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3.5 out of 5 stars
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3.5 out of 5 stars
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on 29 August 2005
Curved Air's difficult third album, mostly recorded at Air Studios, divides and unites fans in equal measure. The reviewers so far have pretty accurately highlighted its strengths and weaknesses. Always, and I mean always, the contribution of newcomer Mike Wedgwood and drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa is underestimated: Mike's dextrous bass and immaculate vocal harmonies, with Florian's sparse and beautifully accurate drumming, are about the only consistency in the whole record.

Sonja Kristina's two main songs, Marie Antoinette and Melinda More or Less, are both good, the former being more like the "old" Curved Air, the latter really being a "folk" song that she could carry off well with just an acoustic guitar (which she plays very well indeed, by the way) if needs be. "Never quite the same", a curiously tastless song about masturbation, has a lovely orchestral introduction but is uninteresting after that (apart from Wedgwood's running bass) and "Once a Ghost" is really just a filler. Francis Monkman's long piece that takes up a lot of side two is musically complex and very well played (fantastic drummimg from the consistent Florian Pilkington Miksa) - but, again, is it interesting enough? Darryl Way's violin piece "Cheetah" is quite stirring but is, again, not hugely interesting. The "Ultra Vivaldi" sequenced piece could either be mantra-like attractive or maddening. Most find it maddening.

Nobody for a second questions the musical ability of these people and if they appeared nowadays it would be like the Second Coming. But on this album they seemed to struggle too hard to break new ground and to inject a jazz/classical paste into a mould that would not readily take it.There was also too much fiddling with electronic toys and Vocoder precursors. It's boring. After this, only Sonja and Mike were left and they produced one of the best, most under-rated and nelected albums of all times, Air Cut - but that's another story.

My advice? It spans the whole star rating from one star to five stars with moments of real excellence peppered with moments of mediocrity and/or poor taste. Still about 40 times better than 9/10s of the competition and for that reason alone worth a listen - and worth buying. I just wish these top-flight musicians could have left a real diamond before they went their separate ways.
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on 29 August 2000
Curved Airs third album was recorded whilst the band was undergoing internal upheavals that finally led the the bands split. Having said that there are many "stand out tracks" that have become the bands standards. These songs are still being played at Curved air gigs. Marie A, Melinda and Phant, Over and above are all great songs. The Albums second side gets a little lost as Francis Monkman takes over the album that wends its way away getting a little lost. Still a good record.
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on 22 May 2002
Curved Air's third album, "Phantasmagoria" was released in April, 1972 and immediately reached the Top 20 in the British album charts. The band had added a new member, bassist Mike Wedgwood, earlier in the year. An outstanding player and vocalist, his impact on the band was immediate, as he took Francis and Darryl's intricately scored bass parts and made them his own.
Following a telling pattern established on the "Second Album," "Phantasmagoria" is divided between Darryl Way/Sonja Kristina compositions on side one and those of Francis Monkman on side two. Less than three years into their recording career, differences in musical direction were beginning to seriously fragment the band. Yet this album was their strongest unified musical statement to date.
"Marie Antoinette," one of the band's best-loved songs, leads off side one of the original long- player. A stunning tale of greed and bloodthirsty revenge during the French Revolution, the track became an instant live favorite.
"Melinda (More or Less)" is a lovely, melancholy ballad featuring Sonja's acoustic guitar work. A solo composition, it was written for an acquaintance from her college days, who was caught in a vicious circle of methadrine and mandrax.
Darryl and Sonja's "Not Quite the Same" is a witty, slightly sordid tale of two wankers finding each other, set to a 6/8 beat. It's absolutely hysterical.
The instrumental "Cheetah" is perhaps Darryl's finest moment on the album. It explodes with an impossibly fast violin phrase, which seques into a rather ominous display of nearly atonal minor-key virtuosity. And of course, Doris the Cheetah growls the final note.
"Ultra-Vivaldi" is Francis Monkman's synthesiser tribute to Vivaldi, switched to fast-forward. It has to be heard to be believed.
The four-part "Phantasmagoria" suite occupies the original side two. It was virtually all composed by Francis Monkman. The title track is a whirlwind of organ and violin, with appropriately spooky lyrics and a striking bass line.
To record the second section, "Whose Shoulder Are You Looking Over Anyway," Francis linked his VCS3 synth to Peter Zinovieff's PDP 8/L computer. Sonja recited a section of Carroll's poem and the computer processed her voice into this atmospheric, eerie piece.
It leads directly into "Over and Above," easily the most complex and daunting piece to be recorded by the band. Fusion meets Lionel Hampton meets 12/8 time signatures in this extraordinary progressive showcase. Synthesizers and horns duel with vibes and violins as Sonja relates a lovely story of a soul in search of space. Florian Pilkington-Miksa punctuates magnificently.
"Once a Ghost, Always a Ghost" is the final piece of the "Phantasmagoria" puzzle. Sounding for all the world like a mariachi jazz band - if you can imagine such a thing - the group presents a "ghoul's cocktail party," ending with the memorable line, "Head in arm and hand in hand, we'll haunt the seven seas." Aaa-chooo!
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Curved Air return to familiar territory on the band's best album. After the Second Album they returned to the feel and sensibilities of Air Conditioning and managed to improve on it.

The material here is universally strong from the opening take on history in the melodic "chanting revolution" chorus of "Marie Antoinette" through the beauty of the ballad "Melinda (More of Less)" - one of the best songs written by the group.
We are back in familiar territory with the likes of the instrumental "Cheetah" and the extraordinary "Ultra Vivaldi" which I can remember astonishing me in the 1970s, not just for the virtuoso work but also for the way the piece shoots from one speaker to the next - completely mad if you are listening on headphones. The title track is firmly from the prog rock catalogue. There is also plenty of experimentation with sound as well. Overall it's a very balanced and effective album.
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on 24 August 2013
Repertoire have performed an excellent job on the reissue of Curved Air's first two albums, but on this one, the general audio quality suffers from just a little bit too much compression. Sure, it's much louder and clearer than the original lack lustre Warners offering, but after about 20 minutes or so, a little ear fatigue sets in.It's not as bad as some but I am giving this Repertoire reissue just 3 stars. I have other exemplary Repertoire reissues such as the excellent Amon Duul II, Gentle Giant and Zombies CDs, but this one lets the side down.
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on 16 May 2014
Disappointing effort considering the way Curved Air came onto the scene in 1969 with two strong albums. The band split is evident here, its almost two different bands on each side. Only the opening two tracks-Marie Anoinette and Melinda More Or Less would prove to stand the test of time, with Monkman's ramblings on side two best forgotten.
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on 2 June 2010
I was looking for a day when this item will be out. And it is!
One very good psych-rock item led by Sonia Kristina. Sorry, they're out of Rock scene! I have three more CDs of their the best years! Never repeated!
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on 25 July 2015
I've seen Curved Air a couple of times recently, they played material from this album, just had to buy it.
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on 23 November 2015
Reliving music from my youth. Everything I expected it to be, Great
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on 11 February 2016
Great CD!
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