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


Third Ear Band


Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

3.26 | 35 ratings

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3 stars If THIRD EAR BAND tends to be aggregated along with the progressive rock movement, the association has far more to do with their period of activity and tendency to experiment, though to a degree that most prog bands of their day could not or would not engage. I would add another quality that they share with the more prototypical artists of this period: elitism, and in fact their first few albums are projections of an exclusivity that relegated them to the commercial margins , though their debut did shockingly brush the lower rungs of the UK charts. More sound than music in the general sense, they, and perhaps most listeners, pleaded for a modicum of the mundane, perhaps a note held for less than 30 seconds followed by another note that belonged with the first. But alas, such was not to be...until they briefly transformed themselves into a stringy Anglo analog to GOBLIN.

It began with the soundtrack for a German made for TV movie, "Abelard and Heloise", and followed just 2 years later with their scoring of a score for Roman Polanski's "Macbeth", and then they inexplicably disappeared for almost 2 decades. The comparison to GOBLIN isn't just for the movie connection but for the morbidity of the motifs, depicted on string and oboe rather than organ, which imparts a demented and twisted atmosphere. This clutches the listener fiercely even without knowledge of how Macbeth yields to his innate and hitherto suppressed evil spurred by the naive and skin deep musings of his Lady.

The shorter track lengths offer a shred of accessibility as well, but this is still far from an easy listen, though the opening "Overture" does scratch that Gothic itch, and "Lady Macbeth" breathily heralds the relative vivaciousness of "Inverness". But it's on the trio of "Court Dance", "Fleance" and "Groom's Dance" that they actually sound like a medieval string and wind ensemble, or at least what I imagine one would sound like. Paul Minns' oboe is especially versatile, though it's his recorder that ushers in "Fleance" and swirls about the guest boy soprano Keith Chegwin throughout. This is a staggeringly lovely number embodying a spirit distant in time and place. Interestingly, others seem to agree based on the frequency with which it is conjured on streaming sites.

Unfortunately, the remaining tracks, apart from the "Going to bed" suite and the foreboding closer "Wicca Way" , offer a more soporific mix of the band's own tendencies while neurotically trying to avoid overpowering the scenes in which they are instantiated. This is a common issue with soundtracks, but, since so much of this one was sliced and diced by Polanski, I'm not sure there is a setting for, say, "Prophecies", that hasn't disintegrated in a landfill.

The remastered version has original takes of the three aforementioned centerpieces, none of which are especially different, but they do reinforce the significance of this path rarely trod by THIRD EAR BAND, and given up before it could flourish. But I suppose THIRD EAR BAND wasn't about compromises, and all told their rendering of Macbeth is no tragedy.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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