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The Third Estate - Agonistes CD (album) cover

AGONISTES

The Third Estate

 

Prog Folk

4.00 | 1 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars As far as I know this album was never legitimately released until Lion Productions put it out as part of a 2-disc set combined with the slightly better-known Third Estate album ‘Years Before the Wine’. The latter has a place in record-collector lore for its rare production run of 500 copies and rampant bootlegging throughout the eighties. I purchased a copy of the vinyl reissue of ‘Years Before the Wine’ a couple of years ago and had the pleasure of discovering it myself. If you haven’t had the experience then you should go find that thing; if you can’t, locate this one instead since disc one is the same album.

The second CD contains earlier recordings from pretty much the same group consisting basically of the duo of guitarist / keyboardist / composer Robert Everett and guitarist Chas Harrell. The two went by the name Agonistes at the time they recorded these songs (1971-1973 timeframe). I don’t believe they were a proper group per se since they didn’t have a label or agent or regularly touring schedule, etc.

What they did have was an uncanny knack for catchy guitar riffs and song hooks that gave their music something approaching mass appeal, while at the same time clearly demonstrating a prog folk spirit and adventurous, experimental approach to making music.

You’ll hear a number of licks on this album that reappear in more mature fashion on ‘Years’. The opening riff on “Searchin” here for example resurfaces as a transitional bridge toward the end of the title track on ‘Years’ better amplified and better mixed, but otherwise essentially unchanged. “Sing His Song” has a very similar riff and appears twice on this compilation; once as a 1973 studio version and again on the single version that is also included as part of the 2008 Anthology reissue of ‘Years Before the Wine’ (“Thought I Heard You Calling” is also part of the bonus material on this disc).

The driving strumming that permeates “Resurrection” also gets folked up and overlaid with an Al Stewart imitation on ‘Years’ in the form of the song “Look at Me”. And there’s a demo version of “Years Before The Wine” that predates that album by a couple of years but sounds more like an unplugged version even though at least one of the guitars is electric; along with “Teenage Love” which was I believe a high-school recording by the duo in 1968 that is included as a 45rpm single with the 2006 Void Records vinyl version of ‘Years’.

There are a number of other ‘bonus’ and ‘single’ tracks here, although in reality it’s all bonus material since the record was never officially released back when the songs were recorded in the early seventies. Everett has stated the Strawbs were a major influence on the band back when they were recording this music, and I guess I can hear some of the same breezy, easygoing folksy approach that made Strawbs so appealing in their heyday.

Several songs here are fairly rough, the production is predictably uneven considering the various recording sessions they came from and the relative inexperience of the musicians involved. And nothing on this record approaches the cohesive charm and appeal of ‘Years Before the Wine’. But as a period piece this is a great companion disc to ‘Years’ and a welcome inclusion in what is essentially a boxed-set of the band’s entire repertoire. If I were rating ‘Agonistes’ individually I’d say it deserves a respectful two-stars; however, as part of this set I’m going to go with four since you get the Third Estate’s best album with this rarities collection as a bonus. Well recommended to fans of creative guitar noodling and seventies West Coast-tinted folk rock.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |

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