March 25, 2019

Martin Cook's ad for Gonzo Multimedia's CDs...



This is the ad Martin Cook designed last year for promoting Gonzo's TEB three CDs on some magazines. Martin is the designer who was editing the book on the band (written by LCF in Winter 2016 and ready in  March 2017 for being published) for some reasons now postponed until a later date...

 no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

March 20, 2019

"The Wire" reviews TEB triple CD reissue on the last issue.


On the last issue of "The Wire" (# 422, April 2019), one of the few interesting music magazines around, Edwin Pouncey reviews TEB's Esoteric "Elements 1970-1971" with accurate claims about the music and the underground status of the band.




 no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

March 18, 2019

Others reviews about TEB's Esoteric reissues.



A review about "Macbeth" reissue by Kevin Bryan is published on "Messenger" at https://www.messengernewspapers.co.uk/leisure/music_reviews/17446560.music-reviews/

Here's the text:
"Third Ear Band, "Music From Macbeth" (Esoteric/Cherry Red) - This challenging outfit were one of the more cerebral signings to EMI's prog-rock imprint, Harvest Records, when it began operations in 1969, and this absorbing package focusses attention on the music that they created for the soundtrack of Roman Polanski's typically controversial adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy "Macbeth" three years later. The evocative and eerie contents draw on elements of Indian music, early electronic fare and jazz, expanded here with the welcome addition of four hitherto unreleased tracks recorded by the band during the early seventies." 
 


On December 17th, 2018, not-profit webzine "Musique Machine" published a very long review on "Third Ear Band 1970-1971" at https://www.musiquemachine.com/reviews/reviews_template.php?id=7047




On the "musical exploration guide" "Popgruppen" (actually a blog) Michael Bjorn writes a very good review about "Elements 1970-1971" titled "Vastly expanded 'Third Ear Band' fries your mind" at   https://popgruppen.com/2019/02/25/vastly-expanded-third-ear-band-fries-your-mind/

 no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

March 14, 2019

Music from Macbeth: just "medieval music"?


Kendra Preston Leonard is the author of an old essay titled "Shakespeare, Madness, and Music. Scoring Insanity in Cinematic Adaptations", published in 2009 by the Scarecrow Press Inc. 

At page 84 she writes: "Polanski's employment of the Third Ear Band - an innovative London-based collective that drew from numerous traditions, including Renaissance forms and instrumentation, Indian ragas, and electric strings - led to the development of a soundtrack that included reasonably accurate attempts at period-appropriate accompaniments for the film. Julie Sanders asserts that this period-approximate music is used to "lull audiences into a false position of comfort [which collapses] as the camera pans out to the hostile environment in which the film is set, but this is not the only reading of the use of this music. Indeed, the relationship between the music, the settings in which it is used, and its link to Lady Macbeth create a framework around her in which she is a highly sympathetic character."

Polanski with Francesca Annis (Lady Macbeth).

"Strings, both plucked and bowed, recorders, oboes, drums, and folklike vocals not only place the film in time and location but also address the scale of the events and characters involved in them: there are no sweeping orchestral motifs or twentieth-century dissonances here to indicate the morality or lack thereof  of the Macbeths, but instead a soundscape that reminds the audience of the brutality and still-developing cultural and ethical codes and expectations of a pre- or early-Christian Scotland. The script indicates that Polanski and his co-author, cultural critic Kenneth Tynan, put considerable thought into the use of music and musical style in the film. Their cues marking the entrance and exit of music - even noting the duration of the music - are explicit and deliberate. Polanski and Tynan write music cues for Lady Macbeth more than any other single character; music serves as a prologue and postlude to her texts above all other speeches and scenes, with one remarkable exception: her sleepwalking scene." 

William Shakespeare
And later (page 85): "(...) During Macbeth's journey to Duncan's chamber (2.1.44) in which he imagines or hallucinates a dagger pointing the way, the music provided by the Third Ear Band has little in common with the earlier lute and drum dances; instead, it is reminiscent of Gyorgy Ligeti's chamber music. Using tremolo strings in high registers, sharp accent at seemingly random intervals, repeated phrases, the accompaniment for this scene "squeaks and gibbers", buzzing as Macbeth tried to steel himself for the task ahead. As he actually commits the murder, the same music is used again, but integrated with period instruments and percussions to create an atmosphere of adrenaline-filled terror and expectation. Lack of a tonal centre or an easily understood structure makes the music an aural counterpart to Macbeth's uncertain actions and emotions."
 
Macbeth (Jon Finch) and Lady Macbeth (Francesca Annis).

This is an interesting statement because usually, we read about TEB's Macbeth soundtrack that it is "medieval music" or, as Polanski's biographer Christopher Sandford wrote: "(...) the music of Third Ear Band, in the words of the press release 'achieving a degree of ethnic fusion of Indian, medieval, gypsy, Middle Eastern, electronic, jazz, trance and folk' (if not all in the same song)..." ("Polanski", Century-London 2007); but I think it is a kind of avant-garde chamber music and the reference to Gyorgy Ligeti is very pertinent because some tracks of the TEB's soundtrack seem inspired by the German composer. 
Apart "Fleance", that Sweeney and Minns didn't like it, and some few dances ("Inverness: The Preparation", "The Banquet", "Court Dance", "Groom's Dance", "Bear Baiting") based on harmonic elements taken from  (a revisited) ancient music, the most of the tracks are twentieth-century atonal compositions related to the  tradition of composers as like Berg, Stravinsky, Bartok, Schoenberg, Ligeti; or to free jazz or to minimalist music.

"Macbeth"'s electric guitarist and composer Denny Bridges writes me that "in reference to the music for Macbeth; as in every aspect of the band's music, we were influenced by many, many composers, musicians and musical forms from exotic parts of the world and from the ancient past too. We applied many of those influences to Macbeth but some scenes of the movie did dictate that we had to be traditional. I took the melody and chords for "Fleance's Song" from a song I had composed before I joined the band. I used just a small part of that song because the stanzas we had been given to work with were very short. I used the line "Oh your two eyes will slay me suddenly" to repeat at the end of the 'verse' as a sort of refrain. Could anything be more contrived? The Groom's Dance was based around a riff on electric 12 string guitar I had (heavily influenced by The Byrds) but with the rhythm of a jig imposed upon it. I suppose it's just a matter of opinion for that to be dismissed as just medieval. For the incidental music for the film, of course, we could be much freer."

I asked him, can you be more specific about the sources the Band used to listen to and influenced the music in that period?
"It is very difficult, if not impossible, to answer that question. For "Macbeth" each scene required a different approach.
Further to my previous comments on the music for Macbeth; Lady Macbeth's theme required at first a 'traditional' melody which then had to get darker and threatening as the piece progressed. To that purpose, I suppose we applied the influences of, for example, Schoenberg as you suggest. The witches theme is inspired by a scale of notes fewer than modern western music typical of eastern or ancient cultures. This could be a real scale or one that we imagined but, hopefully, should portray weirdness and evil to the listener.
We were sharing between us and listening to a lot of music all the time. Absorbing those influence just by osmosis would have flavoured what we did for Macbeth and all our other music.
I can't be more specific than that..."


However, whatever can be said about the sources, for modus operandi and musical references, "Macbeth" soundtrack was an innovative record for that time, still so actual and vivid.

no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

March 09, 2019

An interview with Ursula Smith on Future Radio!



On February 6th, 2019 David Eastaugh interviewed Ursula Smith for UK Future Radio (107.8 FM). 
You can listen to the 37' interview (from minutes 32), a very interesting excursus about her career and relations with the TEB, on  the podcast available at https://www.mixcloud.com/david-eastaugh/6-february-murray-lachlan-young-ursula-pank/

Thanks to David Eastaugh for sharing it!

 no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

March 05, 2019

Two unrealised live recordings of the TEB in Rome re-emerged!


In 1990 and 1991 Italian photographer Luca Fiaccavento (http://www.lucafiaccavento.net/) recorded two full gigs of the Third Ear Band in Rome, the line-up consisting of Sweeney, Carter, Dobson and Black.

The first concert was recorded at Classico on February 4th, 1990, it was the first time ever the band played in Rome. The year after, on December 28th, 1991, Third Ear Band played live at the famous Piazza Navona, one of the most beautiful square in Italy.
Just a few days ago he contacted Ghettoraga Archive to send me the full recordings of the two concerts!

The recordings was made with a Walkman  professional Sony WM-D6C (the gig at Classico) and a Casio DAT DA-7 (the gig at piazza Navona) and the quality of sound is really good, so I will try to convince Cherry Red Records or Gonzo Multimedia to make some CDs from them... 

no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

March 01, 2019

Italian magazine "Rumore" reviews "Macbeth"...


Italian journalist Alessandro Besselva Averame reviews "Macbeth" remastered CD on the last issue of rock magazine "Rumore" (# 326 - March 2019).



no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

February 26, 2019

Soon on Prog magazine a piece on the TEB's reissues by Malcom Dome.


English journalist Malcolm Dome is writing a piece on the Third Ear Band's reissues for Prog magazine. 
He's contacting Denim Bridges and Ursula Smith for having an interview...


 no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

February 22, 2019

Other reviews on the TEB on the Web...


Here's below some other reviews about TEB's remastered editions found in the Web:


The Reprobate: "Polanski’s Macbeth And The Third Ear Band’s Dark Folk Soundtrack" by Daz Lawrence at https://reprobatepress.com/2019/01/21/polanskis-macbeth-and-the-third-ear-bands-dark-folk-soundtrack/

 

Music Street Journal: a review about "Elements 1970-1971" by Gary Hill at http://www.musicstreetjournal.com/index_cdreviews_display.cfm?id=106634
 

Rythmes Croises Webzine: a review about "Elements" and "Macbeth" (in French) at https://www.rythmes-croises.org/remasterisations-esoteriques-pour-third-ear-band/



Please note another very interesting old article about Polanski's "Macbeth" and the Third Ear Band:


The Criterion Collection: "Third Ear Band's psychedelic alchemy in Macbeth" by Glen Kenny (2014) at https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/3387-third-ear-band-s-psychedelic-alchemy-in-macbeth 

 no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

February 14, 2019

Denny Bridges about the three unrealised "Macbeth" tracks.


News from our friend Denny Bridges, the guitar player of TEB on "Macbeth" and for "The Dragon Wakes" sessions, now coming back to live in Somerset, England.
Discussing again the idea to release the unrealised tracks recorded at Balham in February 1971, he writes to me about the three unrealised tracks the TEB recorded at the Trident Studios on December 5th, 1970, months before the beginning of the recordings at the Air Studios for the Polanski's soundtrack.
With his proverbial precision and clearness, he reveals:

Polanski shooting the movie
"The tracks "Court Dance", "Groom's Dance" and "Fleance" needed to be recorded in advance of the filming of Macbeth. The dances needed to be choreographed and taught to the actors. Also, the role of Fleance was decided, at least in part, by how well the boy sang the song. Well done young Keith Chegwin!

A departure from the way TEB functioned of course; the song I wrote and I presented the defined melody and chords to the band so that was all set in stone. Its not surprising that all and any takes of the song sound the same although probably, after some run-throughs, there was just the one take. As for the dances, in advance of the recording date, we improvised at the rehearsal studio in Balham until we came up with a framework that fitted the description of the dances. We then went into the studio and, as per usual, improvised the pieces afresh using the framework we had from the rehearsals until we got the best take. So that's what the Trident recordings probably are - us trying different approaches. All three pieces are used in the movie and on the album."

no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

February 11, 2019

A Grapefruit 3CDs folk anthology with TEB's "Fleance".


On March 29th, 2019 a 3CDs anthology boxset of British folk will be published by Cherry Red records/Grapefruit. Titled "STRANGERS IN THE ROOM ~ A JOURNEY THROUGH THE BRITISH FOLK ROCK SCENE 1967-73", a pre-order is available at the label Website here.

Among great musicians and bands as Michael Chapman, Pentangle, Trees, Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Dando Shaft, C.O.B., Strawbs, Heron, Bridget St. John, on disc  2 also the Third Ear Band with "Fleance".


Here's the press release: "It's now half-a-century since British folk rock became A Thing, with the early practitioners breaking new ground and inspiring an entire scene that peaked in the late Sixties/early Seventies.
Earnest young post-Dylan singer/songwriters moved away from the intimacy of the folk clubs in favour of the nascent college/university circuit. Countercultural iconoclasts The Incredible String Band became a seismic influence on a whole raft of bands now categorised as acid-folk, Pentangle's use of acoustic instrumentation within a nominally rock framework attracted many emulators (though arguably no real equals), while Fairport Convention graduated from their initial American West Coast-indebted sound to explore their own country's musical heritage, thus establishing the concept of indigenous English folk rock (a baton that would be picked up by the likes of Ashley Hutchings' post-Fairport venture Steeleye Span and many others).
By the early Seventies, British folk rock had become an extremely marketable commodity. In addition to the aforementioned brand leaders transcending the determinedly parochial folk pages of the UK music weeklies to score Top Ten albums, a second raft of acts - including Alan Hull's Lindisfarne, The Strawbs, the post-Humblebums Gerry Rafferty, Ralph McTell and another Fairport refugee, Iain Matthews - registered huge hit singles.
Housed in a clamshell box featuring a lavish forty-page booklet, Strangers In The Room documents that hugely fertile period, when everything was grist to the mill in what quickly became a glorious stylistic melting pot. As with other Grapefruit genre anthologies, the set features many of the scene's prime movers while taking a broader look at the overall picture with the inclusion of several acts who ploughed a similar musical furrow without the same level of acclaim. These include Hertfordshire-based group Lifeblud, who supported many of the leading bands of the era and recorded no less than three albums of original material (none of which made it past acetate stage), and university student Jeremy Harmer, who cut a privately-pressed album that inspired his friend and second guitarist David Costa to put together Trees.
Ranging in scope from seminal UK folk rock texts and chart-topping singles to lo-fi demo recordings, and featuring a number of previously unreleased tracks from the disparate likes of Gerry Rafferty and cult favourites Fresh Maggots, Strangers In The Room pays thrilling testimony to the depth of talent that existed within the British and Irish folk rock scene during the period in question, and whose influence still reverberates some fifty years later."

 
no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)


February 08, 2019

Steve Pank about the "Alchemy" days...


Some weeks ago I asked Carolyn and Steve to tell me something more about the "Alchemy" sessions for the Esoteric CD booklet I was writing. This is what Steve, former promoter and driver of the band, wrote me:

Steve Pank
"The first Third Ear Band was trio, with Ben Cartland, [viola] Paul Minns [oboe] and Glen [hand drums]. Ben Cartland played in a raga style using his G string as the drone. This piece originally called the G Raga, later was called the Ghetto Raga. By the time the group signed with Blackhill Agency, it was a quartet with Richard Coff added on violin. They were the house band at weekly sessions at All Saints Hall, They also played a regular Saturday night residency at the Covent Garden Arts lab. On 18th December 1968 they played in the Royal Albert Hall for the Arts Lab organised ‘Alchemical Wedding’ . The recording sessions for Alchemy were in March and April of 1969.The mood at the recording sessions was - that this was what we have been building up to from the live performances, It was a completion as well as a beginning. 

The People Band in the Sixties
"By the end of 1968, Ben had left and been replaced by Mel Davis For the album the band really needed a cellist, and Mel arrived at the right time. Mel Davis’ previous experience was with playing piano with the free jazz and performance art group, ‘The People Band’, and he had taken up cello. In terms of technique, he was not a great player but with his experience in free jazz and in musical education, he as able to add bass drones and riffs which extended the range of mood of the pieces. He was an influential member of the band, and his work is evident on the album.

"On the track ‘Dragon lines’ Mel plays the Slide Pipes which I remember looked like a set of ‘Hoover tubes’, but they sound like a dragon’s breath! The track was recorded in one take, and when he dropped part of the instrument, he let out a whoop as he picked it up.
Paul Minns had studied the oboe and the harpsichord, and his experience of playing baroque music, influenced his style. Paul is the only player who has been able to make the oboe sound like that.
 

TEB in 1968: (L-R) Minns, Cartland, Sweeney, Coff.

"At the time the album was recorded. Paul had a part time job doing layout for a publisher. The first band that Glen was in was in the 1950s, He was the drummer in a skiffle group called the Anacondas, who although they never recorded, were well known and successful. After that, Glen moved into playing jazz. His first attempt at forming a band was a free jazz and poetry group called Sounds Nova. It was though this group that Glen met saxophone player Dave Tomlin. Like Mel, Dave Tomlin had extended his playing to performance art, which is combining music with acting. Dave and Glen once mounted the bandstand in Kensington Gardens and then started to play. Their show was the confrontation with the park keeper! 

Steve Pank
"After Dave left the Mike Taylor Quartet, he was squatting in the basement of the London Free School and on Saturday mornings he would march down Portobello Road playing his tenor saxophone followed by a crowd of kids. After being cautioned and harassed by the police, he thought, maybe it is the saxophone that is causing the problem, and so he decided to take up the violin instead He composed a number of folk style tunes, Glen asked for him to be brought to the studio toward the end of the recording sessions. That is when he recorded Lark Rise.
Richard Coff came from Miami but had studied classical violin in Boston. He had won a distinction for his composition. He was interested in Minimalism, a style of modern composition based on simple repeated motifs, This influence is reflected in the piece ‘Mosaic’

The esoteric images projected by the band reflected Glen’s interest in natural philosophy. He would describe the drone as an Om, and the drumbeat as the heartbeat. He had been to Egypt and seen the pyramids and temples. Glen’s approach was to go with whatever was happening If he needed a musician, and someone came along who wanted to play and who sounded good, he would invite them to play in their own way. The scene was starting to wake up to world music. The influence of Celtic, Indian, free, contemporary, all came together and expressed as an emotional force that became ‘Alchemy’."


no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

February 04, 2019

"Alchemy" remastered edition updated.


First of all, the 2CDs-disc set will be out on March 29th, 2019 with the usual pre-order at the Esoteric Recordings and Cherry Red Records' Websites (go HERE). Maybe a special edition also in vinyl could be released!
About the track-list, "due to issues with the BBC", the updated tracks will be these:


CD One
 
“Alchemy”
*
Mosaic
Ghetto Raga
Druid One
Stone Circle
Egyptian Book of the Dead
Area Three
Dragon Lines
Lark Rise
(Released as Harvest SHVL 756 in July 1969)

Bonus tracks
**
Hyde Park Raga
Druid One
(BBC Radio One “Top Gear” session – 27th July 1969)
Previously unreleased
 

*= remastered from original EMI masters. 
**= actually the tracks are available among TEB fans.


CD Two

Cosmic Trip
*
Jason’s Trip
*
Devil’s Weed
*
Raga n. 1 (mono)
**
(Recordings made in 1968)

Unity
 
(Recorded at Abbey Road studios – 24th January 1969)
Previously unreleased


The Sea
Druid
Hyde Park Raga
 
(Recorded at Abbey Road studios – 12th September 1969)
Previously unreleased


*= same tracks published in "Necromancers of the Drifting West" by Gonzo Multimedia in 2015.
**= same track as "Raga in D", just in studio master quality.
 

For writing the CD booklet I had the opportunity to listen to the four unrealised tracks before, and, well, I have to admit they was a great surprise for me!

no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

February 01, 2019

"Uncut" Magazine reviews TEB's reissues: a clear example of arrogance in Rock magazines...


On "Uncut"'s issue # 261, with the name of Our Band printed on the cover (!), Tom Pinnock reviews the last TEB's albums with very positive words but...

...apart ignoring Ghettoraga Archive and the author of the CD booklets' notes (the usual old British chauvinism), the four pages article is based on some memories by Blackhill's manager Andrew King, the man who never trusted in the TEB...

...apart minimizing the band's reunion in Italy in the Eighties that was a sort of artistic renaissance for Glen Sweeney and Paul Minns... 

...apart quoting for two times Mike Marchant instead Denim Bridges, confusing records and phases of the TEB's story; 

Pinnock does this arguable assertion, to say the least: "Today, the majority of the group many members have died - (...) - and the story of the band, their beliefs and working practices, remains something of a mystery...".

The fact that he ignores all the huge work made on this pages (more than 400 files published here!) is quite emblematic of the arrogance some Rock journalists have: since he doesn't know the existence of the Archive (quoted in both CD booklets) and all the stuff published he can assert that the story of the band is still a "mystery".
Of course is a mystery just for him...!


no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

January 30, 2019

A new review about "Elements 1970-1971" on "IT".


After a first long review by Mike Ferguson in November 2018 (here), "International Times" publishes a new short review on "Elements 1970-1971" by Drew Darlington at http://internationaltimes.it/third-ear-band/


Drew Darlington
January 26th, 2019


ETERNAL, LIKE THE TIDES, LIKE THE MOON

"Things that make you go… cosmic. The Third Ear Band never fit into any genre that’s yet been devised. Before there was ambient, before there was world music or trance-dance, they were exhaling the mantric star-winds somewhere out beyond the space-time continuum, free, improvisational, as Raga-cyclic as the eternal rhythm of gravity tides. It’s spontaneous music, with as much to do with Stravinski and Penderecki as it has to do with Pop. Two ears, naturally, are insufficient, and yet they soundtrack their curious wide-open era as effortlessly organic as breathing.
This, their second album from June 1970 was essential tuning at every crash-pad and arts lab, free festival and Druid ritual, now expanded into a beautiful 3CD artefact, absorbing bonus previously unissued BBC alternate takes of the four elemental suites – “Air”, “Earth”, “Water” and “Fire”, with added John Peel Concert tracks, plus the full soundtrack for the German ‘Abelard And Heloise’ TV-movie, and the never-issued third album ‘The Dragon Wakes’. Essentially orbiting percussionist Glen Sweeney, there’s oboe-player Paul Minns, plus the duo who split away in September 1970, Richard Coff (violin) and Ursula Smith (cello), making way for future Elton string-arranger Paul Buckmaster with Benjamin Cartland. So turn off your mind, close your eyes, drift away."

no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

January 28, 2019

Another interesting review on "Elements 1970-1971" from the Web.




David Kidman reviews "Elements 1970-1971"...

David Kidman
"EMI’s “underground” label Harvest, which started up in 1969, was for several years into the ’70s the home of some of the most interesting, imaginative and unusual music of the era. Its first batch of releases spanned a wondrously diverse collection of acts – Deep Purple, Pete Brown & His Battered Ornaments, Panama Limited Jug Band, Shirley & Dolly Collins, Michael Chapman, Edgar Broughton Band and Pink Floyd … and the Third Ear Band. But even by the wildly eclectic standards of the Harvest imprint, the Third Ear Band was definitely Far Out on a limb. The band’s music was (rather perceptively) described by one critic as “difficult music to rationalise about, because it simply exists and demands to be taken on its own terms”. Literally no other band boasted a lineup like it – oboe, violin/viola, cello and hand-percussion, with no guitars, no keyboards, no vocals. Their musical stock-in-trade was trance-fuelled, improvisatory compositions, meandering mantras with a simultaneous air of deep antiquity and cutting-edge experimentalism. Symbiotic creativity producing sounds that were equal-parts inspired by ancient and medieval music, folk and world musics and eastern mysticism, while also influenced by contemporary classical music. Highly esoteric, for sure, and certainly not destined to be everyone’s cup of tea, but once your head’s in the right place immensely satisfying and spiritually rewarding. But the band’s music certainly polarised even the trippiest of audiences, and reactions ranged wildly from utter captivation to bare tolerance, intense dislike and blind indifference.

So now more than ever, the intensely original, definingly unique music of the Third Ear Band demands reassessment. And this programme of totally handsome reissues from the perfectly-named Esoteric label will undoubtedly do the trick. It might seem mildly illogical, though, for the series to be launched at the apex of the band’s success, its most prolific time and annus mirabilis 1970. This lavish three-disc set centres round the band’s prosaically eponymous second album, which Harvest released in June of that year (exactly one year on from their 1969 debut LP Alchemy). It’s often referred to as Elements, since it takes the form of four lengthy pieces for each of which the “impossible” brief was to represent or portray one of the four elements (Air, Earth, Fire and Water). The music is indeed elemental, yet at the same time highly contrasted. Air seems literally to arise out of thin air, with its ethereal, wispy, elusive melodic fragments and complex shifting rhythms, whereas Earth arises out of a primitive, bucolic peasant-dance and builds in a rapid accelerando before losing momentum mid-way, after which it limps along almost drunkenly. Fire is a white-heat droning cauldron of discords and persistent driven rhythms, while Water steers its restless eddying string currents through a smooth folk-inspired contour. Elements is an extraordinary, and extraordinarily coherent, record. (Only one glitch in the presentation of this new edition: the package lists Fire and Water the wrong way round…)

However, the Elements album proves the mere tip of the iceberg within this fabulous new Esoteric edition, for the set also delivers over two complete discs’ worth of priceless unreleased bonus material of stunning quality. This enables us to appreciate the continuum of the band’s artistic development and does much to fill in the gaps and progressions which at the time had baffled even the band’s admirers including myself. There’s an illuminating, even more primordial early studio take of Earth, followed by three pieces from a BBC Sounds Of The 70s live-in-the-studio session recorded a couple of months after the album. The gem of this set, though, is a suite of six pieces written as soundtrack to the film Abelard & Heloise, a “psychedelic love-story”, for NDR-TV in Munich; it forms a kind of bridge between the organic archaic medievalism of Alchemy and the progressive extemporisation of Elements, and contains some of the band’s most persuasive playing and arrangements. Although this suite was briefly available previously, on a 1996 Mooncrest CD set (Hymn To The Sphinx), this new Esoteric issue is superior, since it has been sourced from the original master, and the remastered sound is splendid.

Barely three months after the release of Elements, though, and shortly after playing a series of celebrated free concerts in Hyde Park, the band dynamic underwent a drastic change when violinist Richard Coff and cellist Ursula Smith quit (ostensibly to form another band), leaving oboist Paul Minns and percussionist Glen Sweeney to be joined by Paul Buckmaster (bass) and Denim Bridges (electric guitar); confusingly, Richard soon rejoined TEB, and the expanded lineup was signed to produce a soundtrack for Roman Polanski’s film of Macbeth (the resultant album appears as the second instalment of Esoteric’s TEB reissue series, and will be reviewed separately).

The Elements set continues with three tracks recorded for a projected third album The Dragon Wakes, which show the band progressing towards a more integrated (albeit still loose-limbed) version of their organic multi-faceted musical vision, one that featured some more “orthodox” instrumental colourings yet still refused to compromise into the realm of over-accessibility. The observant might discern shades of the music of peer bands like Soft Machine, Family, Henry Cow and Art Bears, both here and in the subsequent studio recordings from early-to-mid-1971 which appear on the third disc of this set. The comparatively brief Very Fine…Far Away even introduces some vocal counterpoint, while The Dragon Wakes possesses something of the aura of early King Crimson, with jittery percussion and glittering shards of electric guitar mingling with splintery oboe and bells and chimes and treated sounds in an ambient but full-on attention-grabbing mix. Sunrise employs a subliminal drone rather reminiscent of Tuvan overtone singing, remarkably presaging the use of this texture in the music of David Moss (LightGarden, Banoffi) a couple of decades on. The quirky psych-fusion of East Of Eden and the early jazz-rock adventures of Ian Carr also come to mind on tracks like the extended, at times surprisingly funky Evening Awakening (and Glenn had by this time acquired a full drum-kit!). Even so, the new-look “high-powered and progressive”, then-five-piece Third Ear Band still didn’t sound much like any other outfit, as the final three items on this set – previously unreleased John Peel In Concert session tracks including a coruscating revisit of Water – certainly demonstrate. The above-mentioned early 1971 studio recordings (newly “liberated from the vaults” for this set) were even stranger; allegedly driven by a heavy influence from Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, they were abandoned after some manic acid-fuelled experiences and personality changes – but these tracks prove intriguing and tantalising glimpses of what that projected third album might have been.

I loved the music of the Third Ear Band back then, but now if anything I love it even more, and it does genuinely stand the test of time, even while it transports me back to its era – and for that matter back even further into the archaic reaches of time itself. It was idiosyncratic: challenging, sure, and provocative, but also intensely spiritual and very often strangely soothing. A lot of water has flown under the bridges since then, but Third Ear Band’s music still sounds profoundly original today."


no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

January 25, 2019

A review about "Music from Macbeth" on "The Recoup" webzine.




Joseph Kyle reviews TEB's "Music from Macbeth" on "The Recoup" - "a reader-supported, advertising-free music and popular culture website" - at https://therecoup.com/2019/01/22/third-ear-band-music-from-macbeth-esoteric/


Joseph Kyle
January 22nd, 2019

"Film director Roman Polanski worked through the pain of the Manson Family murders in a most unique manner: making a film. Not just any film, though; he took on William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, one of the greatest tragedies of all time. Released in 1972, Macbeth is a naturally dark and disturbing production made all the more thought-provoking through subtle and not-so-subtle allusions to the murders. A dark production requires an equally dark score, and British progressive collective third ear band were selected to do the job. Esoteric’s recent reissue of the score indicates Polanski made the right choice.

Third Ear Band came to be in the late 1960s and made a name for themselves as a top notch live act known for blending classical and medieval instrumentation with modern rock sounds and improvisation. Prior to being recruited by Polanski, the troupe had seen some success for their score of the 1970 score of the film Abelard and Heloise, so the group was eager for more soundtrack work. Seeing the opportunity to experiment, they approached Polanski with a request: they wanted to record a live, improvised score as opposed to a preplanned composition. Such a move was bold for a big budget production, but one that the filmmakers accepted. Polanski, however, took an active role in this soundtrack, attending sessions and making sure the band had to visual stimulation needed.

Music From Macbeth is a dark, dreary, and disturbing album, one that perfectly fit the soundtrack. Consisting of sixteen pieces, the album ebbs and flows as one continuous whole, and with many of the pieces being less than two minutes long, it’s not an album to be taken piecemeal. At times the music is so dissonant and harsh—the mixture of medieval instruments and modern technology when together like oil and water—listening can be difficult. Music From Macbeth’s overture sets that standard from the get-go, but yet the cacophony can be oddly appealing, such as on “The Banquet” and “Court Dance.” Then there’s “Fleance,” which is sung by the actor Keith Chegwin, and is based on a poem by Chaucer. It’s a beautiful ballad, and though it breaks up the flow of the atmospherics, it feels oddly out of place; unsurprisingly, the band did not care for it, as it felt disjointed from the rest of the album.
Macbeth was a flop, but it remains a fascinating and difficult work of art. Its soundtrack is no different; it is a complex, dense work of dark and foreboding compositions that can try the patience of even the most steadfast listener. Still, approached as a wholeMusic From Macbeth is nothing less than an interesting and compelling musical artifact."

 no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

January 23, 2019

"Music from Macbeth" out now!


Original "Music from Macbeth" is finally on sale these days. A beautiful digipack edition for a classic TEB album!
Here below you can see the front/back cover and the booklet included I've edited for Esoteric Recordings.
Any critical contributions about it (opinions, reviews, critics...) will be very appreciated...

 (photo by Elena Blasi)

no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)