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Third Ear Band - Music From Macbeth CD (album) cover


Third Ear Band


Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

3.25 | 31 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars THIRD EAR BAND was a British instrumental group that released four albums between 1969 and 1972 (later they reactivated and made many more albums). Perhaps they were originally associated to the progressive rock scene more because of their prog-oriented record label Harvest than the nature of the music itself. The band isn't very familiar to me, so I can't compare this work to their other albums. However, this one obviously differs from its predecessors in the way that the tracks are often very short (mostly between 1 and 3 minutes) instead of containing lengthy hypnotic drones, since it was composed for film, Roman Polanski's Macbeth (1971). I haven't seen it, but it seems to have become a respected classic. "Perhaps William Shakespeare meant to have Lady Macbeth perform her sleepwalking scene in the nude -- it was this X-rated scene and the film's much-publicized spurts of violence, rather than the brilliant performances of Jon Finch as Macbeth and Francesca Annis as his Lady, that lured crowds", says Hal Erickson in his All Movie Guide review. Did you know that the film was financed by Playboy?

To demonstrate the uniqueness of TEB, it's good to begin with the unusual instrumentation: oboe and recorder (Paul Minns), cello and bass (Paul Buckmaster), plus guitars, drums, violin and VCS3 synth. The two last mentioned are played by Simon House, formerly of High Tide and later of Hawkwind -- the only member who hasn't any composing credits here. The music is mostly acoustic, pretty much dominated by oboe, cello and violin. Also the simple percussion sounds like the band is after an old music flavour. But they were no Amazing Blondel; no harmonic troubadour stuff but slightly disjointed and gloomy soundscapes. One can imagine how emotionally effective this music is on the film telling the sinister story of Macbeth, but undoubtedly it loses some of its appeal without that context.

A couple of brief tracks such as 'Dagger and Death' are more experimental and disturbing than the rest. The most accessible pieces are the rhythmic 'Court Dance' and 'Fleance', which is the only track featuring vocals. The album credits don't mention the vocalist. Only the close reading of the liner notes (I'm having the new Esoteric Recordings re-release) reveals the name Keith Chegwin -- surprisingly, since one would expect a woman. Apart from the lengthy liner notes (written by the underground writer/archivist Luca Chino Ferrari), the ER reissue contains three bonus tracks, previously unreleased first versions of 'Court Dance', 'Groom's Dance' and 'Fleance'. To my ears the differences are small, but at least the pieces in question are among the album highlights.

Personally speaking, this album didn't make me very interested in Third Ear Band. A bit too odd for my liking... Not that I'd ever been very keen on so called Raga-Rock in general. If you fancy hearing acoustic, oboe and string dominated, old music flavoured and dark-toned instrumental music, especially the new reissue with the detailed liner notes is worth checking out.

Matti | 3/5 |


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