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Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars An excellent blend of styles

3RDegree is just one of those bands were you really have to wonder why they never struck it big. They have all the makings of a band that would appeal to the masses while still being complicated and intelligent enough to appeal to the proggers of the world. This was the band's last album of the 90s, after which they would disband for the next 12 years because of frustrations around the music world at the time. Of course with the advent of the internet the band would later release the superb opus that is Narrow-Caster, but this album shows a side of the band that really exemplifies the time that they came from. This album is a lot heavier, longer and thicker than their newer works, and this really works to their advantage.

It's clear that the band really wanted to get their music out there with this release. On the album is a total of 16 tracks, most of them around 4-7 minutes in length. Some of them are very much in the vein of what people would argue is traditional progressive rock while others have more of a rock or pop lean. This actually makes for a very interesting listen, as opposed to an unbalanced one. These are usually very tough albums to get into, and mostly because of the length, but for some reason Human Interest Story sticks on the first listen and is quite demanding! Songs like the impressive 13/Mistakes show the band taking grunge music on a progressive spin with lengthy instrumental sections and multiple segments within the song to make for a very nice pseudo-epic. Others, the shorter and more approachable tracks such as the title cut, Human Interest Story and others such as Be There have enough hooks to sustain a tackle-box, and are very catchy while never wandering too far into pop grounds to become unattractive to a progressive listener. Black Orchid is a touching instrumental tune brought to life by Pat Kliesch's guitar, and is just as emotional as the slightly more lengthy Stardust which, with its chorus, is really quite pretty.

Unlike newer efforts, there's still a split between singers on this album. It really does add depth to the album given the album's context, really. Multiple singers is a hard thing to pull off, but it seems like they did it well here. George still manages to give lungs to a majority of the songs, but Robert Pashman still does an excellent job of making work of some songs like the single, Locked Inside and the memorable Falling Through The Cracks. Top Secret is another impressive track with its shouting chorus, frantic keys and impressive drumming from Rob Durham.

While there are a few tracks that do get lost within the album, overshadowed by some of the more impressive ones, there's really not a slow moment on the album - There's never anything that makes you want to reach for the skip button, because in every song there's a great hook, a great guitar riff or solo or just something else that makes you think, ''oh yeah! This song!''. Even the bonus track, Fascist Christ is really quite fun. It's a sign of the times, being the mid-90s, since it features a kind of rap-rock blend, but the instrumentation even in that really make it progressive.

This is a very good album which really deserves the benefit of an extra half-star. 3.5 stars out of 5! A little harder to recommend than Narrow-Caster since it's a bit more eclectic and the styles exist more in individual songs than the album as a whole. However, if you enjoyed Narrow-Caster then this album really should find its way into your collection. Lengthy and varied, but ultimately an impressive collection of songs that make for a unique mix of 90s music and traditional progressive elements.

Report this review (#194130)
Posted Wednesday, December 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I honestly don't know why more people haven't praised this one!

Okay, so when I purchased this band's third studio effort, ''Narrow-Caster'', the album had been hailed by so many as being the second coming of modern Progressive Rock. That kind of reputation can be both good and bad; on the plus side, it meant that these guys, after years of not being able to 'break out' in the music scene, were now finally being heard by everybody and their cousin, which led to much more recognition and sales. Nothing wrong with that at all, but there is also a negative side to such praise; people like me, who try to be as honest as possible in their reviews, went in to that record with much anticipation and and were somewhat let down by ''Narrow-Caster'''s seemingly average content.

Keep in mind, that album had been highly recommended by nearly all of the experts here, and was given high marks all across the board. So my guard wasn't up at all, and my hopes were high. That was my fault. I should have stuck to my guns and approached ''Narrow-Caster'' with the same attitude I approach all records. Perhaps then, I wouldn't have been as initially disappointed with the release.

Fast-forward to a couple of months ago; Robert (James Pashman) and I were exchanging E-Mails with regards to the band's second album, ''Human Interest Story''. Now, while I was initially disappointed to some degree by the first 3rdegree album I heard, I have since come to appreciate it for what it is, and enjoy a bit more than I did in the beginning. Having said that, ''Human Interest Story'' had interested me quite a bit, because Robert had assured me that it was much more 'Prog Rock' in its overall style. So after hearing this, I decided to go ahead and order the sucker. Robert seemed fairly convinced that I would enjoy this album more due to it's more experimental nature. Boy, was he right!

While the pop influences are still there (which by the way, I am not opposed to), there is a clearly more Progressive edge to this music. Plenty of people may disagree with this, but I think ''Human Interest Story'' is a superior album to ''Narrow-Caster''. I honestly wish more people would listen to this one and give their opinion, because I think people like me would enjoy 3rdegree a lot more if they knew that all of this rich music was available.

I'm not trying to say that ''Narrow-Caster'' wasn't a good album. I never disputed that it was. My argument, rather, was for whether or not it was actually a Progessive Rock record. After my initial difference of opinion, a couple of other reviewers also stepped up and gave similar opinions, so obviously there was enough question there for those opinions to be valid. WIth ''Human Interest Story'', I don't think any question exists at all; this is Prog.

The album's first song right off the bat put me into a completely different headspace than the last record I heard by 3rdegree had done. The grooves present in the music here are much more unconventional and experimental, as is all the instrumentation and even the vocal melodies, which shocked me the most, since most of the singing in ''Narrow-Caster'' sounded to me quite straightforward more often than not. Everything on this album just sounds more complex and involved to my ears, and as a result I do enjoy this album more. I suspect some of this is simply because I'm now familiar with 3rdegree's sound, and therefore know a little more of what to expect going in. Even considered that, however, this album DID surprise me quite a bit.

Much more varied than what I have heard from them before, the album boasts a wide selection of prog and pop tunes, seamlessly integrated into one cohesive whole. The tracks flow into each other very well, and the album never feels contrived or forced. No song goes over seven minutes long, either, and most of them are around a four minute average length. The pop moments that are present are done in a way that seems full of originality and complexity, proving that these guys can right pop-like tunes without sacrificing the songwriting itself.

Again, I feel like when I say these things about this album that it somehow eludes to me feeling the exact opposite about ''Narrow- Caster'', and I don't at all, but I am going the extra mile to strain how much more I enjoyed this record simply because I'm sure there have been others in my position that may have listened to the newest album, decided the music didn't really speak to them, and perhaps those people moved on without giving this album a listen first. The music on this thing is absolutely beautiful more often than not, and I want to make that known, since so few people have apparently heard this thing, at least around these parts. I mean, ONE rating prior to this writing? Unbelievable.

Some of the standout tracks to me include: 'Human Interest Story', '13/Mistakes', 'Locked Inside', 'I', 'Stardust', 'Falling Through The Cracks', 'Black Orchid', 'Ladder' and 'We Must Wake Now', among others. There is is just so much varied content packed into this recording, and a hell of an amount of music to listen to. Everything is present here from traditional Pop/Rock tunes to the more staple Prog 'epic' styles, and even some cool, 80s-style Hip-Hop thrown in for brief periods! Yet despite these wide differences in style, it all seems to fit very well musically. You are bound to find something here to like, and most of it you will probably even love.

I have indeed become a much more avid 3rdegree fan upon hearing this gem of an album. So I suggest if you are somebody who like me heard of 3rdegree, invested in ''Narrow-Caster'', and didn't quite relate . . . please give ''Human Interest Story'' a chance. I think you will find that you have been missing out on some truly incredible modern prog music. Plenty of heart and soul has been poured into this effort in particular, and I think it's a shame so few things have been said about it thus far. More people need to to hear and comment on this release. 3rdegree's true diversity shines brilliantly on this album, and I for one hope that they go in this music direction again someday, provided their creative genius does inteed point them in that direction. It shouldn't be forced, of course, but if the guys see it the right direction to once again, I should be particularly thrilled to hear it.

So, I say that ''Human Interest Story'' is, on the whole, a better album than ''Narrow-Caster''. Call me crazy, but that's how I feel about it. I'm sure I'm not alone, but I just wish more good things were said about this one. It seems to be overshadowed considerably by its younger, critically-hailed younger brother, and I wonder how much of that has to do with actual content, and how much of it is simply due to which album got the most exposure.

3.8 out of 5 is my rating for this. Since PA doesn't have a point system, I'm giving it four stars. There is absolutely no excuse for an album this good to be over a decade old, and have only one other person reviewing it. Go buy it, then spread the word. People need to hear this one. It's fantastic.

Report this review (#267524)
Posted Monday, February 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3rdegree is an american band with a moderate succes 'till now in prog rock realm, even they are formed for more thne 20 years. They released so far 3 albums, first one in 1993 on cassette, this one released on CD 3 years later Human interest story. This album got me mix feelings about their music, I don't know from where to grab them. The album is a long one, maybe to long for me over an hour, 16 piece, all around 4-5 min, with some exceptions, Is not a complex prog what they offered here, is a tipycal amaricanized sound, something between King's X in places some Spock's Beared influences, in the end not bad , but to bland for my taste, to mid tempo moments are present here. I must say that this album and their next one aswell is a good example of cross over prog, all the arrangements from here doesn't break any grounds, sometimes it sounds like an unppligged album, with to many acustical guitar moments. Sporadicaly some keybords appear to make the atmosphere more intristing, but is not enough for my taste, I need more complex parts, not just verse/chorus and that's all. The guitar parts are more then ok, what really botherme is the lack of diversity in compositions, with exceptions are opening track, the title Human Interest Story and 13m mistakes with a great instrumental intro , the rest are just ok, nothing really impressive. Well, a fair album , that at some point must be discovered by prog listners, but don't expect to something really intristing or inovative, is usual stuff, at least for me. 3 stars
Report this review (#612364)
Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars 3rDegree's storyline begins at the fall of 1990, when multi-instrumentalist Robert James Pashman and drummer Rob Durham formed the group in Clifton, New Jersey, joined the next year by guitarist Pat Kliesch.As a trio they released the cassette album ''The World in Which We Live'' on the Portland-based Reindeer Records.In 1995 the line-up is expanded with the addition of lead singer George Dobbs.After participating in Todd Rundgren's tribute album ''Still there's more'' for Third Lock Records, 3rDegree headed for their first CD release, which eventually saw the light in 1996 as a self-produced attempt, entitled ''Human Interest Story''.

A talented act indeed, 3rDegree tried to combined their pretty strong songwriting skills with the elaborate arrangements, drawn from the fundamentals of Progressive Rock of the 70's, and the result is a very solid album with evident references to the music of RUSH, TILES and basically ENCHANT with a nice touch of more AOR-oriented Prog Rock, as played by bands such as TRISTAN PARK or EXHIBIT A.The addition of singer George Dobbs was a key move by the group, as his voice sounds clear, dreamy and very sensitive, and ,mixed with the overall melodic Progressive Rock of 3rDegree, the result ranges from sufficient to outstanding.Some great guitar moves, plenty of careful keyboard parts, awesome and memorable choruses and discreet piano lines create 16 compositions, where melody stands first compared to complexity, but the general feeling is that the album is persistently structured to the last detail.Changing climates and some more demanding instrumental themes are not absent, showing the group was capable of delivering some even more adventuruous material.But the priority was given to easy-listening still solid musicianship and ''Human Interest Story'' belongs among the great albums of this particular style.

Easy-going and highly melodic Progressive Rock, which flirts with Neo and Heavy Prog at moments is what this album is all about.If you are fond of striking melodies and superb vocals, this one should be an instant part of your collection.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Report this review (#946055)
Posted Thursday, April 18, 2013 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars If ever there was a band that deserved much more recognition, 3rdegree is that band. I have already written that if I had heard their most recent album, "The Long Division" earlier, it would have been my pick for the best album of 2012. Here, the band has remastered their second album. I haven't heard the original, but this version is spectacular.

I have read here that 3rdegree has performed on a Todd Rundgren tribute album, and that is quite appropriate. While not stylistically like Todd, I notice a similarity on this album to Rundgren's fine production style. Arrangements are often beautifully dense without sacrificing the clarity of the instrumentation.

The music, to my ears mixes the complexity and romanticism of Echolyn with much of the dynamics of Spock's Beard. Intermingled are nods to the classic masters of the seventies, most apparently Genesis and Yes.

And while the lyrics are not as bitingly sarcastic as the skewering of American politics on "The Long Division", there are still some devilishly incisive words about societal issues. Hey, the opening track starts right out lambasting news broadcasts' supposed human interest stories.

If you missed this the first time around, here's your chance to catch up on a great one.

Report this review (#1076408)
Posted Wednesday, November 13, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm amongst those who typically get irked that there's yet another remaster of an album that I previously bought, sometimes in multiple formats. To be worth buying, it needs to be so radically different from the original (at least in sonic quality) that it makes listening to the original pale in comparison.

Well, here's a perfect example. Listening to the remaster of Human Interest Story is like really hearing it for the first time. In fact, it makes the original sound like a poorly recorded demo in comparison. Some major comments on the upgrades:

1) One of the things I disliked about the original was the guitar sounds. I always felt they lacked definition and sounded overly processed. This is not a comment on the guitar playing...Pat Kliesch writes and plays extremely interesting guitar lines. But listening to the remaster reveals just how good the playing particular, I'm hearing many things I never heard before, thinking WOW that's brilliant!

2) George Dobbs' vocals are much more defined and pick up more of the dynamism you hear from him live. I felt that was not captured in the original version.

3) The drumming is much more distinct in this version.

The bottom line is that you haven't truly heard this album until you've heard the 2013 remastered version.

Now to comment about the actual music. Human Interest Story was originally released in 1996. However, the biggest compliment I can pay this remastered version is that if you didn't know this wasn't a "new" album, you'd think it's a welcome follow up to 2012's The Long Division. It doesn't sound "dated" in the least, and that's a testament to the well done writing and execution. If you enjoyed The Long Division, you're bound to enjoy this album as well. As always, 3rdegree combine strong progressive elements with more straightforward rock. As a result, it likely will not be everyone's cup of tea (the only reason I don't feel right giving it 5 stars - I know there are plenty of prog purists that will complain they're not "prog enough." I'm not one who agrees with that statement).

Essentially, I'd say TLD is the band's definitive statement to date, but I'd put this remastered version right up there with it. Considering that it predates TLD by 16 years, that's pretty impressive.

High points:

Human Interest Story (a staple in their live show - hard hitting and still lyrically applicable - they beat Peter Gabriel's "Barry Williams Show" by 6 years!)

Ladder - One of their best songs and one that particularly benefited from remastering.

Stardust - Practically an anthem.

Black Orchid - Beautiful guitar piece - goes hand in hand with the Millions of Last Moments from TLD.

Other great moments: Locked Inside, Misfortune on Main Street (particularly the last part - We Must Wake Now - great ending to the album with elements of Yes harmonies).

Bottom line - Highly recommended, particularly if you liked their 2012 outing.

Report this review (#1091271)
Posted Tuesday, December 17, 2013 | Review Permalink
Errors & Omissions Team
3 stars Let me start this little review by saying that I'm always a bit afraid going backwards in a band's discography. Especially with bands like 3rDegree that disbanded and got together again after many years. I'm particularly afraid of going back to a band's discography in cases like this because I just loved their most recent album The Long Division (2012), and when you go back you may not like what you hear and then the magic's over.

Now let me ramble a bit. 3rDegree, together with 10t Records re-released their 1996 album Human Interest Story last year. Re-editions are usually great, especially in cases like this that the album is out of print and you just can't buy it. However, I don't understand their plans. The album wasn't released in CD, only in digital formats. Sure, you can go to 10t website, buy it in WAV, and burn yourself a CD, but it costs 9 bucks, pretty much the SAME cost of a CD. Especially if you burn yourself a copy of it. Moreover, the album was already available before on the band's Bandcamp, ok, this is a new master version, but anyway, I just cannot see the whole point of a re-release like this. But maybe it's just me. Can't say. Now, as I mentioned, I just loved their latest album, it was a high 5 for me ( Now Human Interest Story (1996) is a good album! I didn't listen the previous master of the album (and now it's not available anymore) to compare, but this new version sounds really good. I would say that this was an album released just now if didn't know better! Now, I'm approaching the album as a Progressive Rock piece, and I would say that Human Interest Story (1996) is a Rock album with Prog Rock influences. This means that songs have a more direct approach. Now, I'm not saying this is a bad thing, I'm just stating a fact. The album is in fact a very solid record that deserves a bit more of attention as 3rDegree also deserve more.

The thing with Human Interest Story (1996) is that I prefer the band as it is today! Their past is sure interesting, with great songs and great musicianship, I just rather listen to their comeback works!

A 3.5 stars!

Report this review (#1121764)
Posted Monday, January 27, 2014 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Crossover Team
5 stars When I heard the 2012 album 'The Long Division" I was blown away, and also somewhat alarmed that here was yet another band that had been going for some years but I had not come across before. Robert Pashamn then kindly sent me a copy of their 2008 album, which I also loved, but I hadn't heard any of their material that was released prior to their split. That has now been corrected as 10t Records have issued a remastered version of their 1996 album 'Human Interest Story'. Now, I can't compare the sonic quality to the original self-released edition as I haven't heard it, but I do know that the sound quality on this is extremely good indeed. It also comes with a bonus song, but the track sequence has been amended and it appears that the band have taken the opportunity revisit this without actually re-recording anything.

The first thing that strikes the listener is that this doesn't sound as if it is the best part of 20 years old, but rather sounds fresh and striking, almost as if it is a follow-up to the last album as opposed to one that preceded it by many years. As with all of their albums, this comes across as melodic and immediate with strong vocals, good harmonies, great pianowork and keyboards, strong guitar (with a nice use of both acoustic and electric) and a rhythm section that gets it just right. The band always strikes me as being heavily influenced by City Boy, along with Steely Dan, Alan Parsons Project and Peter Gabriel among others. They know a hook when they hear one, yet also know when to thrown in a hard edge to crate impact. Listen to "Top Secret" and you will see what I mean, as the guitar is quite abrasive with strong keyboards and the whole band punching hard while George's vocals are clear and rising above it all. This could easily have found it's way on City Boy's 'The Day The Earth Caught Fire': and given that this album is one of my all-time favourites that isn't something I say lightly.

This is the third of their four albums that I have heard, and it is three for three as yet again I find myself unable to give this anything but 5 *'s. The more I play it the more I love it, and each time I find something else to enjoy and concentrate on. Superb.

Report this review (#1144411)
Posted Saturday, March 8, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album shows that it took some time, and a hiatus, for 3rdDegree to develop. This sounds to me as a kind of off-beat, discontented pop-rock music, best suited for a bar rather than concert hall. I think I saw somewhere their self-description "subverting popular music with prog", or something along those lines. Songs are an eclectic bunch, ranging from an angry toned guitar to more relaxed and to airy 80s style. There is even a rap-punk shout-out hybrid. What united these songs, however, is that they are not really flashy or catchy. No instrument stands out, all share equal footing. For those who like to hear their bass, this is for you.

For more of the same style, but better, check out Narrow-Caster. If you want to see this band really take it next level, get their latest, The Long Division

Report this review (#1158243)
Posted Monday, April 7, 2014 | Review Permalink
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!

Report this review (#1573635)
Posted Wednesday, June 1, 2016 | Review Permalink

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