side of the vinyl starts with the album's title song "Phantasmagoria", which continues the groovy jazzy style with pleasant vocal arrangements and funny lyrics. The following "Whose Shoulder are You Looking Over Anyway?" is a three minutes long electronic aural landscape, which isn't very interesting as a solitary tune, but it works more as an introduction to the following song "Over and Above", lasting over eight minutes long. It is also a very nice psychedelic piece, among the best songsI have yet heard from this group! FLORIAN PILKINGTON-MIKSA and MIKE WEDGWOOD really can get a wonderful groove going on, upon where the solo instruments can do their stuff. Sadly as there is no visual level on this audio record, I'm unable to see SONJA KRISTINA flying uninhibited to the chaotic hippie space which the band creates, as this usually happens in the filmed documents of CURVED AIR performances or in my too vivid fantasies. "Once a Ghost, Always a Ghost" quits the album pleasantly with the jazz style familiar from the previous tracks, alonf with some fun marimba solos and distant voices from Caribbean party the band had in the studio.

As a contrast to the previous 2nd album full with fadeouts, there's none of them here, which was a pleasant surprise for me. Also the jazzy rock stuff here is recorded carefully, still leaving space for impressionistic jamming. Recommended warmly for fans of jazz rock and for those who like artistic bands fronted by talented lady vocalists.

Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I am personally very attached to "Melinda (More or Less)" because it brings me back to my adolescent years. This song used to be frequently played at the venues I was hanging around, without actually knowing who the artist was. What's amazing is that I only recently discovered it was CURVED AIR, the band that was not very known back then, at least in former Yugoslavia.

Personal emotions aside, "Phantasmagoria" starts exceptionally promising with "Marie Antoinette", "Melinda" and "Not Quite the Same", which all have wonderful melodies, excellent Sonja's voice and firm musicianship. "Cheetah" brings some violin extravaganza and the bass chords that somehow precede CRIMSON's David Cross-lineup the following year. Had the album continued in the same manner until the end, this could have been the true masterpiece...

But, the second half, starting already with unnecessary "Ultra Vivaldi", shows several weaknesses out of which the biggest is "Whose Shoulder..." with dull vocal experimentation. The title track and "Over and Above" bring back some energy from the album start but the momentum was already over. Too bad.

Even with these weaknesses "Phantasmagoria" is still a very good album. It captures the creative peak of the band. Their sound was still fresh and quite original in the prog scene of 1972 (female vocal and violin solo), but their composing skills were unfortunately limited. Objectively this album would qualify between 3 and 4 stars, but given their neglect and obscurity, let me be more leniant...!


P.A. RATING: 4/5

Review by Tom Ozric
4 stars Phantasmagoria - with cover-art of a Gnome sitting on a mushroom smoking a Hookah, who could ask for more ??. This was Curved Air's 3rd release, one I discovered whilst in High-School in the late 80's. It is a wonderful album, and I'm always taken by a female vocalist fronting a bunch of intelligent musicians concocting complex arrangements !! Curved Air is just that, studied musos with a gorgeous lead vocalist (Stewart Copeland was one lucky guy...). Anyways, vocalist Sonja Kristina really sings quite adequately on this album, her voice sounds very pretty here, but for some reason, on the Live LP she approaches the music with a degree of raw, over-zealousness, which tends to suggest she was well rehearsed for the studio recordings at least.....of course, this is my perception of her singing. I've always admired Francis Monkman, and his endeavour to push things further, regarding composition and exciting new synthesizer technology available to him at the time, EMS Synthi (VCS3) in his case. Darryl Way and his passion of turning a hitherto classical instrument into a force-to-be-reckoned-with, the violin, which was already show-cased on their debut record. The rhythm section featured here, Mike Wedgewood - Bass, along with Florian Pilkington-Miksa on Drums, were open to tackle the inspired arrangements with the willingness to experiment, especially where song-structure is concerned. I feel that a track by track explanation is pointless, as the album in its entirety, is an essential listen for every fan of Progressive music. 4 stars.
Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Quite an experimental album. After the very good sophmore release the band seemed to be at odds with their musical direction. So they tried different things. The first two cuts are excellent, classic prog Curved Air tunes that are always praised by fans and critics (the violin solo on Melinda is simply gorgeous, while Marie Antoninette is their best known song). From then on things are not so nice. Not quite the same starts the experimentation with xyophones and brass, quite daring and interesting, although a bit away from the band´s style. The title track is humorous and interesing, with some good violin work by Way. Cheetah is an instrunetal work that does not really goes anywhere, a bit pointless. Ultra Vivaldi is a quite self indulgent piece of eletronic music played at high speed, a throwaway track. The same goes to Whose Shoulder Are You Looking Over Anyway? Another experiment, this time with Sonja Kristina´s voice.

Over and Above brings back some coherence and also some strong brass arrangements that work well, although this song too is a bit different from what you might expect from a band like Curved Air. The last track, as the title indicates (Once A Ghost, Always A Ghost) is very whimisical and interesting, quite funny and a good closer for such off the wall (at the time) album. Too bad that the production was so poor. For a daring album like this they really needed somenone who really understood their sound. The cover is very nice and imaginative, probably their best.

Conclusion: with many ups and downs, this an album that shows the band at a turbulent time (the last studio efford with the classic line up). However, the good songs are very strong and the musicanship of all players is awesome. My rating sits somewhere between 3,5 and 4 stars.

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars ''Curved Air'' reached their peak with this album. When you :listen to the great ''Marie Antoinette'', there is no doubt. It is a real prog gem but it overshadows the rest of the album.

There won't be another track that will come close to it. It holds a fascinating vocal melody, aerial keys and furious guitar as well; an upbeat second half which solidly rocks is highly welcome. It is one of my all-time fave from the band.

Their ''Renaissance'' oriented music shines during the sweet acoustic and folkish ballad ''Melinda'' but even more during the bombastic ''Not Quite The Same''. Classical & medieval influences combined with a brilliant vocal interpretation from Sonja (again).

The other genius of the band, Darryl Way, has full authority to show his violin skills with the instrumental ''Cheetah''. Compositions on this third album are short (except two), but the whole sounds pleasant to my ears. The upbeat title track is a marvellous patchwork of all their characteristics: crafted song writing, subtle violin, impeccable vocals and great rhythmic section. This is a very good number indeed.

There is a weird experimental track featured on this album: ''Whose Shoulder Are You Looking Over Anyway'' is hardly memorable; I would even recommend to press next in order to reach the longest piece of music available: ''Over & Above''.

This song is more complex than usual, but the ''Renaissance'' feel is very much present. Don't forget though, that these bands were contemporary and that the true ''Renaissance'' sound developed from ''Prologue'' in 1972 (which is incidentally the same one from this work as well). So, which band influenced the other?

There is a long and jazzy instrumental section which nicely combines some brass, violin and above all keys. The bombastic finale is the most poignant part of the album and features a loudly guitar solo (not so frequent in ''Curved Air'' music).

If you except the dispensable ''Whose Shoulder.'', there are no weak tracks but apart from the brilliant opener, there aren't many jewels either. The closing '' Once A Ghost.'' being just a filler IMHHO. A loose jazzy jam.

You shouldn't look for intricate music here, the band mostly plays a fine symphonic prog; once you have acknowledged this you can embark the trip with no fear.

Three stars.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars I enjoy this album immensely.

While it is not a heavy, or as symphonically influenced as many of it's contemporaries, this album is filled with infectuous joy and some twisted humor.

The first side of the album, or first half of the CD, is a collection of songs that should be pleasing to all but the most curmudgeonly prog ears. From a song both praising and damning "Marie Antoinette", to an acoustic ballad about "Melinda (More Or less)" which makes one wonder if they really wanted to call it "Melinda Moralless", that leads into a song about masturbation called "Not Quite The Same", the music remains delightfully intricate while the lyrics remain at the same time both pleasant and ominous.

"Cheetah" and "Ultra-Vivaldi" are true symphonic progressive pieces that provide a perfect closure to the first half.

The second half of the album is a suite of songs all dealing with the presence of ghosts among us. Again, while most of the songs sound somewhat poppish on the surface, there is enough intricacy to keep this prog addict interested.

This is my favorite Curved Air album, and the only one I own on CD.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After the highly enjoyable debut album I knew that I needed to hear more from Curved Air. What better way to follow up Air Conditioning than with an even more successful Phantasmagoria?

This album has most of the elements that made the debut release so great but that doesn't stop me from still finding it lacking. It all starts with Marie Antoinette which doesn't work that well as an album opener. There isn't any comparison with It Happened Today to even talk about. At the same time it can be assumed that the band was going in a new direction so they wanted to try something different for a change. This hypothesis fell flat once I saw Ultra-Vivaldi featured among this album's track-listing.

It's interesting that this time neither the progressive nor the rock elements actually work in the band's favor and instead it's the ballads that have taken over the lead in the feature department. Melinda (More Or Less) is one of those compositions I immediately think about when recalling this album. It's subtle, gentle and a highly enjoyable trip from beginning to the very end. A bit further ahead we are treated to another nice composition entitled Phantasmagoria. The melody here seems unusual for a straight forward pop tune and Sonja Kristina shows once again her great vocal talent.

Unfortunately nothing could forewarn of the pointless filler track ahead called Whose Shoulder Are You Looking Over Anyway?. This is something that would have worked a whole lot better on a Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention record than it does here. Over And Above is of course there to pick up the blame for the previous track but it can't do much to make me forget that misstep.

Phantasmagoria might be considered the pinnacle of the band's career but I personally prefer the much more well balanced Air Conditioning.

***** star songs: Melinda (More Or Less) (3:25) Phantasmagoria (3:14)

**** star songs: Marie Antoinette (6:18) Not Quite The Same (3:44) Cheetah (3:31) Ultra-Vivaldi (1:24) Over And Above (8:34)

*** star songs: One A Ghost, Alway A Ghost (4:21)

** star songs: Whose Shoulder Are You Looking Over Anyway? (3:23)

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars I still think that "Air Cut" was by far their best album. It's filled with mellotron and I just like the songs better.The "Second Album" was good but this the follow-up to that has left me feeling pretty indifferent. No mellotron and I don't know but there's little that I like on here at all. Apparently there was a lot of in-fighting in regards to what direction the band should take musically on this one. Mike Wedgewood (CARAVAN) is the new bass player.

"Marie Antoinette" along with "Over And Above" are my two favourite tracks.Those two standout above the rest.This opening number is a mid-paced tune with piano, vocals and bass standing out.The guitar comes in at 2 minutes followed by a change as we get a calm.Then it picks back up. "Melinda (More Or Less)" is another mid-paced track with vocals and flute leading the way.

"Not Quite The Same" is more uptempo with horns blasting. It settles back before 1 1/2 minutes with piano and reserved vocals before picking back up.Violin before 3 1/2 minutes. "Cheetah" is an instrumental with pounding drums as the violin plays over top. "Ultra- Vivaldi" is a short instrumental piece. "Phantasmagoria" is a catchy vocal track. It's okay.

"Whose Shoulder Are You Looking Over Anyway?" is experimental with organ as these processed spoken words come in. "Over And Above" is pretty intense as the violin joins in. A classical vibe here with lots of violin and vibes. "Once A Ghost, Always A Ghost" has lots going on as the horns blast.Vocals too and it sounds like there's a party going on in the background.

A low 3 stars for me

Review by Warthur
4 stars Representing a clear improvement over the band's first two albums, Phantasmagoria represents the first time that the band managed to combine high-quality songs (which I felt were lacking from Second Album) with decent production values (the sound quality of most versions of Airconditioning is notoriously poor). Showing an impressive range - Melinda (More or Less) is a gorgeous slice of chanteuse pop, whilst Over and Above is a complex percussion-oriented piece with plenty of vibraphone, which at parts sounds almost like the Mothers of Invention - the album is the best of Curved Air's first three albums. It even has, in the form of "Ultra Vivaldi", a superior version of the classical adaptation "Vivaldi" from the debut. I'd say it's probably the best place to start an exploration of the band's work.
Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Phantasmagoria" is one of the proggiest Curved Air's albums featuring some of their most challenging time sigs and musicianship.

The fuzz guitar from Francis Monkman, the ethereal synths of Darryl Way and Sonja Kristina as the high octave queen of prog, is an irresistible musical explosion, and it climaxed on this album. It begins with the slow and meandering 'Marie Antoinette', with the brooding vocals of Kristina; "Fire in their eyes, steel in their hand, they ride, chanting revolution, Vive le Nation!" She sings of the guillotine that is coming for the queen.

Kristina plays acoustic guitar on 'Melinda More or Less', a lovely mediaeval paean by Sonja's lilting vocals that transcend beauty. Way's violin, Monkman's harpsichord, Mike Wedgwood's pulsing bass and Annie Stewart 's flute make this a mesmirising journey back to the ancient days of kings, queens and guillotines.

'Not Quite the Same' is an oddity about impossible love and self abuse, with some amusing lyrics; "Out in the park, he was walking his doggy, he saw a young lady, who made him feel soggy." The medieval brass section that plunges it back to the dark ages continues the concept, before the jazziness of the Canterbury music takes over. Way and Monkman masterfully duel off on synthesizers in the instrumental break.

The main drawcard of the album is the first 3 songs and one song on side two. Let's deal with that now as it is really an incredible track. 'Over and Above' has one of the zaniest off beat time sigs that is irregular throughout, diverging wildy in all directions. Monkman's twisted signature keys are played with abandonment and astonishing virtuosity. Way's violin is way out of the box and he absolutely gives the bow a major workover. Sonja's theatrical vocal expertise is as amazing as ever and the opening section may be described as a jazz circus. There are some spacey sections on the track with chiming vibraphones and xylophones played by Crispian Steel-Perkins, Paul Cosh and Jim Watson. The erratic bassline, massive brass sound and wah wah guitar really adds to the power of the soundscape. The sound captured is really symphonic prog meets jazz rock fusion. This is a complex killer track and certainly the most powerful progressive song from Curved Air. A bonafide classic.

The other songs are not up to this standard of excellence and mar the album from being a masterpiece. 'Cheetah' is an instrumental that features Darryl Way masterfully blasting huge slabs of violin and there's a cheetah's growl thrown in for good measure. There is a reworking of "Air Conditioning"'s 'Ultra-Vivaldi' that is much faster and dominated by keyboards. The original more restrained version of Curved Air's 'Vivaldi' is better however. 'Ultra-Vivaldi' is speeded up using a sequencer, which is something that worked on Pink Floyd's 'On the Run' from that masterpiece, but feels rather dated on this album. It is a very short track so no major harm done.

The title track is an infectious short song with wild Hammond and Sonja's jaunty vocals on how to deal with loneliness; "don't ring for a taxi, don't call a policeman, don't send for a doctor, he'll just give you pills, don't hide in the sand man, you may not believe it." She sings of the summer of love and the lyrics cater to the flower power movement; "So if you get lonely just think of the summer, and swim in the sky blue, drift your mind away." Sound advice, Sonja! The uplifting breezy feel sounds like a happy song but it is really about coping with depression.

'Whose Shoulder Are You Looking Over Anyway?' Is a weird curio with lovely Kristina sounding like a constipated Dalek. Her vocals are battered by a PDP8/L computer mixed with a Synthi 100 Synthesizer. It is meant to evoke the spiritual manifestation of the dead, but instead amounts to nothing more than a dead loss. The ethereal vocals are weird; "But I keep looking over your shoulder to see if I'm there, Oh, when I was a little Ghost, a merry time had we! Each seated on his favourite post." The electronic vocals are off putting though this is as creepy as it gets for Curved Air.

After this album, Curved Air's bubble popped with the walk out of maestros Way and Monkman, and it was too big an ask to replace the classic sound the band once generated. "Phantasmagoria" definitely contains some of the proggiest and most experimental music from Curved Air.

Review by kenethlevine
3 stars It seems somehow contradictory to conclude both that CURVED AIR were pioneers of violin led prog rock and that their music has not aged especially well. One of the few bands of their ilk to have a legit run at the UK charts, It's not for lack of talent or innovation that they are barely mentioned anymore. While they produced 4 notable albums in their initial run, all were packed with an excess of foam peanuts at which even a foam elephant would turn up its trunk, and too few bonafide classics to defeat most one "hit" wonders in the prog world. The Monkman-Way tandem played like virtuosi and unfortunately composed like them too, and, while the arrangements are cluttered with too many at the same volume, it's unclear how much of this is due to a mixing engineer who gave his master the wrong address and quickly flashed his learner's permit in the studio security line. Don't get me started on Sonja's would be powerful voice that sounds too hypoxic to maintain a consistent level of clarity.

In spite of, or perhaps due to all these shortcomings, "Phantasmagoria" still projects the band as an unsung hero of their day. The melodies are imaginative, particularly on the first two tracks. "Melinda More or Less" hints at what CURVED AIR might have been had they actually gone folk rock, that is to say, had the impossible happened with the personnel on hand. Instead the jazzy inflections of "Over And Above" elicit fascination even as they flit capriciously from theme to theme. The xylophone and vibraphone of Monkman, the equally improvisational violin of Way, and the hired brass section string this one up on its high heels and festively explode the petard on which it precariously balances. "Once a Ghost Always a Ghost" wraps it all up in a similar vein assuring that the album live up to its name a bit too much for its own good.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Oh what a brilliant album it is! Curved Air previous records were always good but not that good! It has a moments on it (particulary on the last two tracks) were they sound like Renassaince went totaly Gentle Giant which is amazing in terms of compositional skills, the adventurous sound and over ... (read more)

Report this review (#2506106) | Posted by Artik | Monday, February 15, 2021 | Review Permanlink

4 stars CURVED AIR arrived on the English Progressive Rock scene like a fresh sea breeze in 1970. They're a classic band from the Golden Age of Prog, long before angry young oiks came along to spoil it all in 1977 by forming "bands", and then causing Anarchy in the U.K by snorting Harpic up their nostri ... (read more)

Report this review (#2376294) | Posted by Psychedelic Paul | Sunday, May 3, 2020 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Phantasmogoria is the third studio album by the celebrated prog ensemble Curved Air which features founding members Daryl Way on electric violin and Frances Monkman on keyboards, guitar and proto electronica. Along with founding member Sonja Kristina, the band had firmly established, for better ... (read more)

Report this review (#1679053) | Posted by SteveG | Thursday, January 12, 2017 | Review Permanlink

4 stars In technology, the Uncanny Valley is an expression used to describe something that approaches realism, be it a computer generated image, voice, or physical object. When something trying to be "natural" is ever-so-slightly skewed away from what we perceive as "real", our brains have tremendous ... (read more)

Report this review (#1473559) | Posted by Deferred Defect | Wednesday, October 7, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A different taste in progressive rock: Woman singing(about French Revolution, individual pleasure, ghosts, ghouls and much more!), accurate violin arrengements combined with sharp guitars, Vivaldi and Lewis Carroll influences, etc. They did what Renaissance also did but in a funny-yet virtuous-w ... (read more)

Report this review (#173162) | Posted by Lucas Naylor | Friday, June 6, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Phantasmagoria is an excelent record, really essential, only the last one "Once a ghost, always a ghost" is weak, his tropical touch is dissapointing specially when this track was put after the excelent "Over and above" maybe the best track. "Marie Antoinnete" or "Melinda more or less" are most ... (read more)

Report this review (#118739) | Posted by stalker | Tuesday, April 17, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Curved Air's 1972 album "Phantasmagoria" is definetly an interesting album by any standards. It may turn some guys off due to the airy theatrical female lead singer. But my real appreciation for this album comes from the extravagant and over the top, quirky, symphonic jazzy peice called "Ove ... (read more)

Report this review (#107337) | Posted by B360Lightning | Saturday, January 13, 2007 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Great looking vocalist with a somewhat thin voice. This is probably Curved airs best LP the first two tacks are by far the best on the album and possible could have made a killer single release. Ultra-Vivaldi showcases Ways Violin. There is a sexuality to some of these songs that has a wee ed ... (read more)

Report this review (#92037) | Posted by burgersoft777 | Tuesday, September 26, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This band is definitely more than Art Rock - much, much more. I understand that their music is very hard to categorize - there are elements of jazz, symphonic prog, classical, folk etc. But above all, it's "powered by" a supercharged progressive engine that's usually in overdrive, if I may per ... (read more)

Report this review (#83015) | Posted by EMinkovitch | Friday, July 7, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The third work of CURVED AIR released in 1972 "Phantasmagoria". It is an initial highest personally masterpiece. A lot of guests of the jazz system are invited, and a fantastic album like the casket where various music is installed. The work that is excellent progressive music. The reason for ... (read more)

Report this review (#54342) | Posted by braindamage | Wednesday, November 2, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I had loved this album for years, as a little masterpiece of a second line progressive rock production, but last listenings revealed to me I overrated it in my opinion. As a general sensation I think sound should have been better engeneered (not as bad as Air Conditioning, but not perfectly bala ... (read more)

Report this review (#52934) | Posted by magog | Sunday, October 23, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars An underated prog album. For technical brilliance I prefer bands like Crimson and Bruford but I have a soft spot for "Phantasmagoria". It has very "English" , other worldy quality. There are some lovely compositions such as "Melinda" (haunting violin solo by Darryl) and some enjoyably ... (read more)

Report this review (#28110) | Posted by | Tuesday, May 24, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The first time i listen to this record, ultra-vivaldi took my breath away, the extraordinary voice of Sonja fits very well with music, the violin in "Cheetah" fill the atmosphere of darkness, the effects on sonja´s voice is amazing, the instrumentation on "over and above" reminds me some passa ... (read more)

Report this review (#28109) | Posted by | Tuesday, April 26, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Well, nobody here gave this wonderful album the grade that it deserves, so here I am. Despite some mistakes (Whose Shoulder...), the record is perfect: Over And Above it´s probably Curved Air´s best track, sounding a little like Gentle Giant, basically because of the vibraphone. Not Quite The ... (read more)

Report this review (#28108) | Posted by | Sunday, January 16, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars An inadequate production is responsible for the flat sound thet ruins partially this record. I'ts a pity, because the stuff is excellent. Aside from the fascinating voice of Sonja Kristina you have to listen to the violin of Darryl Way ("Cheetah" is a great example of what he can do). Was not for th ... (read more)

Report this review (#28103) | Posted by | Wednesday, March 10, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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