November 24th 1972

“took ‘ome Phantasmagoria – Curved Air. Only one word for it – PHANTASMAGORIA”

Not one of my classier music reviews this one!

In fact, its got more cheese than a ploughman’s lunch!

Curved Air were one of those (what I call) should’ve/would’ve bands in the history of music.

I think the reason they never crossed over to ‘super-stardom’ was due to people finding the band difficult to properly categorise? Their sound was a mish-mash of both progressive and traditional rock, merged with folk rhythms, electronic meanderings and expansive classical flourishes.

The band consisted of Francis Monkman on keyboards and guitar, Mike Wedgewood on bass, Florian Pilkington-Miksa on drums, the somewhat delectable Sonia Kristina on vocals and Darryl Way on…….erm…. violin.

Having a violin player in a band these days would raise very few eyebrows, but back in the early seventies the word “novelty” springs to mind. (Indeed, 1971 had already paid host to a novelty violin-based hit single in the shape of East of Eden’s “Jig-a-Jig“)

Phantasmagoria was Curved Air’s follow up to their aptly titled “Second Album”, released in 1971, which gave birth to the band’s one and only hit single “Back Street Luv

The album contains, amongst other things:
• an ode to Marie Antoinette
• the guest appearance of a live cheetah on the cut “Cheetah” (d’uh!)
• a 4-song “conceptual suite” on side two
• a very early use of rock’s infamous VCS3 synthesizer (later adopted by everyone who was anyone in the business) to electronically process Sonia’s voice whilst she reads a short poem by Lewis Carroll. (His book of poems, “Phantasmagoria“, loaning its name to the LP title.)
• a track entitled “Not Quite the Same”, about masturbation, and how the song’s protagonist “busied himself, quite amusing himself, by abusing himself” (Maybe he found some decent photos of Sonia Kristina at whatever was the ‘titillation’ precursor to the internet?)

Phantasmagaria is another one of the few albums that I know inside out from start to finish, and I can anticipate all the nuances and how each song develops. Every so often a cut from it will appear randomly on my i-Pod and I’ll just get “into it” (man).


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