December 10, 2018

Italian musician and composer Alessandro Monti reviews Third Ear Band's new release.

Here below Venetian musician and composer Alessandro Monti reviews the "Third Ear Band" remastered and expanded edition focusing some interesting aspects of the Electric Ear Band's composition/arrangement approach to the sound.

THIRD EAR BAND Elements 1970-1971: first impressions.
Two days ago I received from Burning Shed my advance copy of the 3CD set released on Esoteric/Cherry Red... and what a surprise it was! 
I was asked by Luca Chino Ferrari to write a review for the revitalised Ghettoraga Archive, but after two days of immersion in the timeless music of TEB, I can only say a few words about it: the package has to be heard to be believed.
The research of original master tapes in the EMI vaults led to an amazing amount of unreleased material we could only dream of! 

Alessandro Monti
On the 1st disc the classic 1970 album is augmented by two beautiful studio outtakes and three pieces taken from a BBC session; the alternate version of "Earth" seems to be the most exciting: a totally different approach to the piece by the band, probably studying new possibilities in the studio while recording, a fascinating glimpse "in progress" of TEB's compositional methods sometimes obscured by their freewheeling improvisational side. 

On the 2nd disc, we find an excellent remaster of the "Abelard & Heloise" soundtrack from the best sources available: improved by recent technology it's definitely a major addition to TEB's recording legacy and one of the most important sessions by the 1970 line-up, showing different perspectives at each rotation.
And here comes the extra good news! I've always thought that the Sweeney/Minns/Buckmaster/Bridges era created some of the most advanced sounds in the UK at the time. Three unreleased sessions from November 1970 are included: "Very Fine...Far Away", "The Dragon Wakes" and "Sunrise". The new electric sound recently documented through the "Beat Club" DVD is here in better focus. The new TEB sound was clearly influenced by electric Miles Davis and Paul Buckmaster's interview on the "Miles Electric - a different kind of blue" DVD confirm all that; detailed technical notes by the late arranger/producer/composer can be found here on Ghettoraga ( deeply analyzing all harmonic and musical connections. The use of VCS3 synthesizer and psychedelic voices are more in tune with the underground sound of Hawkwind, Gong and early Pink Floyd, but the intelligent use of space on free rhythms is typically vintage TEB. Paul Buckmaster explores new territories on bass and cello, while Denim Bridges creates some jazzy noises on his double neck guitar far removed from Soft Machine or similar bands of the era. 

The appearance of three more tracks on the third disc (recorded intermittently from February to June 1971 at Abbey Road) "Mistress To The Sun", "Evening Awakening" and "In D", give us the unique experience of a "Lost Album". The 20-minute "Evening Awakening" is a major find: it seems a sort of unusual suite edited from different sketches and experiments closing with a circular riff reminiscent of Joe Zawinul's style with Weather Report. In my opinion, it could be linked to Weather Report's 1st LP and "I Sing The Body Electric" for the new approach to group improvisation using written structures only as a vehicle for the extended electric sections. Looking back Oregon shared a similar path on acoustic instruments at the time. Here Glen Sweeney's basic use of a real drum-set change the ethnic and ritual rhythms of the group leading to an almost rock idiom. The stunning listening marathon closes with the famous "BBC in concert" from 1971 presented here directly from the John Peel show in a slightly improved audio quality from the previous edition; particularly revealing at this stage is the evolution of the track "Eternity in D" in a barely few months, starting from a Miles Davis riff slowly becoming a more organic and "open" TEB piece. 

As I wrote the above 6 unreleased tracks make a fantastic "Lost Album" that needs repeated listenings to be fully appreciated, lots of inventions appearing at once on the speakers. Listening to this marvellous 3CD set was like opening a forgotten box, a secret treasure: we could only imagine of its existence but few seriously believed in it. The music of the 1970 TEB described the four elements but it could also be about the four seasons: a truly spiritual and otherworldly musical experience by one of the most loved bands of progressive music definitely coming from a parallel universe.
Alessandro Monti :: Unfolk

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