Curved Air – Phantasmagoria (1972)

FrontCover1Phantasmagoria is a 1972 album by Curved Air. It reached No. 20 in the UK Charts and is notable for its early use of the EMS Synthi 100 synthesizer to process lead singer Sonja Kristina’s voice on the second side. Unavailable for many years, the album was reissued on CD in April 2007.Phantasmagoria is a 1972 album by Curved Air. It reached No. 20 in the UK Charts[3] and is notable for its early use of the EMS Synthi 100 synthesizer to process lead singer Sonja Kristina’s voice on the second side.  (by wikipedia)

The sonic caveats which accompany Collector’s Choice’s other Curved Air reissues remain in force; the historical truth that what sounded timelessly groovy in 1971 is not necessarily so finger-snapping three decades later remains unimpeachable. But still, Phantasmagoria is a fabulous album, the culmination of all that Curved Air promised over the course of its predecessors; the yardstick by which all rock/classical hybrids should be measured. The opening “Marie Antoinette” sets the scene with lovely melody, impassioned vocal and a terrifically understated band performance which complements every syllable uttered by vocalist Sonja Kristina. The bridge into revolution (“the rabble have gone insane”) is breathtaking — history lessons should all sound this good, and the amazing thing is that the album has only just got started.

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The gentle “Melinda More or Less” is swirling, sweet folky psychedelia, while “Not Quite the Same,” a somewhat self-conscious ode to masturbation, disguises its proggy inclinations with a barrelhouse 6/8 rhythm and a genuinely catchy hook. “Ultra-Vivaldi” updates the first album’s “Vivaldi” by, apparently, letting the Chipmunks have a go at playing it. And the four-part, side-long title track switches moods, effects, and even genres (jazz, mariachi, and the avant-garde all get a look in) to create an dazzling soundscape which allows every members a moment to shine — without once stepping into the treacherous swamps of solos and virtuosity. This was the original Curved Air’s final album — by the time the accompanying tour was over, only Kristina and bassist Mike Wedgwood (himself a spanking new arrival) remained to carry on the good work. As farewells go, then, it is magnificent, the band’s grandest hour by far. And listening to it all these decades later, one cannot help but wonder how much grander they might have become? (by Dave Thompson)

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Personnel:
Sonja Kristina Linwood (vocals, guitar
Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums, percussion)
Francis Monkman (keyboards, guitar, percussion(
Darryl Way (violin, keyboards, tubular bells, melo)
Mike Wedgwood (bass, guitar, background vocals, percussion)
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Jean Akers( percussion)
Colin Caldwell (percussion)
Doris the Cheetah (vocals on 04.)
Paul Cosh (trumpet)
Alan Gout (trombone)
George Parnaby (trumpet)
Chris Pyne (trombone)
Crispian Steele-Perkins (trumpet)
David Purser (trombone)
Frank Ricotti (xylophone, vibraphone)
Mal Linwood-Ross (percussion)
Steve Saunders (trombone)
Annie Stewart (flute)
James Watson (trumpet)

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Tracklist:
01. Marie Antoinette (Way/Linwood) – 6:20
02. Melinda (More Or Less) (Linwood) – 3:25
03. Not Quite The Same (Way/Linwood) – 3:44
04. Cheetah (Way) – 3:33
05. Ultra-Vivaldi (Way/Monkman) – 2:22
06. Phantasmagoria (Monkman) – 3:15
07. Whose Shoulder Are You Looking Over Anyway? (Monkman) – 3:24
08. Over And Above (Monkman) – 8:36
09. Once A Ghost, Always A Ghost (Monkman/Linwood) – 4:25

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Curved Air – Midnight Wire (1975)

CurvedAirFCThis debut album of the third incarnation of Curved Air is one of the most unusual approaches to music-making; it focuses its mood on humbleness rather than blaring flashiness and on soft passion rather than obvious passion. This is undoubtably Curved Air’s best mood album,and as far as essential creativity goes,this is tremendously high-ranking in the hierarchy of the world’s music. All this and more from a group that was supposedly on the verge of total disintegration and disillusionment. The group at this point consisted of Darryl Way (Violin,piano),Stewart Copeland (Drums), Mick Jacques (Guitars),and Sonja Kristina (Vocals). Sonja’s vocals are so intense,passionate,and full of emotion that many,I have observed,are overwhelmed and are unable to appreciate their beauty. Darryl plays incredible violin,both as lovely as harp and as upbeat as guitar; he is a true master of the instrument. Jacques has a knack for playing a very grooving guitar,but also
plays some very powerful stuff. Stewart’s drums are varied-at times jazzy,at others shocking,but always good. Curved Air is also supported by excellent sessionists. Although both the keyboardist and John Perry,the bassist,are noteworthy,it is lyricist Norma Tager who earns the most attention. Norma Tager’s lyrics are wonderful, epic portrayals of what we think of as dull and typical lives. Darryl dominates the group’s songwriting in terms of both quality and quantity. His
compositions include “Day Breaks My Heart”, outwardly sad and mourning,yet inwardly a testament to the fact that there is a reason that a heart can be broken;”Orange Street Blues”,an amazingly fun yet phenomenally sophisticated rocker;and “Midnight Wire”,a 7 minute epic of intense emotion. Dark,powerful,tragic,intense, soft-a true masterpiece. “The Fool”,a co-write between Darryl and Mick,is a crafty take into the world of folk music while remaining true to the style of the group and album. “Dance of Love”,by the same composers,is a bit pop-ish but has incredible vocals by Sonja- terrifically passionate and trembling-and a beautiful violin solo from Darryl. Mick Jacques’s own composition is a rather trippy and fascinating instrumental called “Pipe of Dreams”. Sonja also manages to get one of her compositions on the album,an intensely passionate song called “Woman on a One Night Stand”. This song is not only one of Sonja’s most elaborate creations,but also one of her most breathtaking with its unpredictable vocals,haunting guitar,and devil-may-care violin. This album keeps Curved Air’s usual genius-conceived mix of hard rock,soft rock, progressive,and classical,yet also steps outside the boundaries of anything that has ever been done before. Using a relatively small and untried band,they nonetheless succeed in creating a masterful album. An essential for Curved Air lovers,and an album which anyone with taste should at least brifly consider. (by Robert)

Personnel:
Stewart Copeland (drums)
Mick Jacques (guitar)
Sonja Kristina (vocals)
Darryl Way (violin, keyboards,vocals)
+Derek Damain (backing vocals)
John Perry (bass)Norma Tager (lyrics)
Peter Wood (keyboards)

CurvedAirBCTracklist:
01. Woman On a One Night Stand (Kristina/Tager) 5.06
02. Day Breaks My Heart (Way/Tager) 4.38
03. The Fool (Way/Tager/Jacques) 4.27
04. Pipe Of Dreams (Jacques) 3.58
05. Orange Street Blues (Way/Tagger) 5.01
06. Dance Of Love (Jacques/Way) 4.36
07. Midnight Wire (Way/Tager) 7.32

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