April 27, 2019

Another review on "Music from Macbeth" on the Web.

ZACHARY NATHANSON runs an interesting blog dedicated to the "progressive rock, jazz rock, and heavy metal" titled "MUSIC FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROOM" at https://zacharynathanson.blogspot.com/ 
On March 15th, 2019 he wrote this long review about "Music from Macbeth" remastered edition:

"My first discovery of reading about the Third Ear Band was back when I was a student at Houston Community College when I got a special issue of Classic Rock Magazine covering the story of Prog Rock in 2007. They were selected along with Greenslade, Jonesy, and Fruupp as The Best Prog Bands You’ve Never Heard by Malcolm Dome. Their music was so hard to find and I nearly gave up on trying to buy their albums. Until either last year or this year when Esoteric Recordings were going to do the Third Ear Band’s music.

And so my ears told me to go ahead and jump into the bandwagon of the Third Ear Band’s music. They originally started out as a psychedelic band from Canterbury called The Giant Sun Trolley and then changing their names in to the Hydrogen Jukebox. But then they decided to move away from that scene into something that was a combination between Medieval, Classical, Avant-Garde, Raga, World, and Indian music.
Championed by the late great John Peel who played jaw harp on their first album Alchemy in 1969, when he first heard them in late 1968 at a concert in Guildford at a projected arts lab in which he wrote about them in an article of IT (International Times) issue 45 on November 29, 1968. After the releases of their previous albums including a score for a German TV special based on one of the most passionate true romantic love stories of the 12th century Abelard & Heloise in 1970, Richard Coff and Ursula Smith left the band.
Enter Paul Buckmaster (David Bowie, Elton John, Harry Nilsson) on Cello and Bass Guitar and Denim Bridges on Guitar. One of the Esoteric reissues that made me want to listen to again and again was their score for Roman Polanski’s film of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth. It is perhaps one of the scariest, nightmarish, surreal, and intensive scores I’ve listened to from start to finish.
Music from Macbeth is not for the faint of heart, but for me, it was a challenge. It showed that the Third Ear Band’s idea to crack those doors open wider with textures of aleatoric music, folk, and some of the early structures of what would later be known as the Rock In Opposition movement (RIO). And with a little help from High Tide and Hawkwind’s Simon House on Violin and VCS3 after being recruited by the late great Glen Sweeney, it can make your skin crawl.
With Ambush/Banquo's Ghost, you get these sounds of chaotic noises of guitars, Minns’ Oboe, Sweeney’s percussion, and Buckmaster’s Bass, it goes into this crackling falling down structure by going into those rolling hills and channeling the minds of Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica. The Beach have these sound effects of seagulls and the waves before Simon’s violin screeches to make this noise of giving both the listener and the audience of what is to come in Shakespeare’s play.
The Overture has these aspects of between the early beginnings of Univers Zero and Present. You can imagine Roger Trigaux was listening to the band’s music to follow in their footsteps as if he wanted to make sure to honor them in Univers Zero’s music and breaking all the rules. Blaring guitars, bass lines, percussion, and Oboe’s that crawl through various corners of one room to another.
Fleance, sung by the late Keith Chegwin who was 12 years old at the time, brings this beauty and folk-like structures in the form of a waltz. It has these Acid Folk-sque sound as the son of Banquo sings to Duncan as he enjoys his feast with Macbeth before being killed. Simon’s VCS3 and Violin on The Cauldron sets up the witches potion that Macbeth drinks. The droning sounds from the violin, cello, and oboe sets up these alarming noises from the bubbling synths with some percussion and wah-wah guitars going back and forth.
Dagger and Death goes into this experimental approach for the Third Ear Band as they channel the Krautrock genre and honoring the styles of CAN’s early years to give Buckmaster a bit of a chance to channel the essence of Michael Karoli. The three bonus tracks contains the first versions of Court Dance, Groom Dance, and Fleance which were recorded at Trident Studios on December 5, 1970. Also in the reissue contains a 16-page booklet containing liner notes by Luca Chino Ferrari.
Ferrari is not only an underground writer covering folk/rock musicians including Captain Beefheart, Syd Barrett, Tim Buckley, and Robyn Hitchock, but also an official archivist and biographer on the Third Ear Band’s music. He also contributed the reunion for them in the 1980s. He also runs an incredible website covering the band’s history entitled Ghettoraga Archive (http://ghettoraga.blogspot.com).
Also in the booklet, it contains the original sleeve text, biography, Japanese promo of the band, snapshot of the band’s appearance in the film, and a picture of Roman Polanski during the making of the movie who at the time in 1970 before it came out in 1971, was going through depression because of the way the media handled the incident from the loss of his second wife, Sharon Tate who was brutally murdered by members of the Manson family on August 9, 1969.
When The Tragedy of Macbeth was released in 1971, it premiered on January 31st at the Plaza cinema in London after receiving some excellent stasis from Movie Critics including the late great Roger Ebert who gave it four stars in his article on the first of January that same year in the Chicago Sun-Times by calling it, “the most pessimistic films ever made.”
But when it was released in the States, it tanked after losing $3.5 million dollars at the box office. The soundtrack however was very positive from the music press and even was nominated for the 1972 performance awards. The award went to Nino Rota for his score to the 1972 classic, The Godfather.
After listening to Music from Macbeth, my ears were intrigued from start to finish. It was like searching for the lost and hidden treasure that Long John Silver had hidden for many, many years. And I hope to discover more adventures to Third Ear Band’s music to come from Esoteric Recordings to see and hear what I was missing for many years."

(Read the digital version here

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

April 25, 2019

A psychedelic English magazine on the TEB and Gandalf's Gardens.


On last issue 6 (Winter 2018/2019) of the great psychedelic English magazine "MOOF" (https://moofmag.com/) edited by Melanie Xulu a review about "Elements 1970-1971" by Ben Finley... 
On the magazine also a very interesting piece about Muz Murray's "Gandalf's Gardens" and a review of the 3CDs anthology "Strangers in the room"...

(Thanks to Melanie  for sending it!)

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

April 24, 2019

Goldmine reviews "Alchemy" remastered edition.

After his very good review on "Elements 1970-1971" (read here), Dave Thompson reviews also "Alchemy" on "Goldmine". 
Here's his writing:

Dave Thompson
March 21, 2019

"Continuing the long- awaited exhumation of the Third Ear vault, but moving backwards in time from last time out’s Elements, this was their 1969 debut album – the one that hit the music press with such force that it’s still hard to believe we’re talking about a barely-remembered cult. In certain circles, they should have been enormous, as Melody Maker’s review made plain. “The three-eared men are a Godsend for lovers of mysticism, Stonehenge and the cosmic force lines. Absorbing, almost hypnotic… [and] 90 per cent improvisation.”

What more could one ask for?

As before, the original album is expanded to encompass all of the band’s doings around the time it was recorded – there’s a Peel session that includes a celebration of the group’s biggest gig so far, opening for the Stones at the Hyde Park free concert, and no less than eight unreleased studio tracks.
These in themselves are worth the purchase price. We begin with a 1968 session with producer Ron Geesin, destined for an album of library music a couple of years later (they appear under the name of the National Balkan Ensemble). Next up is a couple of songs taped early on in the sessions for Alchemy, on the eve of one of the band’s regular personnel shifts; and, finally, the first steps towards its follow up are here, including another version of “Hyde Park Raga.” Although this being the Third Ear Band, the title is the most familiar part of it. 

In truth, the Third Ear Band are an acquired taste, a time-and-place-y experience that can demand more attention than a lot of ears are willing to give. The eastern elements certainly overwhelm anything that can even be loosely described as rock, and a good case can be made for expunging them from pop history altogether, and planting them instead within the realms of modern classical. Or, maybe, even folk. Sharp-eyed connoisseurs will spot them lurking within the Strangers in the Room collection mentioned above.

That, however, would be to deny the impact that they did make on the age. The Stones gig, after all, was just one of the festivals they played; they were also on the bill at the Isle of Wight that same summer, a few names down from the headlining Dylan. They shared management with Tyrannousaurus Rex (with whom they also gigged), Roy Harper and the Edgar Broughton Band; and a label with Pink Floyd, Deep Purple and Barclay James Harvest. They haunted the same arts labs that David Bowie frequented; and though they drew little influence from their stablemates, the same thing cannot always be said the other way around. There’s a lot to listen out for in Alchemy, then, and a lot of great music as well."

(Read the digital version here. Thanks to Dave Thompson for warning me about it)

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

April 18, 2019

"Radical Elders": Dave Tomlin.

Lush.com launchs a series of video interviews about English elders. First interview (11:16 long) is with 'our' Dave Tomlin, founder of Giant Sun Trolley and friend of Glen Sweeney, poet, writer, iconoclast.
This very interesting video interview is available HERE.


Radical Elders: Dave Tomlin.

"This new series provides a missing platform for our elders to share their experiences and knowledge with those younger than themselves. Instead of simply celebrating the youthful lives of our Radical Elders, we want to know what they have learned as older people and discover more about their experiences as an older person who lives and has lived, differently. Our first subject is Dave Tomlin: a pioneering squatter, musician, author and counterculture activist. Along with our other subjects, who will be introduced over the coming months, Dave continues to engage with the world and remains inflamed by the spirit of inquiry, the desire to learn and to share his experience and knowledge with the rest of us. There is so much that the young can learn from their elders, and there are so many ways our elders' horizons can continue to be expanded by younger people. We hope that you, your elders, and your ‘youngers’, will join the conversation."
 (Lush.com press release)

                  Dave presenting his book "Tales from the Embassy".
      Dave at the Embassy, years ago. Note in front violinist Allen Samuel.

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

April 16, 2019

Why "Hyde Park" was never recorded in the studio?

TEB fan Detlef wrote about the interview with Denny Bridges: "Hi and thanks for the interesting interview! I always loved the track "Hyde Park" that the TEB performed for German Beat Club TV programme in 1970. It is listed as a Denim Bridges original and I always wondered why it was never recorded in the studio. Any info on that?"

I've asked Denny. Today he replies: "Internal band politics. Glen went cool on adding vocals to the repertoire. I believe Paul Minns went along with that opinion at the time. Glen told me at the time "If I wanted to play folk songs I should be in another band". Ironic that we should have to later provide "Fleance's Song" for Macbeth. I really suspect it was a reaction to the opinion of some of the band that we maybe should add a rock drummer. Glen's compromise was to try adding the congas. That didn't last long. Then Macbeth happened and... back to basics. I have been over that before."

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

April 06, 2019

An interview with Denim Bridges.

An electric double-neck guitar player of the band in the period 1970-1972, Denim Bridges was an important member of the TEB for his big contribution to the electric changes in the music. He was involved in the recordings of "Macbeth" soundtrack and he recorded tracks in the studio for the announced and never realised "The Dragon Wakes" record as recently documented with "Elements 1970-1971" Esoteric's triple CD.
Through the years he gave a great contribution to this Archive in order to offer a correct reconstruction of historical facts.
Being in touch with him again,  I realised I never had a proper interview about his involvement in the TEB's story. This is a preview of the interview will be published on the TEB's exclusive book available soon just through Ghettoraga Archive.

How did you meet Glen and Paul joining the band?
"I answered an advertisement for 'Musicians to join recording band' (words to that effect). I believe it was in Melody Maker but it could have been one of the others. I was asked to audition at the band's base in Balham, South London. It must have gone well as I was asked to join.
I knew of the band as I had been at the Blind Faith and Rolling Stones concerts in Hyde Park. I was very intrigued with the band's music as it then existed but I was even more intrigued by what the band wanted to do with additional musicians and 'going electric' instrumentally. I think the fact that I had a custom built double-neck electric guitar helped me to be noticed."

What you were doing in that period? Did you play with other bands before to meet the TEB?
"I was just playing occasionally in amateur bands and open mics at folk clubs. I wanted to join The Byrds."

Which was your equipment when you met the band? How much your different approach to the music, based on different previous experiences, conditioned the new course of the TEB music from a technical point of view?
"My guitar amplifier was the Vox AC50 an amplifier developed specifically for George Harrison and John Lennon. Where The Beatles went so did I (Haha!). I had my double neck guitar custom built by John Bailey made famous by the lie of Glen Sweeney that one neck didn't work. The top neck was 12 strings and the lower neck 6 strings. I can be seen (and heard) playing both necks on The Lost Broadcasts DVD - so there! I think someone else should answer the second part of your question. I think I was a 'blank page' at that time. "

Denny in these days with his Ibanez.

Have you still your legendary double-neck electric guitar Glen mocked about?
"My double-neck didn't survive the ravaged of New Jersey climate (hot and humid in the summer or freezing and dry in the winter) and, in 2001, the 12 string neck irreparably split along the grain of the wood. So it seems Glen was quite prophetic about one neck not working."

About the composition of 'new' electric TEB music, who was/were the main musicians to be involved as a leader?
"Each member of the band would offer either fully developed compositions (as would be the case for my songs) or partially developed ideas for the band to develop at rehearsals." 

Which was the modus operandi of the band on composing tunes?
"These ideas could be musical modes or scales inspired by music from abroad or from early forms of music. As the new guy with the electric guitar I was, of course, always pushing for my ideas, with a rock sensibility, to be considered." 

About "Macbeth"'s soundtrack: can you tell us which was your main musical influences?
"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."

And what about your approach to the tunes recording "Macbeth"?
"It is very difficult, if not impossible, to answer that question. For "Macbeth" each scene required a different approach.
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."

Denny playing for German TV in October 1970.

Did you see Macbeth movie? What do you think about it? "I watched Macbeth again only a few weeks ago. It is Shakespeare's dialogue and the acting by the best of Britain's acting elite is of the highest calibre. In my humble opinion there are a few clunky bits but I would rather take from the following story. In the mid-1990s I was at a gathering of friends in Montclair, New Jersey, USA, and we were going to see Shakespeare In The Park. One of the people there was a English teacher at the local high school who in the general conversation said that Polanski's Macbeth was the 'go to' version for his pupils.
I think there are sequences of the movie that don't have music that would benefit from it and a few of our bits work less well than I would like."

Which was the mood when you played on stage with the band? How did you feel  with this?
"I have never suffered from stage fright or any nervousness on stage. I'm aware of what Paul said about skating on thin ice, or words to that effect, and I can relate to that, but I always believed the performance would come together - eventually. Sometimes it would take an interminable amount of time to prompt some members to start to play (as evidenced by "Druid Grocking" on The Lost Broadcasts DVD) and to (loosely) quote a band friend "it always seemed to be grinding to a halt" but most performances ended in elation. Most times our performances worked well - sometimes not so much. Could we then be described as 'thrill seekers'?"

Which gigs do you remember more?
"I remember many shows by who we opened for; The Rolling Stones at The Roundhouse, Cat Stevens at Sheffield University and Love Sculpture at Swansea University. The stage experiences I actually remember most are the ones that were very much out of the norm; like the time Richard Hopkins (from the band Blond on Blond) deputized for the departed Paul Buckmaster. That was a rocking gig. We played at a university in the east midlands and the next day Essex University in Colchester in the open with Roy Harper. Another 'aberration' was at The Alhambra, Bordeaux with Centipede when Glen said "Thank you very much" and walked off stage after 20 minutes or so of us playing. He claimed he thought we had played a full set. Oops! I unfortunately also remember one of our road managers behaving rather badly behind the amps at The Paradiso in Amsterdam at one of the shows we opened for Pink Floyd. Somethings just can't be erased from the memory. Oh well."

Bridges' hands on his double-neck at Abbey Road in February 1971.

Do you remember what's happened after "Macbeth"? Why everything faded away...?
"Although being engaged to provide the music for Macbeth was a great opportunity and a fantastic experience in so many ways it did make the band do a U-turn musically, reverting back to pre-electric Third Ear Band and away from The Electric Ear Band Glen had announced in the press earlier - before getting the Macbeth job I assume. 
This is my read of what happened. I think Glen and Paul Minns decided that TEB should not go electric after all but build on the direction that TEB went with Macbeth. Paul Buckmaster, because of the commitment demanded by his arranging work, decided he could not continue in TEB and his departure was a factor in the bigger picture. Glen had brought in a young chap (I'm embarrassed to tell you I don't remember his name) who played acoustic guitar to fill Paul's position and I wasn't convinced that not replacing the electric bass and adding the acoustic guitar was a good decision. I felt the proposed new line-up and the new (old) musical direction wasn't as inspiring to me as when I joined the band and also wasn't exploiting me as a musician. I was also informed that the recordings we made with the electric band would not be released as TEB were out of contract with EMI. Although I wasn't party to the details I assume that meant the Macbeth album fulfilled TEB's obligations to EMI. So I left. I didn't quit as there was nothing to quit at that time."

Buckmaster, Bridges and Minns playing for German TV (1970).

What have you taken from the experience with the Third Ear Band? 
"When we went into Air Studios' to record the incidental music for Macbeth we used the film dubbing studio (#4) and improvised our music watching the sequences of film that required music. That all went quite well but when we came to be in the control room, for example, to edit or mix the music, we were like the vultures in Disney's Dumbo, a little uncertain and undecided. That's when I stepped forward and that's when George Martin noticed me. I also followed through the recording process by attending Shepperton Studios and supervising the laying of the music into the movie. Soon after I was engaged by Air Studios as a recording engineer and developed later to produce records as an independent Producer/Engineer. That is the big take for me from the Macbeth experience."

How can you describe the emotion to play improvitional music, that magic (or tragic) interplay musicians can live on stage?
"The feeling I had walking out on stage with The Third Ear Band was always a reflection of the last performance. When we had really gelled together, and the pieces worked as well as they sometimes could, I remember very well the excitement I felt and the anticipation of building on what the band had played the show before. When I was in the band, though we improvised a lot of our performances, we had 'islands in the potentially stormy sea' (a mode, a figure or a riff) that we could jump on when things got scary."

Which is your favourite TEB track? And why?
"I would rather use the term 'piece' of music rather than track as until the "Elements 1970-1971" CD became available the piece was unreleased. "Tellus" had a short life in the recording studio as "Ghoo" but as per "Elements 1970-1971" has been renamed "Eternity in D" by John Peel at a live show out of BBC's Lower Regent Street studios. I'm sure the title would then have been provided by Glen probably under duress. Anyway, the 'track' that is now available is a live version. I don't know why the studio version hasn't turned up. I like this piece because it has strong riffs in the bass and guitar that form a solid foundation for the oboe and violin to improvise over. It's hypnotic. So, did The Third Ear Band invent 'Trance'? Maybe. Haha!"

What are you doing right now, apart from working on the tracks recorded by the TEB for "The Dragon Wakes"? 
"I consider myself retired having ceased performing for the retirement homes, condominium associations and beach bars in Florida. That is 2 years ago now. I spend my days working around the homestead, on the vegetable garden, the orchard and generally fixing things. I occasionally play, I played a wedding last year, and get together with old friends to play a 60s night. I, also, volunteer at a Performing Arts Center sometimes mixing sound or just stewarding. That allows me to see and hear a lot of music from a wide variety of bands and solo artists."

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