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3RDegree - Human Interest Story CD (album) cover

HUMAN INTEREST STORY

3RDegree

 

Crossover Prog

3.51 | 32 ratings

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FragileKings
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Early in the year, I checked out the Top 100 albums of 2015 and picked out a few to order. One album was "Ones & Zeros" by 3rdegree, a not-so-far-into-the-futuristic story about life extension and what life and being human means. Great album! I posted a review and soon after, I was contacted on Facebook by bass/vocals/keyboards Robert James Pashman. We exchanged messages about the album and other 3rdegree albums, and Robert mentioned that in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the second album "Human Interest Story", the 2013 reissue was available for 20% off in April. After a bit of discussion, I decided to order the album plus the next two that led up to "Ones & Zeros".

"Human Interest Story" is the sophomore effort by the band and it is the album where the line-up became complete with the addition of George Dobbs who took over lead vocal duties. Though I do not know how the band sounded on their debut, Dobbs has a sound to his voice that really suits the style of the music, a bit alternative with a sardonic edge that is used to good effect when required. As many of the lyrics deal with social observations (check out the title track which is about trashy talk shows), Dobbs' cynicism and irony fit the subject matter.

Listening to this album and the others, one of my first impressions was that 3rdegree are similar to Echolyn as they sounded on their "As the World" album of around the same period. But while "As the World" struck me as a very busy album, "Human Interest Story" is geared back a bit, more towards the song and yet still smoothly riding the progressive wave with some very sweet prog approaches to the composition. Actually, the electric guitar is often heavy and could sound a bit metal at times though I find it leans more towards alternative, particularly a band like I Mother Earth (only because I've been listening to them recently). With the acoustic moments of piano and guitar placed cleverly between songs of more bombastic material, I had the impression of a cynical and angry Barenaked Ladies-go-alt-rock in a tempered Echolyn progressive way. Add to that some keyboard moments that are reminiscent of late seventies pop prog like Saga or Supertramp and there's a lot to appreciate in the music here.

Regarding to 2013 reissue, I see that it is 3 songs shorter than the original 1996 release, and on the album I received, the final track is called "Done It Again" and is about an imperious employer. I can enjoy listening to the whole album, but I will point out three tracks that stand out for their own particular reasons. "Black Orchid" is a beautiful acoustic guitar instrumental with flute-like keyboards harkening back to some of the great acoustic instrumentals of the early seventies. "Locked Inside" includes a guest female vocalist (sorry I can't find her name right now), and "Misfortune on Main Street" is an 11-minute mini-epic that plays out very well.

It's tempting to give the album a 4-star rating but I find at times the vocals and backing vocals haven't yet managed to achieve that wonderful sound that they have on later albums. Also, the guitar does tend to stay on the heavy side giving the band a youthful and vigorous sound that is a little rough-edged but not usually associated with progressive rock. They will develop their music more maturely on their future albums, which to my taste are worthy of greater praise.

If you are into the band, this is an album worth having. If you are just getting into them, I would recommend working back by getting a couple of the more recent releases first. Still, an album with a lot of terrific music and song-writing!

FragileKings | 3/5 |

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