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3RDegree - Narrow-Caster CD (album) cover

NARROW-CASTER

3RDegree

 

Crossover Prog

3.69 | 51 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Roland113
4 stars "It Works, its creator must be proud"

Yes, yes it does work.

3rdegree blends shades of traditional influences with some atypical styles, most notably funk and soul. Couple this with excellent musicianship and the soulful voice of George Dobbs and you've got a unique collection of songs that gets better with every listen.

Narrow Caster is the third release by New Jersey based 3rdegree, the first after a nearly twelve year hiatus and as the second track so adequately declares, "It Works". According to the cd liner notes, the bulk of material was originally written in the mid-nineties but sat dormant for ten years before it was rediscovered during a house cleaning excursion by bassist Robert James Pashman. After listening to the music again, he decided to reunite band and actually finish recording the music. Thankfully, for the rest of us, the band agreed with Robert, the unfinished project needed to see the light and thus, 3rdegree was reborn.

3rdegree has a much greater focus on songs rather than epic sprawling pieces often associated with prog. None of the individual songs reach the six minute mark. While the prog pundit may question the lack of an epic initially, the band shows their prog credentials right off the bat with "Apophenia". Alternating measures of 5/8 and 7/8 create a manic groove the flows beautifully into a rolling chorus in 6/8. Don't miss George Dobbs chaotically short keyboard solo over the 5- 7/8 groove.

George is not your typical prog singer, imagine Tarrence Trent D'arbey in a lounge setting and you have an approximation of what to expect. "It Works" serves as a showpiece for the voice of Mr. Dobbs and it easily my favorite song on the CD. I think I did a personal top one hundred songs a few years ago and had this song in my top twenty. Also, this song features fantastic solos, both by Mr. Dobbs again, this time on the clavinet and also Pat Kleisch on the guitar with a dirty little lead.

Everyone gets the chance to shine in this band and the title track is Robert James Pashman's chance to show off his chops and tone on the bass. On the surface, "Narrow-Caster" is a gentle, funky little tune but when I sat and listened to the bass work specifically, I gained a better appreciation of the song.

"Live With This Forever" really shows off the previously mentioned funky side with the groove laid down by drummer Robert Durham and Robert Pashman. The prophetic catch line in the chorus, "This ain't something you can shower off," stuck with me for a few hours.

'Atmospheric' is the word that I'd use for "Cautionary Tale", Pat Kleisch shows a bit'o'Fripp here with the lush background noodling layered behind the verses. He then goes on to rip off a solo in the same vein blending lead and atmosphere beautifully.

"Young Once" starts off sadly underwhelming. It's a relatively standard chord progression in the verse, a somewhat catchy chorus but not the most noteworthy of songs. . . at first. Once you get through the verse / chorus opening structure, the real merit of the song shows through first with a tasty bridge then into an esoteric almost new age section that would make Jean-Michel Jarre proud. After a few moments of gentle ambience they slide into a Pink Floyd sounding outro. There is so much going on here that it's really worth a dedicated listening session with a nice set of head phones in a dark room. Beautiful ending though I think it could have gone on for an additional five minutes of noodling and I'd be ok with it.

When we get to "The Last Gasp" we can look back at the album with a sense of satisfaction, glad to have been on the journey through the flat out prog of Apophenea, the soul of "It Works", the poppy sounds of Narrow-Castor, the funk of "Live With This Forever", and the New Age space of Young Once. It's almost like the band took a look at this point and said, 'hmm, what have we forgotten? . . . Classical!" Yes, that's right, just when you thought you heard it all, the last half of the final track is an absolutely gorgeous piece full of lush strings and classical themes. A fantastic ending for one of my favorite CD's of the past few years.

This is a dense CD that covers a lot of ground very efficiently earning it a solid four star rating. I personally would have enjoyed some of the themes developed into longer sections, a few of the songs could have been extended to the seven or eight minute mark allowing us to luxuriate in the grooves that they created for us, but that is not what this band is about.

3rdegree is not 'in your face' with their complexity and George Dobbs voice is so smooth and soulful that it's easy to just relax to the music. This is not prog for the sake of 'look at me'; it's more a collection of great songs that blend their constant time shifts with the music. There are few bands that can pull off a soul ballad with constantly shifting time signatures that don't sound contrived . . . and that's when it hits you, these guys are great.

Roland113 | 4/5 |

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