1. Web miracles
1. Cosmic Trip (5.45)
Freely expressive, mainly dissonant, constant instrumental interplay, occasional rhythm changes, feat. violin, cello, oboe, percussion.
2. Jason's Trip (6.17)
3. Devil Weed (3.41)
The tracks sequence (around 16 minutes) occupies just a side of the album, on the other side there are seven tracks played by another group - Comedy Links and Bridges.
The album was published by Standard Music Library (catalogue n° ESL112), a London record company born in 1965 that produced many pop bands (it's still in full activity with a tiny catalogue of 'muzak' CD).
Sound, instruments and band line-up confirmed it was a collection of recordings made before "Alchemy", probably played in the second half of 1968 when, after idiosyncratic electric guitarist Clive Kingsley's split, followed by the well-known electric instruments and Sweeney's drum-kit theft, the band became an acoustic quartet.
The album, edited just on vynil, is now very very rare, valued on collector's market about 150-200 euros...
Just before "Alchemy" recording sessions (February or March 1969?), the quartet played surely also on October 20th at Country Club (London) for a "Time Out" benefit gig, and on November 28th at the All Saints Hall in Powis Garden (London), legendary place where Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett begun.
It was just in those days Peter Jenner met Sweeney proposing to him to become group's manager with his friend Andrew King (as Blackhill Enterprises): always at Powis Gardens DJ Pete Drummond presented John Peel to the band...
TEB most important gig with that line-up was anyway at "The Alchemical Wedding" at the Royal Albert Hall of London on December 18th. An happening managed by Jim Haynes with, among others, Yoko Ono and John Lennon: haddled in a sack in the middle of the stage, they had TEB's music as a soundtrack...
A short article published on "International Time" n. 43 (November 1th-14th 1968), with a rare photo of the band (see above), confirm the acoustic turning: "... the amps were stolen and the Third Ear Band founded itself finished. They thought about it and decided that they would carry on acousticly. The group now consisted of Paul oboe, Ben Cartland viola, Glen drums, and a new member Richard violin, they came to the Arts Lab and the music began to happen again. None of the musicians know what or how it happens, they just play. What is the music like? Well, one chick admitted confidentially to Jim Haynes that she experienced two complete orgasms while listening to the Third Ear band".
Just at the beginning of "Alchemy" recording sessions in Abbey Road studios, that lasted one week-end only (a six hours session with track recorded in one take!), Cartland suddenly left the band.
"Cartland announced after two tracks that he wanted to play keyboard instead the viola!", remembered Minns (1996). "As this was totally unexpected and unexceptable he quit. He tended to be volatile and was very hippy".
From that session with Cartland one track titled "Raga in D" has left, the copy on a reel Minns kept at his home for years with the marvellous 1970 soundtrack "Abelard and Heloise": it's quite impossible, knowing praxis used in that years in recording experience, that have survived other tracks in Abbey Road vaults...
"I nearly cried when I heard this. It was like the return of an old friend. This raga is called in D and was the nucleus for ragas such as "Area Three" and "Ghetto Raga", both in the "Alchemy" album. This track should have been on as well as it was recorded at the start of that session..." (Minns, 1996).
The same band, with Cartland (not Courtland as often reported) on viola, played just "Ghetto Raga", "Druid" and "Hyde Park raga" in the first "John Peel Session" on February 11th 1969 (producer: John Walters), session aired on next July 27th (see on the officla John Peel Web site at http:www.keepingitpeel).
Comparing the three tracks recorded as National Balkan Ensemble with this "Raga in D" Abbey Road Recording, it turns out to be inequivocably a perfect corrispondence of mood, setting up and musical performance of the pieces, confirming the historical importance of this 'retrieval'.
Carolyn: "I find The National Balkan Ensemble a totally mystery. All I can think is whoever got hold of these tracks put the name to them. Before recording "Alchemy", Glen, Paul, Richard and Ben did some recordings for Ron Geesin who was going to try to sell the music for background for TV! I don't think anything came from it but maybe these are the tracks anyway, it was done in a small studio on the cheap. I vaguely remember Christopher Logue the poet being there too. Ben's leaving the band was totally his idea, he was very young - about 17! - and didn't want to commit... I think he went off with his girlfriend travelling..." (from a letter, December 2th 2005).
About Cartland, he was disappeared again (someone wrote me recently he's probably passed away...).
Then I asked Ron Geesin (on January 2th 2006) through is Web site (http://www.headscope.co.uk). His laconic answer was: "Yes, I knew the Third Ear Band because we were doing gigs on the same bill at the time, but I don't remeber ever working with them directly. That's all I can say".
In this condition of doubt, an old Nigel Cross interview with Glen Sweeney ("Unhinged" n. 6, Spring 1990) helps us to make the things clear. He said: "... we'd got this demo tape which had Ben Cartland on it - the original line-up with two violins, oboe and drums - it featured those first numbers we did at the first gigs. I can't remember what they sound like now. Geesin sold the tape to Essex Music for this library of sound effects - they must've been used on radio or TV because we got some money for them!".
So, confirming the origins of the tracks, why the Third Ear boys decided to call himself "National Balkan Ensemble"?
A convincing hypothesis is that Sweeney, usually worried about copyrights, decided to call the band so because the imminent contract signed with EMI-Harvest...
[For listening the tracks, go back at the Archive homepage and scroll on right at the free download tracks section]