May 19, 2019

"How important are cultural mash-ups?" An old very interesting review about TEB's second album.

An interesting review about the TEB's second album is available in the Web at where Francesco Cerica wrote in 2017 some clever considerations about the syncretic soul of TEB's peculiar sound.
The text, written in Italian, is a good example as a journalist (or just a fan) can write something of really interesting about the musical forms and the meaning of some unique experiences in the popular music... 
"L'Ottavo" is a digital magazine of Literature linked to a publisher in Viterbo, "Edizioni Sette Città". 

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

May 18, 2019

Found in a book the xilography by Mario Balestreri.

Found in a book a few days ago, this is a postcard reproducing the original Mario Balestreri's xylography I used for the cover of "New Forecasts from the Third Ear Almanac", released in 1989 by A.D.N. of Milan.
Born in 1918 and passed away in 2006, Balestreri was a well-known artist in my town, Cremona, as a painter, incisor and writer.
Here below you can see two works by him and a picture of him in his studio:


From 1989 the original xilography, along with Balestreri's other ones, is hanging on my kitchen.

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

A long review in the Net on "Alchemy".

On the curious Web site "We are Cult", C.J. Newman ("CJ Newman combines a lifelong love of music, science fiction and cult movies with his alter-ego, as an academic writer on space exploration. He can be found on twitter as @kosmickris") writes a very long review about the remastered and expanded "Alchemy" full of positive opinions on the Esoteric's edition:

“Alike or Unlike as Trees”: Third Ear Band – ‘Alchemy’
“Alchemy constantly challenges the listener and demands both constant attention and interpretation. There is a free-form, improvised feel across the piece.”

One of the great joys of dipping into the progressive music of the late sixties and early seventies is the sheer eclecticism of some of the collectives. The progressive movement drew in creative artists from folk, rock, blues and jazz traditions. The release, by the always excellent Esoteric Records of Alchemy, the debut album by Third Ear Band, provides an exemplar of the fruits of such inclusive collaborations and the difficulties of trying to categorise work from this period. 

Third Ear Band has its roots firmly located within the underground creative scene of mid-1960s London. Founder Glen Sweeney took part in free-form jazz sessions at the almost mythical UFO club where he jammed with a wide range of artists. Although these collaborations were short-lived, the seeds of these relationships bore longer term fruit. In 1968, oboe and recorder player, Paul Mimms, and violinist Richard Coff coalesced around Sweeney to form Third Ear Band. This first incarnation of the band (like so many collectives of the time, membership was somewhat fluid) also saw Mel Davis (from The People Band) join in on Celle and Dave Tomlin violin play with the band on his own track Lark Rise.

Of course, this potted summary does not do the origin of the Third Ear Band any real justice. The true musical journey is captured in a wonderfully illustrated booklet contained within this special edition CD. One of the consistently wonderful aspects of releases by Esoteric is the provision of these detailed and insightful essays. As well as the comprehensive booklet, this release has the debut album, 24-bit digitally remastered, and ten bonus tracks which comprise unreleased recordings and John Peel BBC ‘Top Gear’ sessions. (Peel was a fierce advocate and supporter of the band, promoting the debut album and even contributing on the Jaw Harp for one of the album tracks, Area Three).

As a breakthrough piece for Third Ear Band, Alchemy truly lives up to the promise of its title. The instrumental sound of cello, violin, reed and percussion provides a unique and stark tapestry of sound with Eastern themes set against the obvious psychedelic influences of the time. Uncoupled from conventional approaches and rooted in the improvised tradition of the underground scene, the album provides an often discordant and unsettling journey into a very British mysticism interwoven with an Indian raga sound.
This release by Esoteric Records, as well as being beautifully packaged, is wonderfully remastered. Each instrument has a penetrating clarity and the recording now sounds crystal clear. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the first track, Mosaic, which provides an uncompromising opening. Coff’s harsh, staccato violin plays alongside the oboe of Paul Minns to provide a stark primer for the forthcoming tracks. All the while, the drumming of Glen Sweeney gives the piece a primal and dangerous feel. This is an overture filled with portent and a clear statement of intent: this is not a casual listen or a disposable moment.
Indeed, the whole album is not a musical safe space; Alchemy constantly challenges the listener and demands both constant attention and interpretation. There is a free-form, improvised feel across the piece. If any part of the work can be called accessible, it is the second track Ghetto Raga in which the tabla playing of Sweeney provides a clearly Eastern influence underneath the almost hypnotic violin rhythms and exotic sounding wind instruments. Stone Circle similarly provides a bucolic yet slightly forbidding undercurrent. The sound is evocative of ancient rituals and one can almost smell the wild garlic and pungent incense of a pagan rite as the unnatural and slightly discordant recorder ratchets up the tension.
When asked about the album, Sweeney once replied that the songs are ‘as alike or unlike as trees’ and that captures the essence of the work perfectly. The natural, organic feel to the music produces unpredictable and not always pleasing results. “If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck”, so goes the famous abductive reasoning test. Yet it is almost impossible to say fully what this album is, and no amount of inference can assist in categorising Alchemy. It is experimental, it is innovative and not immediately accessible: the work has a harsh edge to it. There are clear nods to chamber music, and this is a truly distinctive piece of work that rewards the persistent listener. The starkness of the music and the simplicity of the instrumentation means that the work has an ageless quality.
As an album, therefore, Alchemy is both the perfect period piece and a template for the future of the band. It is, above all else, a perfect illustration of the way in which a collective of musicians, each rooted in their own distinct tradition, can come together and produce something of rare interest and significance. Sometimes, the need to engage in a logical categorisation of music must yield to the art itself. Alchemy defies categorisation and provides a beautiful, chaotic and discordant introduction to one of the great experimental collectives of the progressive era."

(Read the digital version here)

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

May 14, 2019

“Alchemy” remastered edition: a critical review.


Just a few words for analyzing the remastered and expanded edition of the TEB’s first album.

The title
As for the second album, I suggested Esoteric Recordings to title “Alchemy” as “Alchemies 1968-1969” suggesting the idea of a project consisting in an audio excursus of the band’s first stage. They preferred the original “Alchemy”, not so coherent with the spirit of these reissues.

The packaging

I really like too much the choice to have this 2CDs digipack edition with great reproductions of the front and back cover, the original Glen’s liner note, the Ray Stevenson’s original b/w picture taken at Kensal Green Cemetery, the discs with alchemical iconography on… So, a great visual impact! 


The booklet and the liner note
As for the first two remastered albums, Esoteric asked me to write the notes with a historical approach to the TEB’s experience. For some reasons, Esoteric cut off some parts of my text, especially the one about the symbolic/esoteric meanings of the cover Chief druid David Loxley told me in an interview. A controversial decision, because I think the meanings of the "Alchemy" cover are very important for understanding the full project...

Also, I don’t like the way they assembled the original posters and having published the Ray Stevenson’ original contact sleeve with folk singer Bridget St. John on is nonsense… 

Also, as for “Elements 1970-1971”, the notes don’t include all the line-ups involved but only the one who recorded “Alchemy”. Even if the listener can easily deduce them from the booklet, it would be better to print them on the cover.

The music
As I wrote somewhere on this Archive (read here), for myself this is an esoteric album for initiates. Even if recorded just in a weekend, this music sounds very cohesive and coherent, fully related to some underground Sixties beliefs of the age (i.e. "Gandalf's Garden" and "Albion"), a unique piece of art where music, symbols (images) and meanings are wonderfully integrated.
No words, just sounds
Sounds coming from the Western deep consciousness of a drifted World, so alien from the surrounding music of the post-psychedelic rock scene...

The original masters sound brilliant and sometimes it's a very emotional discover to listen again to some tracks with "new ears", i.e. this astonishing "Dragon Lines"! 

Also, considering the unrealised tracks included in this edition ("Unity", "Hyde Park Raga"...), we have the clear proof of a very mature band exploring new territories of acoustics, a fluid place where classical meets folk, avant-garde and minimalism in a dynamic of rigid structures (English folk, Indian Raga) and modal improvisation.
A big surprise for me was to listen to "The Sea", a.k.a. "Water", maybe the first attempt to record in the studio the following album: in my opinion, this track is the key to deconstructing the first structured compositions and imagine a more open form of music. Also, the rendition of "Druid" recorded on September 12th, 1969 by the new line-up is a clear example of the path our band took for creating the second album.

A little final curiosity
Rightly, Esoteric Recordings leaves on the cover the original dedication by the band: 

""Ghetto Raga" is for Pete, Sumi, John, Steve, all the cats in the Grove and elsewhere who gave us the energy and created the karma that put it all together".

Apart from the jazz slang word "cats" to indicate all the friends of the band (a typical Glen saying), the most living in the Grove (the area around Ladbroke Grove W10); Pete was the manager/producer Peter Jenner, Sumi was his wife, John was cult DJ/producer, John Peel, and Steve was Steve Pank, first TEB manager and roadie, promoter and writer (he run "Albion"...).

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

May 11, 2019

Spain's "God is Love" truly reminds you of the Third Ear Band?

In January 2019 Italian journalist Eddy Cilia, reviewing Spain's last album "Mandala Brush" (Dangerbirds Records), wrote about a track titled "God is Love" that the music recalls him Popul Vuh and the Third Ear Band (read his review in Italian here).
Listen to it and get an idea about: in my opinion this great music has a sort of 'kraut'/space-rock identity, it's more Popul Vuh than TEB; in fact, the music has a powerful rhythmic impact, it's focused on a widespread improvisation, with an electric/electronic core, but maybe all in all as their label says Spain's music is "indie pop slowcore Americana free jazz.”

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

May 07, 2019

An old TEB gig poster sold at English auction house.


This old TEB concert poster was recently sold by Omega Autions for 140 pounds.
This is the seller's description:

"THIRD EAR BAND PRESTON 1970s POSTER. A rarely seen original poster for a Third Ear Band concert circa 1970 at Preston's Harris College. The poster is printed onto thin paper stock and has been mounted to a thicker card for preservation. Poster measures 15 x 20'' and could likely be removed from card with some care. Some wear and creasing, with tape to bottom edge."

Please note that actually the gig was played by the band on January 27th, 1969 at the Preston "Harris College" (just after the recording sessions at the EMI Studios for "Unity" and "Raga n. 1") and not in 1970...

(Read the digital version here)

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

May 02, 2019

Some rare pictures for remembering the great late Paul Minns.

Maybe Ghettoraga Archive didn't give the right tribute to the late great PAUL MINNS, one of the best and most influential oboe player of the popular music, but the scarce information circulating about him, his proverbial prudery, the very few interviews he did, his tragic shocking end (22 years ago), was not useful to do the right thing.
Through the years, apart his soulful contributes to a critical view of the TEB's historiography (read here and here), his former wife Mary Haynes gave me two interesting interviews (read here and here), focusing the first steps of his career; but we still have few elements for having a satisfying portrait of the man. 
So the only thing I can do is to share with you some rare, never seen pictures from Paul's family album sent to me by Mary, remembering his unique contribution to the wonderful experience of the Third Ear Band.

Paul and Mary's wedding.
A young Mary.
Mary with her sons.
no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)