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3RDegree - The Long Division CD (album) cover



Crossover Prog

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4 stars Well these guys have really found their sound on 'The Long Division' if you enjoy your music to be a bit challenging but very rewarding this new album is a must. VERY well mixed giving loads of space for every instrument and the topical lyrics carrying their social observations on modern society. If you have listened to and enjoyed 'Narrow Caster' then you will be certain to be blown away by this new offering. I'm a review virgin but this album really made me want shout out loud. It is a superb piece of writing with every track offering the listener a treat. Like I said earlier a bit challenging but they have a very unique collective style which really grows on you. Go on let e'm in to your world, you won't regret it.
Report this review (#778809)
Posted Thursday, June 28, 2012 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars 3RD DEGREE are back ! It's hard to believe that it's been some 3 1/2 years since I reviewed their previous album "Narrow-Caster". I remember well thinking at the time that it was very refreshing and uplifting, a mood changer for sure. Some of it was a little poppy but it was so darn good that I had to give it 4 stars. To be honest i've gone back to it several times just to see if that rating held up and it always does. Well more of the same here folks only I believe this is even better. I had been listening to this all last week and I broke it out to review it last night and right away with the first song I was singing along and feeling moved. As per usual it's about the clever and humerous lyrics combined with an amazing singer and killer instrumental work.

"Your Fooling Yourself" is a song I just love ! What a vocal performance too. I really like the contrasts between the chorus and the verses. A guitar solo before 2 1/2 minutes. And how good does this song sound 4 1/2 minutes in. Incredible ! "Exit Strategy" has a good solid sound to it then the vocals come in and lead as the sound settles back. It becomes so uplifting here and again before 4 minutes. "The Socio-Economic Petri Dish" opens with samples of what sounds like the Stock Market or chaos might be a good word for it. The music kicks in but we can still hear the commotion a while longer. Powerful, crisp drumming, chunky bass, guitar expressions and synths lead the way. It picks up 1 1/2 minutes in and the vocals follow after 2 minutes. This reminds me of STEELY DAN. Nice instrumental section after 4 minutes. The song ends like it began with chaos. This is unusual but the first three tracks here are my top three for this album. You can all go home now (haha). "Incoherant Ramblings" has a good beat with vocals leading the way. I like the section before 5 minutes, it reminds me of BEARDFISH.

"The Ones To Follow" has strummed guitar, vocals and backing vocals then it kicks in but these contrasts will continue. Big finish. "A Work Of Art" is a cool song as we get piano, vocals, flute and sax all helping out. "Televised" is a great track. Piano leads as other sounds come and go. Drums take over after 1 1/2 minutes as we get a heavy sound. It kicks in with vocals. Great sound ! It settles back but not for long. Check out the vocals after 4 minutes and the bass too. "The Millions Of Last Moments" is a short piece with acoustic guitar melodies throughout. "Memetic Pandemic" opens with piano as reserved vocals join in. It picks up and turns fuller as contrasts continue. "A Nihilist's Dream" is laid back with vocals and it has a cool chorus.

Without question I highly recommend this one to anyone looking for intelligent lyrics and incredible instrumental work. And as a bonus we get a singer who sounds like he's having the time of his life, and he's contagious.

Report this review (#794633)
Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars US band 3RDEGREE was formed back in 1990, and was an active live unit with one cassette and one CD release to their name prior to folding towards the end of the decade. Quite a few years later the band decided to give music another shot, which in 2008 lead to the release of their comeback album "Narrow-Caster". "The Long Division" is their second full length production in this second phase of the band's existence, and was self released in 2012.

"The Long Division" is a solid production by 3rDegree, filled to the brim with accessible yet refined compositions with half a foot or so placed within classic rock, another half in art rock and with a foot inside the challenging chaotic whirlwind one might refer to as music with a chart hit potential. First and foremost due to their killer opening track "You're Fooling Yourselves", a creation that in a just world would at minimum become a minor hit worldwide. The album itself should have a widespread appeal amongst fans of melodic rock in general, with progressive rock fans fond of classic 70's rock as a possible core audience.

Report this review (#841306)
Posted Sunday, October 21, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Greetings from northern Vermont, I got a copy of 3rd Degree's "The Long Division" a couple weeks ago, and have been more and more impressed with each listen.. Even the first time through, several songs jumped out as being great:; but with any recording as intricate and ambitious as this, it takes time to fully wrap your head around it. Like on their previous recordings, 3rd Degree deftly combine progressive-rock with several other influences (pop/funk/jazz/metal to name a few) and come up with something both very unpredictable, and at the same time very catchy - not an easy task! Several tunes were stuck in my head even after just one listen to the CD. "Incoherent Ramblings" being one fine example. Which reminds me - this CD would have been great based on the music alone, but an added bonus is the political/cynical lyrical theme throughout. (as hinted to on the CD cover). Very clever stuff folks! The excellent "A Work of Art" is the thematic exception, and is a good change of pace as track 6, before the sardonicism (is that a word?) kicks in again. This CD (like their others) is enhanced by an exceptional lead vocalist (George Dobbs), and all around top-notch musicianship and production. The harmonies and other details are like ear candy, and there are many many musical moments that would alone be well worth the price of the whole CD. If you are a musician, or just a fan of intelligent music, you really can't go wrong here. I wish the modern music industry was such that something this good had a shot at being widely heard. It' deserves to be! Hmm, I was going to give it 4 and a 1/2 stars, but that doesn't seem to be an option. I'd give any of 3rd Degree's CDs no less than 4 stars, and this may be their best - but I guess I'll stick with 4, to seem credible, and leave the band something to shoot for on their next one :)
Report this review (#856114)
Posted Saturday, November 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Intelligent, Crafty, Quirky at times, Groovy, Proggy, Complex, Controversial at times. 3rDegree comes at you from all angles with their latest. File somewhere between Echolyn and Rush if you've never heard the band before. But there's something else with this disc and band. I can't explain it, it's a Spacehog type of vibe. All that was good about the mid to late 90's scene mixed in with Kevin Gilbert stylings. I hate to keep comparing these guys to other musicians and bands, but I just want to give the reader of this an idea just how diverse this bands sound is if you've never heard them before. This disc entertains from all the way through. Not only is the music arranged intelligently but the lyrics are topical and relevant to the current state of the country today without being boring. They inject some humor into their subject matter. Which is a key to a progressive rock band's success...Never take yourself too seriously. But one thing you can take seriously....This band will kick your butt!!!
Report this review (#859549)
Posted Thursday, November 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
Metal / Heavy / RPI / Symph Prog Team
3 stars With this band, we are not into a prog rock that display a lot of chops, long instrumental breaks. Instead, the band makes songs that have a lot of nice vocal harmonies with keyboards and piano upfront led by George Dobbs. The subject of the lyrics are pretty obvious, because its showing a lot of irony about the political world in America right now, which gives to the music a little humor.

The band doesn't stick to the same mood through out the cd with some pop elements, jazz parts and sometimes a heavier sound with darker mood like "Televised". There is also some nice little ballads : "A Work of Art" and "The Millions of Last Moments", the latter containing some nice acoustic guitar.

Each time i listen to 3rdegree, i hear the vocals harmonies of the band Echolyn, but the comparison finish here, because the music is not at the same level of complexity most of the times, but still enjoyable especially for the work put on the vocals.

Report this review (#874036)
Posted Sunday, December 9, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars "The Long Division" is an album about broken dreams, pressing the flesh, kissing babies, handouts, partisan talking heads, hypocrisy, economics, special interests and Wall Street vs. Main Street. You're thinking this is some lefty manifesto, right? Nope! George W. Bush nor Barack Obama would touch this puppy with a 10 foot pole. No photo-ops, please. Anarchists, right? Incorrect. Nihilists, Eh!? Wrong again. This is a direct lyrical observation on the state of politics in the Western world. It's a take no prisoners approach on extreme partisanship, South Park without the crass. While the big boys and girls play, you and I pay. Not quite as dire as Nero and Rome burning, These lyrics are witty, intelligent and never preachy. If you're thinking Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil, you're way off the mark. These guys have a funny bone (Youtube their video for "You're Fooling Yourselves'...YES! A prog rock video!). 3rdegree may be new champions of intelligent lyricism on par with Peter Hammill, Neil Peart and Max Webster oddball Pye Dubois. They don't go near the depths of Procol Harum's Keith Reid (does anyone, really?). These guys excel at melodicism and songcraft. Musically complex , quirky but very accessible.. Prog Rock without the solos. It's a modern take on Max Webster, Rush, Gentle Giant-isms, Kevin Gilbert/Toy Matinee. As far as modernism, they have a similar approach to New York's IZZ and UK's Big Big Train. Definitely in my top 5 prog rock releases for 2012. A great companion to their 2009 release "Narrow-Caster".
Report this review (#876105)
Posted Saturday, December 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars The band showed a lot of promise on 2008's NARROW-CASTER but blew the doors off with THE LONG DIVISION. Consisting of many references to the American political system and released in the final months of the presidential contest, it really works as a critique of the game the political parties play rather than an indictment of one party or the other. A pox on both their houses so to speak. This connection between songs lasts for roughly the first half of the album.

Great vocal arrangements and melodies with a real showcase of lead vocalist George Dobbs is the first thing you notice followed by the longer song lengths this time out filled with many instrumental sections throughout. Guitar and keyboard textures mix with melodic bass lines and well-recorded and solidly played drums to great effect. There are some great guitar and keyboard soloing where appropriate.

I've followed all the bands studio albums and videos and this album just points to a band getting more and more professional and just plain better. The future looks bright and hopefully the prog festivals will find another place for them after a 2009 showing at North Carolina's long-running ProgDay 2-day festival.

Report this review (#876727)
Posted Monday, December 17, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars A couple of months ago I purchased this album in preparation to go and see a local concert with 3RDegree being the opening act. Unfortunately, they were unable to perform but what I was left with was having purchased my favorite album of 2012. The moment I put this in my cd player a howling guitar met my ears followed by a guitar line over an ominous melody soon followed by a bunch of voices singing "Everybody needs a revolution, everybody needs a new solution. Everybody needs some evolution, everybody wants some resolution." Well, my ears perked up immediately and then this growling voice strarts to sing over everyone else with "You and your gun toting, flag waving corporate sell-outs..." and I turned up the volume to listen to what the lead vocalist had to say.

After my first full listen to what I immediately branded a masterpiece, I immediately played it a second time to see if my 1st impressions were still valid. What I found was that I loved this album even more on the 2nd listen and after dozens of listenings my opinion has not changed: this is a great album deserving of the love that I have for it. And, hopefully, yours too.

The aforementioned opening track that instantly caught my musical attention, You're Fooling Yourself, is one of ten totally terrific but distinct tracks on one of the most varied albums that has ever graced my musical collection. A great lead guitar line throughout, an organ percolating slightly underneath the mix and George Dobbs' snarling lead vocals clearly singing about how politics and economics have mixed themselves into the unholy mess that we seem to be in, it is a stinging (but accurate IMHO) indictment of the state of our union called the US of A. But make no mistake, though I might mention only a couple of individuals or sounds in a particular song, this is a group effort thru and thru as the rest of this fine album reveals itself to the listener.

The next song, Exit Strategy, has the same lead singer singing in a much sweeter voice singing "I've got an exit strategy, but it's flawed 'cause the one I've got has a certain company that when deployed is giving second thought but now that I'm caught..." sounds to me like yet another stinging indictment of how corporations and governments run their operations nowadays, seemingly without any "real" exit strategy and the ones in place being flawed. The song's beat is infectious driven by their drummer Aaron Nobel, with great and lovely backing vocals and great keyboards by Mr. Dobbs.

The Socio-Economic Petri Dish opens up with some more keyboards. I love keyboards and this album has keyboard sounds galore and all over the album while the guitars kick in 'round the 1:45 mark. Mr. Dobbs returns back to his growling vocals to emphasize how we were shammed into believing that we had to "give them (meaning the corporations) what they wanted", namely a bailout. As of this writing, those corporations are back to making billions in profit while we, the middle class, are still struggling to keep up. Another great song on point to current conditions and it segues into...

...Incoherent Ramblings, which has me smiling as I type this review. I love this song about the current state of the 24 hour media and the talking heads that really are just "talented lingual whore(s)" that dominate the airwaves using such cliches as "TOO BIG TO FAIL - MARKET-BASED SOLUTIONS - LET'S TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK...". This is smart and intelligent stuff set to music that will suck you into its musical vortex.

After the 1st four songs averaging approximately slightly under seven minutes each, give or take a little, comes the 1st of what can be called "ditties" on the album, The Ones To Follow, employing "tubular" bells (not a musician so I'm guessing here) to make a sweet-sounding song while a terrifically enticing guitar line [email protected] 1:35 mark lasting thru the 2:20 mark followed by Mr. Dobbs growling out "We're all prostitutes hawking out our souls" while the backing vocals sweetly sing "Greed is the word we follow". The ban'd writers have attacked these modern-day subjects with the acerbic wit of two of the best in the business, Steely Dan's Donald Fagen and Walter Becker and the greatest compliment that I can give them and this group in general is that if SD had leaned towards the prog-rock and not the jazz route that this is what they would have sounded like.

The 2nd ditty of a song that clocks in just under three minutes, a Work Of Art, appears to be the most personal on this album as it appears to discuss how two persons see each other and it is almost a jarring change to the angst shown in the prior songs.

Televised speaks loudly about how not real the current spate of "reality" are and how, in reality, when they sign on the "dotted line" how they really are expected to behave in front of the camera.

The Millions of Lost Moments is the 3rd of four short songs, just a plaintive and rather melancholy guitar being the only instrumentation.

The last of the longer songs, Memetic Pandemic, has Mr. Dobbs doing his best Peter Gabriel while he and the band sings "I don't want your handouts, I don't want your hand-me-downs, I want what's mine." Another song dominated by Mr. Dobbs keyboards in what is a eerily sounding early-era Genesis song to my ears.

And, finally, the last of the shorter songs and also the last song of the album, A Nihilist's Love Song finishes off this album in a triumphant mode and it is bringing another smile to my face as I think of its chorus: "All that is and all that was is meaningless...".

Dare I say it: the perfect album. None of the songs too long or too short, the instrumentation being totally complimentary unto itself, the lead vocals being varied enough from song to song to make me actually ask whether it was the same person singing every song, the backing vocals exuding sweetness while the subject matter exuding the sourness of most of the subject matter at hand. This is an album that reconciles the yin and the yang to perfect harmony. 3RDegree have every reason to be proud of this offering and kudos to the group (also Robert James Pashman on Bass, Eric Pseja and Pat Kliesch on guitars, all three on backing vocals) for being able to construct such a varied album, intelligent in all ways without being the least bit boring and one that has grown on my ears with each listening. Crossover prog at its best.

Report this review (#882162)
Posted Wednesday, December 26, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars 3rDegree's latest album, The Long Division, is their 4th studio album and I think it's their best. I've always liked the songwriting, but I haven't always liked the recording quality, particularly the guitars, which I felt sounded too "synthey" (yes, that's a word). On this album, though, I think they nailed it. The sound is vastly improved and the song-writing is at its best.

You're Fooling Yourself is an anthemic song that hits the nail on the head regarding the current U.S. political system. Favorite line without a doubt is "You're fooling yourself if you don't look across the aisle and see humanity." We've gotten to this point in our national discourse where disagreement means a person is fundamentally flawed. The all or nothing brigade are ruining this country and, as this song says, "I can see the mountain" (of debt, that is).

There's not really a weak track on the album, but here are some comments on the stand- outs:

The Socio-Economic Petri dish sounds like what would happen if you dropped Stevie Wonder into a prog band. Seriously, it works!

One of my favorite tracks is Incoherent Ramblings which takes on the pundits and talking heads (the bad kind, not the band). This is a song that gets stuck in my head every time I listen to it.

The Ones to Follow has a really nice Marillion-esque guitar part in it starting at about 0:22.

A Work of Art is a nice song, but I actually prefer the stripped down version that can be heard on their earlier acoustic live albums ("the reunion concert at home" and "Among Friends").

The Millions of Last Moments is a very nice acoustic guitar piece that belongs up there with Steve Howe's interludes.

The final track, "A Nihilist's Love Song" is a perfect closing song: "All that is and all that was is meaningless" repeating and building towards the end. Love the verses, too. Even a nihilist wants love! This is 3rDegree's "Eclipse" (bear in mind, when I compare their songs to others, it's not because the songs are rip-offs. 3rDegree are HIGHLY original. But like most music, there are moments that remind you of other great moments).

This album is the closest 3rDegree has come to a perfect album, which is saying something because their prior albums are pretty good ( in fact, each album improves over the prior by leaps and bounds. Makes you wonder how they'll top this one!). They often get accused of not being prog enough, but I think they fall under Steve Hackett's superior term "Permissive Rock." They are not afraid to take the best of various types of genres and mash them up into something new and exciting. If you think prog should only sound like it did 40 years ago, then this album is probably not for you. If you like your music adventurous and original, then enjoy.

Report this review (#884675)
Posted Sunday, December 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars In a landslide of strong album releases in 2012 (and how come the know-it-all Mayans didn't predict that?), how on earth can an independent band stand out amidst the sonic smorgasbord of new goodies clamoring for the public's ear? One way is by refining what they do down to its purest essence; a completely different and undoubtedly riskier approach is by following their artistic impulses wherever they may lead and abandoning all fear.

On 'The Long Division', 3rDegree have somehow managed to take both paths. And swagger the whole while. All that was great about their last record 'narrow-caster', an album that has never left my car nor the cars of many of my friends, still doesn't begin to prepare me for the omnipotent musicality that blazes out of both speakers from the opening guitar feedback and organ roar and never lets up. This isn't just prog, steeped in their signature stylistic magic bullet of other influences, this is absolute song greatness musical hurrah, with biting lyrics and original hooks, all dripping with complete conviction and a seditious sophistication that will make even the most jaded pump their fists in rapture whether they want to or not.

The characteristic that really shocks and delights me about this record is the way that the musical surprises abound with uncanny precision ' an anthem is unsettled by one unexpected note, a left-turn bridge throws the key of the hook into question, or a beautiful instrumental lullaby will be distracted by an overwhelming melancholic part fading in and out to keep you emotionally off-balance. These twists are brilliantly snuck in to delicately poison and scar you in the timeless and classic fashion of every great songwriter the world has ever known. And over all this embarrassment of melodic and rhythmic riches the incomparable voice of George Dobbs soars and snarls to perfection.

I'll end by saying two things that I hope will make everyone who reads this buy it immediately: One, this is tied for my favorite album of the year 2012, easily sailing past incredible new records by Echolyn, District 97 and everything else that has completely blown me away from last year. Two, and this is the highest compliment I've ever paid any record in a review, if the late great Kevin Gilbert were still alive, I honestly believe this is the kind of record he'd be making. Don't miss it.

Report this review (#886985)
Posted Friday, January 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've been following this band since their 2008 release "Narrow-Caster", which I liked a lot. Since then, 3RDegree have been hard at work on their follow-up, which was released in September 2012. The line-up has changed slightly, with Aaron Nobel replacing Rob Durham on drums and Eric Pseja added as a second guitarist. The Long Division has no weaknesses. This album surprises with every listen, revealing more and more complexities that weren't heard first time around. The band may be categorized as progressive, but I also hear aspects of classic rock, funk, soul, hard rock, jazz, avant-garde, alt-rock and much more. Rather than bore us with endless solos, 3RDegree creates music that is ripe with intelligent instrumentation and memorable melodies, somehow honing in on the optimal link between eclectic pop and progressive rock. Highlights on the album are the opener "You're Fooling Yourself", with its bitter indictment on the current state of divisive polemics in the two party system of the US, as well as "Memetic Pandemic" which occasionally hearkens back to Duke era Genesis, and anthemic closer "A Nihilist's Love Song", reminiscent of Pink Floyd's fantastic "Brain Damage/Eclipse". This album definitely lands in my top 10 of 2012. The Long Division is the perfect epitome of what prog in its current state should be: challenging the listener both lyrically and musically, accessible enough to reach a wider audience, and above all amazing.
Report this review (#894580)
Posted Wednesday, January 16, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars In a genre where lyrics often are thrown away or deal in fantasy, 3RDegree instead release a relevant album in a US election year that doesn't tell you who to vote for but rather marvel at the ridiculousness of it all. Refreshing! Because of this, "side two" can possibly be overlooked but there's some great things happening on the back half of the album starting with a gorgeous "A Work Of Art" propelled by drums played with brushes and a saxophone and flute and strangely no guitar! But that is made up for later on with the guitar-centric "The Millions Of Last Moments". Then a prog epic "Memetic Pandemic" and then a straight ahead rock crescendo in "A Nihilist's Love Song". "Televised" speaks of reality talk shows and what happens to it's participants once the klieg lights are shut off. But, back to the first half, with the album opener "You're Fooling Yourselves" you have a song which spends one verse spouting the horrible lingo of the left and another verse spouting the words of the right. The bridge and choruses, speak as the people telling the partisans that they are destroying a great nation with their refusals to budge or even talk. "Exit Strategy" is proggy in it's time signatures but is mostly an Ambrosia sounding track followed by the Steely Dan meets King Crimson "The Socio-Economic Petri Dish". 2 minutes of the most intricate parts on the album followed by a song that could have been on AJA save the mention of bailouts and handouts! Next up is a song that sounds like a confession from a political strategist. You know the guy. He comes on the talk show and says all the tired expressions like "at the end of the day", "Let's take our country back" and the like. Sounds like XTC or some early 80's smart pop meets prog. And then the very short lyric sheet of "The Ones To Follow" ends side 1 with a Marillion-ish guitar line and energetic band. 3RDegree are progressive in the simple fact that they mix the old formulas from the best known 70's prog bands without going off on wild tangents but rather focus in on a great song and don't waste our time with useless lyrics. They can really be a bridge between prog and smart rock (like fans of Squeeze, XTC and newer more mainstream writers that mess with time signature changes and mood swings) the way Dream Theater was/is a bridge between prog and metal. Wouldn't it be nice to have another prog band with a DT sized fan base in our midst? Let's hope people in prog circles like anyone on Prog Archives will take notice of what 3RDegree is doing.
Report this review (#897295)
Posted Tuesday, January 22, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Classy. Timely. Tasteful. Relevant. Critics of prog never use these sort of words to describe our prized subgenre, but all are apropos for 3RDegree's 4 th studio album THE LONG DIVISION. Heavy and deep in parts, syrupy sweet at others, the album is like a good book that's hard to put down. It holds together as an album quite well although the songs are all so different. Some songs have extended musical moments where they give their gifted vocalist a rest, saving him for the money shot later on. Moments for proggers can be found on almost every track, and by that I mean slightly 'self indulgent' showy playing, be it a keyboard or synth solo or some interesting vocal arrangement. I particularly like track 3 'The Socio-Economic Petri Dish' which sounds like someone dropped their DISCIPLINE LP and ROYAL SCAM LP on the floor, cracked them like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and then put them back on the turntable 30 years later! I look forward to hearing what has preceded this album to see how they got here to this possible pinnacle that I wanted to talk about on the net-something I never do. To hear they had two albums in the 90's (before a long break) makes things even more intriguing. Regardless, there's a undeniable groove and feel that threads through the album whether it be on tasteful straight ahead tracks or the more ornate offerings that makes you want to hook these guys up with Hugh Padgham or Alan Parsons to produce them guys to the fullest of their potential for the follow-up album.
Report this review (#898009)
Posted Thursday, January 24, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This should have been my CD of the year for 2012.

There, I've said it, I've circumvented my typical writing process and eschewed the big reveal at the end, this CD is fantastic. While it still made my top ten based on Spotify listens, I wasn't able to take it with me in the car until I received the CD last week. Since then, I've been listening to it non- stop 'so that I could do an accurate review'. In truth, I'd probably listened to it enough times to have taken the CD out a few days ago, I just didn't want to. I guess I've been listening to it for too long when my five year old daughter wanders around the house singing songs from it.

The Long Division is the second release from the New Jersey based 3rdegree of this century; they had two releases in the nineties then split up for ten years prior to their 2008 release, Narrow- Caster. Narrow-Caster was a combination of tracks written in both the nineties edition of the band and the current one. The Long Division is a batch of entirely new songs written specifically for this album which gives it a cohesiveness that wasn't as prevalent on the last one. I loved Narrow- Caster; this is a huge leap forward.

Listener be warned, this is a political CD, though the beauty of it is that it is equally condemning towards both sides of the current American debate. The message of the first single, "You're Fooling Yourselves" is summed up nicely in the third verse, "You're fooling yourselves, if you can't look across the aisle and see humanity." There is a growing, centrist group of Americans that are tired of the lack of compromise between the two current political parties and the sensationalist polarization spouted by the media. "You're Fooling Yourselves" is the anthem for this group of people.

Now, with that being said, to truly appreciate 3rdegree, try to imagine Jamiroquai singing for a low key prog band. Lead singer George Dobbs has one of the most unique voices in the modern prog scene in the he sounds more like a displaced soul crooner rather than the typical prog metal screamer or symphonic dramatist. [INSIDE JOKE] The good news is that, 'It Works' really well for them. [/INSIDE JOKE]. This is a slow rocker with great chops though nothing flashy enough to take away from the lyrics which are really the focus of the song. Verse one could have been taken directly from a more liberal newscast painting the picture of a radical conservative right, obviously satirizing it. After a catchy chorus verse two gives us the conservative anger at the liberal left.

The chant over the final verse really sums up the position, just in case you missed it. "Everybody needs a constitution, everybody needs to leave their party, everybody needs to think for themselves. . . " This should be required listening and frankly, I've started posting the video every time one of my Facebook threads is hijacked into another liberal versus conservative debate. But enough about that. . .

"Exit Strategy" is one of the rolling songs on the album with occasional Gentle Giant moments, it has an easy, feel to it feel to it as we listen to Dobbs and company espouse on the second target of the album, corporate greed. (in case you're keeping score, the first were the politicians in "You're Fooling Yourselves". Don't miss Dobbs wonderfully, Tomas Bodin-esque solo in this one.

"The Socio-economic Petri Dish" gets the award for best song name of the album. It starts with a two minute intro of chaos that can best be described as Abacab era Tony Banks jamming with Discipline era Robert Fripp with bassist Robert James Pashman and Aaron Nobel holding down the timing by alternating rhythmic bits with precisely timed hits. After the intro we get into one of the funkiest moments on the CD. I'm not talking bad smelling funk, I'm talking George Clinton funk.

"Incoherent Ramblings" points the finger of anger directly at the media. Truthfully, if you dive deeply into the lyrics of the entire album, the media gets the brunt of the ire, even in the songs that focus on politics or corporations; there is a strong feeling that the issues are only exasperated by the current style of news reporting.

Ok, background story, in 2001 two things very important things happened, the internet was draining revenue from traditional news sources and the destruction of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centers produced a huge but temporary jump in revenue for those very same news sources. Since that time, the American news media has experimented and eventually come to the realization that sensationalism makes them money. "Incoherent Ramblings" satirizes the progression of that trend, as the protagonist describes his day of riling up the masses.

On a musical note, this is another fantastic song giving guitarist Eric Pseja a moment to shine. The song has a rolling easy feel to most of it, my only complaint is what I refer to as the 'march sections'. Every time we hear the catch phrases of the newscaster, the song stops and Aaron Noble lays down a deliberate march under the clichés. From a musical standpoint, the march sections kill the flow of the song. Here's the thing, it's an ironic bit illustrating the newscaster sharing his marching orders. I'm pretty certain that the disruption of flow is deliberate to get the listener to pay attention to the lyrics, the catch phrases. While I don't like the break from a musical stand point, I get what they're trying to do here, and admittedly, it does work. One other note before I go on, the harmonies are sick in the song, the chorus is superb.

"The Ones To Follow" is probably my favorite song on the CD. There are some great harmonies throughout the album, but the ones on this song are absolutely beautiful and stunning. It's a happy little pop song . . . in five. It has a nice acoustic feel to it during the verses followed by a beautiful mélange of tuned bells and guitar in a combined melody that gives me goose bumps just from writing about it. Don't overlook this three minute gem.

"Televised" is another soulful song, the emotion drips through the piano and harpsichord intro, there is a sadness to this song that comes through beautifully as we hear of another life ruined by the media, almost another homage to Bud Dwyer (look it up kids).

"The Millions of Last Moments" is a beautiful instrumental giving guitarist Pat Kliesch a chance to shine, and shine he does. Every time it came on in the car, both my wife and five year old remained quiet to listen to it. I truly can't think of a higher compliment, absolutely beautiful. "Memetic Pandemic" is another rolling song in six, keep an ear out for the Genesis moments in here.

So yeah, we're at the end of the review here, every song on this CD is great if not fantastic, even the two that I didn't highlight specifically have some great moments (I'll leave them as a surprise for you). As I mentioned early on, this is a five star CD that I really haven't wanted to stop listening to. Highly recommended!

Report this review (#913996)
Posted Thursday, February 14, 2013 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars I'm shocked! This band has been around (on and off) for two decades, and I've never heard them before this?

This album, for lack of a better comparison, sounds to me like if you blended together the quirkiness and clever lyrics of 10CC, the lush, deceptively complex melodies and arrangements of Echolyn, and just a touch of Styx. You shake well, and what comes out is a truly spectacular album.

The concept, released in the turbulent U.S. election year of 2012, is a scathing indictment of politicians, pundits and partisans on both the Democratic and Republican side of the aisle. And it is spot on. The lyrics are a wonder, with wordplay that brings to mind the classic albums by 10CC, but even more acerbic.

Musically, these guys blow away the other recent leaders in the crossover genre, bands like Karmakanik, and even Steven Wilson. When trying to figure out which is my favorite track, all I can say is that it is the one I am listening to at any given point on the album. It is just that great.

I really don't want to give too much away, as this album was such a pleasant surprise. Just buy it. You won't be disappointed.

Me? I'm going to start purchasing their previous catalog.

Report this review (#915786)
Posted Monday, February 18, 2013 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars 3rDegree's "The Long Division" is the 2012 album from the quintet. Opening with 'You're Fooling Yourselves', a bouncy uptempo track with some catchy chorus phrases, the album is an uplifting and innovative journey. The album is well produced by Robert James Pashman, George Dobbs and Patrick Kliesch, and mixed by Angelo Panetta with clarity, allowing every musician to be heard, including some exceptional harmonies. Songs like 'Incoherent Ramblings' are replete with vocal harmonising layered over with outstanding keyboard and guitar vibrations. The sound is akin to Gentle Giant meets 10CC, or the weirder side of Godley and Crème.

The lyrics are at times politically enhanced with observations about the problems facing the world, such as on 'You're Fooling Yourselves'; "you with delusions of political domination, you with attack ads of character assassination, selling us out without a doubt is what you're about." These Marxist musings have a hard cynical edge and are some of the more intelligent lyrics from a progressive act I have read. Tom Hamlyn's cover art is also jarring, depicting a queue of the everyman that are trying to get to their destination but are thwarted by the crack in the earth, ironically the blue men are stuck in the red scape and the red men are trapped in the blue scape. The inner jacket has a picture of a bear attacking a bull, and the band are seen with the American flag and the constitution that emits the words "Under God" which spells out the feelings toward modern censorship and change in our politically correct society.

Highlights such as 'The Ones to Follow' features chimes, strong drum beats from Aaron Nobel, punctuated by Robert James Pashman's bassline and muscular guitars by Eric Pseja and Patrick Kliesch to create a wall of sound. The vocals are melodic and creatively executed by lead vocalist, keyboardist George Dobbs.

There are some fractured signatures and time changes with quirky melodies of complex arrangement such as on 'Exit Strategy', a song that encompasses a myriad of musical ideas and mood swings. This is perhaps the best song on the album due to the infectious melodies and excellent guitar riffs, along with bold musicianship; the bassline is stunning along with the keyboard runs, and off kilter drums. The band are virtuoso musicians and even include tenor sax by Bill Fox and flute by Rob Durham on 'A Work of Art'.

An angry crowd opens the epic 'The Socio-Economic Petri Dish', with a grand majestic prelude with some wonderful musicianship. This builds into a blazing tempo and aggressive vocals "the future's jeopardised, soon there will be no place for our kind, presently terrified, faced with the horrors of a Biblical blight." The song locks into a melody driven passage of instrumentation including some incredible keyboard workouts from Dobbs.

Things get very progressive and adventurous with 'Televised', a standout track that has a jaunty offbeat time sig, and some shifting moods with interchanging percussion and bass. The lyrics are thought provoking, attacking the triviality of reality TV and shock talk shows; "thanks for sharing that, your divorce has been televised, your intercourse has been televised, you're ratings gold, you have been sold, this life isn't yours, see dotted line, to be sure when you're televised, par for the course you will be despised, the cannon fodder of checkout lines". The song careens all over the place, much like someone remote surfing as they move from channel to channel.

This is followed by a tranquil acoustic instrumental 'The Millions of Lost Moments', and then a measured cadence permeates 'Memetic Pandemic', a song that focuses on refusing the handouts and hand me downs that are offered by various factions. It is about taking back what is rightfully ours that has been taken from us, with some insightful lyrics; "man's reach exceeds the grasp around the throats of those he must compel, that deciding moment should he take his rightful place, we'll bathe in all his glory of accomplishment and grace."

These ideas are taken up further in 'A Nihilist's Love Song' where "all that is and all that was is meaningless", sounding like a verse from Ecclesiastes. The pessimistic song is backed well by crunching guitars and a catchy harmonised phrase. The concept of the album is definitely that the world could be a better place and the media are mostly to blame for the turmoil; a sobering idea and a daring one at that. It is a catch 22 when one attacks the media and yet a band requires the media to be exposed such as in reviews and utilising film clips to promote an album.

Overall "The Long Division" is a provocative and compelling experience with some exceptional musical finesse. There are moments that traverse into inventive progressive territory and yet it is a very accessible album. 3rDegree never veer too far from their friendly sound but tend to experiment at times with odd time sigs and missed rhythms to create a soundscape that draws the listener in. The musical textures that build up tension and then release into grand explorations of instrumental breaks are endearing. The vocals are excellent with hard hitting lyrics that comment on the social fabric, attacking the media, politics, religion and the economy in poetic grandeur. This album has the tendency to grow on the ear and is one of the better crossover artists I have had the pleasure to encounter.

Report this review (#917563)
Posted Friday, February 22, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Great example of prog rock's various best known characteristics put to use to create an album that can really be enjoyed by those who have no idea what prog might be as a genre. Is the album chock full of virtuosic passages-no-but they are so welcome when they find their way into really well constructed songs that are well sung, recorded and with lyrics that say something and given its political nature, surprisingly comes off as insightful if not offering solutions which would probably make it too preachy. The line 3RDegree straddle with their ability to be accessible yet ripe for repeated listens should be heralded as much as most great prog albums do for their complexity. This ain't Asia-like accessibility but something much more developed and satisfying.
Report this review (#919066)
Posted Monday, February 25, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars I really regret dragging my feet on getting this but I have been in a lull of not buying music.

I listened to it for the first time in the car just after it arrived was greatly impressed. My wife commented that it had been awhile since she saw me with that big a smile on my face while listening to new music. No repeat listenings required.

After reading some of the reviews talking about how dense and/or challenging it was I didn't really know what to expect. I disagree with the reviews, and this is not a negative in any way. These are great compact, tightly written songs. No wasted meandering, no padding and no hitting me over the head with time signatures, not that I expected any of that. Great melodies, great rhythmic ideas and a fine sense of purpose throughout the disc. Fantastic execution of your lyrical concept (hey, I resemble half of that album!), it is a masterpiece boys.

I am very impressed.

Report this review (#921175)
Posted Friday, March 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I have to admit that I was quite suspicious of a band's rating when its new album release starts climbing the charts due to the fact that no less than 9 out of the 13 entries in the 'Latest members reviews' column are PA newbies who joined only to post a review of this one album (and two of the other four have rated less than ten albums and reviewed only one: this one'and of the less than ten albums the list is suspiciously the same!) It's nice to have fans, nice to have a group helping to get your name and music out there. Whatever it takes, I guess. Time will obviously help this album settle into its true place among the releases of 2012.

Curious, I found their album on Bandcamp. And I've been listening.

1. 'You're Fooling Yourselves' (6:51) sounds like a kind of DISCIPLINE-as-THE BEATLES classic rocker. There is a cute carnival-esque section beginning at the 2:56 mark followed by a SAGA-like semi-rap with vocal harmonies. Great section in the guitar solo beginning at the 4:40 mark. The vocalist does a pretty great job sounding like JOHN LENNON, revved-up PAUL McCARTNEY and early ROD STEWART. (8/10)

2. 'Exit Strategy' (5:45) is a very perky, poppy STEELY DAN-meets-XTC to play THE TEA CLUB song. Truly some great multiple vocal arrangements here. Nice keyboard/mellotron and bass parts. A very catchy, cute song. (9/10)

3. 'The Socio-Economic Petrie Dish' (6:52) is the weakest song on the album in its cheezy keyboards and poppy-pseudo-prog structure. Again I am reminded of STEELY DAN 1972- 75, pre-Aja. A very mediocre song'even with the melodramatic 'Occupy' crowd sample in the final minute. (5/10)

4. 'Incoherent Ramblings' (7:44) begins with a vocal melody that fails to connect. Once the song establishes its support structure it doesn't get much better. It's almost like an average BEACH BOYS or a bad XTC song. (5/10)

5. 'The Ones to Follow' (3:12) is a cute pop song in the vein of XTC and GEORGE HARRISON. (6/10)

6. 'A Work of Art' (2:50) begins with some arpeggiated electric piano chords before weaving in some other subtle instruments, vocals, and eventually saxophone. The keyboard sound brings me back to some of RONNIE LAWS' proggier stuff in the late 70s (around the 'Always There' and Flame period). (7/10)

7. 'Televised' (6:52) with its old synth sounds harkens back to some late 70s classic rock songs. When the song kicks into high gear around the 1:50 mark it is definitely treading on MATTHEW PARMENTER/DISCIPLINE territory. Then a clavichord enters! Surprises abound in this one: falsetto vibratos, Motown-like female b vox. As the song progresses it morphs again into more XTC ground. An unusual but kind of intriguing mix. Perhaps the most original song on the album. (8/10)

8. 'The Millions of Last Moments' (2:06) starts out very much like KANSAS' 'Dust in the Wind' before a jazzy CHET ATKINS-like electric guitar joins in. A pretty instrumental guitar duet. (7/10)

9. 'Memetic Pandemic' (7:29) begins with a bare piano, joined by a GEDDY LEE-like voice before morphing into a GENESIS/BIG BIG TRAIN/ECHOLYN-like song. Interesting ECHOLYN/BEATLES-like vocal harmonies. Love the GENESIS picked electric guitar interlude at the 1:45 mark and the MIKE OLDFIELD-like fuzz guitar playing in tandem with the early-TONY BANKSian synthesizer that follows. Despite the 'There Must be Some Misunderstanding' bass line and chord the next section, this song develops and catches one very much like a very good ECHOLYN song. The drumming on this one stands out for me: PHIL COLLINS-ish. The section that begins at 5:15 is great for its organ, b-vox, and GENESIS-era P GABRIEL vocal. The last minute and a half enters into more of a BEATLES feel. (9/10)

10. 'A Nihilist's Love Song' (3:21) starts out with a lyric and melody that reminds me of a choral version of TOD RUNDGREN's 'Just One Victory.' As it goes on I am more reminded of JON BON JOVI. (8/10)

I am pleasantly surprised to find that this is, in fact, an interesting album--especially for its varied collection of sounds and influences. It is, however, a little more pop oriented than I expected. My favorite songs are definitely the perky 'Exit Strategy' and the ECHOCLYN-like 'Memetic Pandemic.' As a matter of fact, if one were to try to extract the essence of this album, it would be the XTC, STEELY DAN, and ECHOLYN familiarities. I actually like this album better than the much-praised 2012 Echolyn release, Echolyn. (Ironic that the BRETT KULL-produced "You're Fooling Yourself" is not even, IMO, the most ECHOLYN-sounding song on the album!)

3.5 stars rated up for factors of intrigue and quirkiness.

Report this review (#921273)
Posted Friday, March 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Been listening to this for the past week or so and have been searching for words to describe it. I confess to having changed my initial opinion and would advise people to really give this a listen before making any judgements. I appreciate that the lyrics on a few songs in particular are political and 'worthy'. I thought initially that the album was 'under-produced' and a bit rough at the edges. It sounded like a band that I might have seen in my local music venue. Now that in itself is no bad thing, having seen Marillion, Pendragon and Solstice play to small crowds in a venue where the beer flowed freely and people 'head-banged' on the dancefloor. The musicianship is workman-like, they are not Dream Theater by any means. I'm not being a musical snob - I totally admire ANYONE who plays an instrument, it's just that I wasn't blown away by technical virtuosity.

The opening track 'You're Fooling Yourselves' has burrowed its way into my head - it's very catchy and enjoyable. It would feature on a Prog Singles Chart - the singer has an intensity which suits the song. I like this song very much and think it's one of the best on the album. Next up is 'Exit Strategy' with its interesting choppy melodic chorus. 'The Soci-Economic Petri Dish' is next - the title sounds like something from 'The Lamb Lies Down'. The musicianship is very good on this and it is quite ambitious. 'Incoherent Ramblings' reminds me in places of 10cc. Its a great track and the longest at just under eight minutes. 'The Ones to Follow' is probably my favourite track on the album. I like the tinkling 'proggy' accompaniment - it trips along very nicely. 'Televised' has a stark piano opening, giving way to synth before the drums and bass pick up the beat. 'The Millions of Last Moments' briefly sounded like Kansas' 'Dust in the Wind' before establishing its own acoustic identity. 'Memetic Pandemic' is reminiscent of early Genesis and features probably the best playing on the album. The keyboards are excellent and I think this song showcases the singer in particular. The album ends with 'A Nihilist's Love Song' which has a definite 'album closer' feeling to it. You know, the type of song that would be at the end of a concept album. I guess that this IS a concept album - it's also a kind of blue-collar, garage prog that Bruce Springsteen would listen to whilst having a few beers with the guys on labor day.

Report this review (#926799)
Posted Friday, March 8, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Pleasant enough album with a sort of Big Big Train/Spock's Beard vibe to it. George Dobbs does a decent enough job as the band's hyper-theatrical lead vocalist, which is a good thing since the album hinges on its thematic concept - namely, an examination of the political situation in the USA and the apparent inability of the liberal-leaning and conservative wings of American society to find common ground.

The band's essential position is set out in opening track You're Fooling Yourselves, and by the end of it you'll probably know whether or not you dig what they're trying to do musically with the album and where they want to take the concept: for my part, as a non-US listener the implicit assumption that both sides of the divide are equally right and equally wrong is something I just plain can't agree with (compared with politics in the rest of the world, extreme-right positions pop up in surprisingly prominent places an awful lot in US politics whilst extreme-left positions have more or less no representation on the national stage), which means that I find the general arguments expressed in the lyrics irritating enough that it's a distraction from the music, and I don't find the music quite engaging enough to overcome that. So, on balance I think it's worth a spin but you need to be aware that if you have little patience for noncommittal neutrality in American politics you may find it grating.

Report this review (#934776)
Posted Sunday, March 24, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I could not avoid noticing the lofty praise this release has been getting and, well, I just wanted to see for myself what all the hype was about. The main attraction was not the moniker, the artwork or anything so pedant but rather the focus on being political! Lest we forget, that rock music in general started to develop as socio- political messenger once long ago and sadly sort faded into the absurd and the fantasia of our wonderful universe. Third Degree is a US band that wishes to express their views on the current political impasse in the USA, where only black and white exists (no pun intended), two dour and silly political parties vying for control and power, a platform where the line is blurred between leftist republicans and rightist democrats, with little room of creative social and economic discourse! Personally, as a neighbourly Canadian of European heritage, I find the US a puzzling enigma of contradiction, constant conspiracy and absolute insanity when it comes to their society. Oh well!

Third Degree seem to revel in highlighting these incongruities with a sophisticated blend of punchy progressive rock that has a lot of groove, bruising delivery and some impassionate vocalizings , George Dobbs is truly a character, with a voice being a combination John Kay (Steppenwolf), Peter Wolf (Geils) and Stan Ridgway!). Dual guitarists hint at good old fashioned boogie (Allman Bros, Skynyrd etc...) and the rhythm section propels like a well-oiled Nascar racer. The majority of the songs are not of epic length, keeping things tight and flashy. The titles alone provide a resonant idea of their disappointed philosophy "You're Fooling Yourselves", "Exit Strategy", "The Soci-Economic Petri Dish", "Incoherent Ramblings", well you get the message! They basically take aim at the hypocrisy of both parties and fire away with acerbic acidity, some of the finest lyrics ever! Being a big fan of instrumental prog, it's a diversion to finally have some fun with brooding, vibrant music with great vocal delivery and superb lyrical content. As such, all the songs sort of flow into one another, creating a prog manifesto that surely will not disappoint as the musical vibrancy is always there = check out the sultry sax solo on the sublime "A Work of Art", the cool piano and keyboard musings on "Televised" and the slick picking on "The Millions of Last Moments"

I was expecting not to like this, so as to eliminate any placebo effect in reviewing this little jewel. Intelligent, iconoclastic, daring, probing and somewhat essential to progfans with a sense of today's realities. Certainly original and obviously talented, the future looks brighter for the US economy of prog. 4 extended separations

Report this review (#936673)
Posted Friday, March 29, 2013 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Crossover Prog Team
5 stars When I heard from band leader Robert James Pashman asking me if I would be willing to review their new album I just thought that here was another new band just starting out. What I hadn't realized was that here was an outfit with a history stretching back from more than twenty years and while this may have been their first album for more than three years it was actually their fourth. So I downloaded the album and put into 'The List' (yes there is such a thing, it is the way that I try and keep track of what I should be listening to so that I know just how far behind I am on the reviewing front). Somehow I am never really ahead of the game..

So, in due course I put on the album and then proceeded to sit there with my mouth open, and my ears more so. Where on earth have these guys been hiding and why didn't I know about them before? To me this is the first band I have come across who understand what City Boy were about in the late Seventies (sometime around 'The Day The Earth Caught Fire') and have then added in huge influences from 10CC and The Alan Parsons Project to produce an album that in many ways is sheer perfection. If you want your music to be complex yet simple, to be able to wash over you like a warm blanket yet still have soul and vigour then this is it. This album became a review blocker in the sense that when I had played it enough times to be able to write about it and move to the next one that just didn't happen as I was enjoying it too much.

I know that this album would have been in my top 10 for 2012 if I had been aware of it, but here I am in 2013 so that can't happen. Bugger. Melody, passion, hooks to die for, this prog/melodic rock album is essential. 'Nuff said.

Report this review (#939856)
Posted Friday, April 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have listened to this quite a few times prior to setting out my review, incredibly my first of 2013. There is a reason for this.

It is not unusual for a reviewer to listen to an album a couple of times and think, I don't really like this. Indeed, that is the case with many of the albums which I now regard as being classics. Sometimes, it takes time to really appreciate a work of art. However, after the sixth or seventh listens, I was still rather ambivalent. What kept pulling me back to give this album a fair "chance", and, by extension, a fair review were the two tracks I thoroughly adored.

The short instrumental, The Millions of Last Moments, featuring guitar work to die for, and the exceptional closer, which is consistently excellent and flows constantly, A Nihilist's Love Song, both prove, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that these guys can play, write strong material, and move you.

However, after umpteen listens commuting to work, I really have to reach the conclusion that those tracks are, by and large, the exception on this album, rather than the rule. Does that mean this is a bad album? Not really. It is just that much of it is, to these ears, too inconsistent, and too........bitty (not a good word, I know) to convince. Half the trouble is, I feel, that they do not really know what they are trying to achieve in their sound. For when they are good, they are very good. The more expansive passages flow beautifully, and it all comes together. These, though, are in between main passages which grate somewhat.

As for the lyrics, as has been raised by other reviewers, they are overtly political, and none too complimentary about the system where the band hail from. They could be summarised as being a "plague on both your houses", I.e. Republican and Democrat. The bulk of the album is, in truth, a fair old rant against both. Nothing wrong with that, of course, and much of it reflects a fair bit of my disenchantment with modern politics, and I say this as one who spent years as a political activist (although not in recent times). It also follows in the wake of a proud tradition of rock music raging against "the machine". Having said that, the likes of Pink Floyd produced superlative and memorable music to accompany the rants. Whatever else this band are, they are not Pink Floyd.

So, to summarise, this is a good album, but not one I could wholeheartedly recommend. There are some very good passages. I, for one, have been left with wanting more.

Three stars for this.

Report this review (#947289)
Posted Sunday, April 21, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars To my ears and sensibility, 3RDegree's The Long Division is exactly the kind of prog album this decade needs. The band couples great musicianship with infectious hooks, adding clever, socially conscious lyrics and a healthy dose of lush vocal harmonies. Not only are the individual songs strong on their own, but the album also holds together as a well-crafted (and impeccably produced) thematic whole.

3RDegree pay clear homage to their predecessors while planting their feet firmly in the present and establishing their own bold identity. That identity isn't trapped in the repetition of a tiresome signature sound, though -- there's enough refreshing variety here to keep listeners guessing from one song to the next. The Long Division is at once intellectual and impassioned, virtuosic and melodic, complex and accessible, wickedly funny and deadly serious, slyly irreverent and wholly relevant. Above all, it's downright enjoyable and entertaining.

Report this review (#957448)
Posted Saturday, May 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Many fellow reviewers have complained about the lyrical content being so blatantly political and broadly critical. I do not view that as a failing. As an American frustrated with how the either-or political partisanship has engendered a sports team mentality and loyalty among voters (and hell, non-voters for that matter), while the string-pullers continue to deceive and swindle and make promises and cover asses and get away with all of it, I appreciate it. The media fits in the pockets of the politicians, the politicians fit in the pockets of big businesses, and K-12 indoctrination helps ensure that we never escape this cycle. Apathy, distractions, and ignorance are threats, and it is fair that they should be addressed. So while I appreciate this theme, unfortunately in many places the lyrics are crammed into melodies where they do not belong. That, and occasional rough musical transitions, is my biggest criticism of the album. Musically, it's hard-hitting progressive rock interspersed with fluid passages, using a wide array of colorful tones, giving the album a slightly eclectic but cohesive feel. As political albums go, this has a bitter, frustrated attitude (and a justifiable one, if you ask me), and the musicianship is first-rate, but it does not top what I consider to be the greatest political album ever made: The Power and the Glory by Gentle Giant.

"You're Fooling Yourselves" Perhaps this is the antithesis of the Styx song "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)" from the (ha) appropriately-titled album (for the purpose of my comparison) The Grand Illusion. But there's no garish synthesizer leads or simple alternating bass lines to be heard here: This is a progressive rock song that fuses complex with catchy- I could hum that hook after the first hearing.

"Exit Strategy" Easily the greatest song on the album, I swear I thought I was listening to a long-lost Ritual piece from The Hemulic Voluntary Band (one of my favorite albums): This one is off-kilter but not off-putting in the verses. And listen to that refrain and the melody that leads into it- so smooth! This is an brilliant song and my favorite from this album.

"The Socio-Economic Petri Dish" Darker and more keyboard dominated than what has come before, after ninety sections the band settles into a funky groove.

"Incoherent Ramblings" Much lighter in tone, especially in the chorus, this song is rather difficult to follow, mainly because of its wild structure. This is one example of a song where the words are forced into melodies that don't suit them. Believe me, I'm tired of the empty political platitudes spouted by politicians to their zealous followers, but if one is to write a song about them, make it easier to follow than the disingenuous people who use them!

"The Ones to Follow" Alternating between a bass vocal and an airy response, the vocal section of this laidback rocker reminds me faintly of the gospel music that can be found on the soundtrack to the 2004 Coen Brothers film The Ladykillers (say what you will, I think that's one of the funniest films ever made, by the way). The rest of the music is quite light and somewhat symphonic in nature.

"A Work of Art" The quietest part of the album, this song has soft piano, strings, and a bit of brass.

"Televised" Moving into heavier waters in 7/4, we're treated to some varied keyboard and guitar tones.

"The Millions of Last Moments" Gentle washes of acoustic and electric guitars provide a soft interlude.

"Memetic Pandemic" Multiple sections highlight the individual talents of the band members, even as they work in tandem. I feel like this may be the most complex song on the album.

"A Nihilist's Love Song" I always forget about this finisher, so it always pleasantly surprises me- another catchy little refrain!

Report this review (#971343)
Posted Wednesday, June 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Politically geared lyrics aren't anything new in the progressive rock world, but the words heard on the latest offering from American act 3RDegree are some of the genre's most critical since Pain of Salvation's controversial Scarsick. Entitled The Long Division, the fourth full-length album from the band has a real bone to pick with the current state of American politics - and, honestly, who doesn't feel the same way? Our politicians are bought out, the political process is all but broken, and most folks are too apathetic to do anything about it. Agree or disagree with 3RDegree's message, they approach a touchy subject with maturity, and (quite frankly) I think that more people should be talking about this.

If you consider lyrics secondary to music (like I do), however, you'll be be pleased to know that the compositions here don't at all take a backseat to the band's lyrical message. Not unlike their fellow countrymen in Echolyn or Spock's Beard, 3RDegree's music is quite melodic and instantly memorable, but also complex and interesting. I would imagine that fans of Gentle Giant would also love The Long Division, although 3RDegree's music is much more accessible than the classic observations of the Giant. Tracks like "The Socio-Economic Petri Dish", with its funky basslines, and "Televised" (what I would consider the most 'traditionally' proggy song on the album) particularly stand out to me, but there isn't a weak track anywhere on The Long Division.

3RDegree is a group of mature, accomplished musicians, and it shows on The Long Division; this is a strong observation that sounds sophisticated without ever coming across as self-indulgent or overblown. There are probably a few valid criticisms one could jot down about The Long Division - some of the verses are too wordy and some melodies are more memorable than others, for example - but neither of these are significant shortcomings in the long run. This is a very strong album that fans of Spock's Beard, Echolyn, Gentle Giant, and Big Big Train won't regret hearing!

Report this review (#986857)
Posted Thursday, June 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
Errors & Omissions Team
5 stars 3rDegree is an American band that was formed in the late 80's and during the early 90's released two albums before disbanding in 1997. The band decided to re-unite in 2006 and since then has released two more studio albums. The Long Division (2012) is their most recent work. By the time of the release 3rDegree was formed by George Dobbs (vocals and keyboards), the founder of the band Robert James Pashman (bass and vocals), Patrick Kliesch (guitars and vocals), Eric Pseja (guitars and vocals) and Aaron Nobel (drums and percussion).

The Long Division (2012) starts and, for me, it's a great pleasure to listen to such a wonderful track as 'You're Fooling Yourselves'! Catchy yet complex, full of details and on top of that, good lyrics. And what a great chorus! As I began to think that the band couldn't possibly go higher than in the first song' 'Exit Strategy' brings us a perfect amalgam of vocals, great hooks and clever instrumental. And then 'The Socio-Economic Petri Dish'. It's incredible how 3rDegree is able to combine the old Prog days without a single trace of copying that sound. They're amusingly refreshing and new to this old 'accustomed' Prog ears of mine!

By the time 'Incoherent Ramblings' starts, game's over. The band got me as their newest fan. I should have been aware of The Long Division (2012) before. But better later than never! Two shorter songs follow: 'The Ones To Follow' is another catchy acoustic driven track that is just great. 'A Work Of Art' has saxophones by Bill Fox and some amazing vocals by George Dobbs. 'Televised' resembles the beginning of the album, as in a circle. Robert James Pashman bass and Eric Pseja/Patrick Kliesch guitars are heavy on this track. Soon they're followed by the amazing Dobbs vocals (here a bit like Threshold's Mac era). Superb stuff!

'The Millions Of Last Moments' is a pretty and pastoral acoustic piece and 'Memetic Pandemic' is another mammoth. The right amount of keyboards, two guitar players that know how to work for the song and a solid drummer, that's 3rDegree. And to close The Long Division (2012) comes 'A Nihilist's Love Song'. This one is a bit more of a Pop song with a big chorus and a melancholic mood. Finishing with a high note is always good!

3rDegree was one of my greatest discoveries this year! The Long Division (2012) has everything that any intelligent Progressive Rock fan would want: great and smart lyrics, melodic hooks all around, flawless instrumentation, superb vocals, a perfect production and the main thing ' great songs! The Long Division (2012) is all based on great well-polished songs!

It's time to follow forward, pass through the first few levels of average Joes and step on the 3rDegree.

(Originally posted on

Report this review (#1035901)
Posted Monday, September 16, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's refreshing to find once in a while among all the bombastic modern prog a band that sounds restrained, smooth, with a bar music feel.This is an album that draws its influences not as much from British prog but rather from the primary sources of Ameican rock (another modern band with such an approach is Shadow Circus, although they are more bombastic) - bar music, soul, jazz, gospel, traditional pop, hard rock. A pure example of crossover prog-lite.

The sound here reminds me of 60s and 70s - not too loud, with restrained power chords, prominent bar piano and groovy rhythm section. Melodies often have a relaxed 11pm jazz feel, even trembling at times (see Exit Strategy), although it has a fair share of rocking out (opening track, sections of Televised and Socio-economic Petri Dish). This decidedly retro sound stands in curious contrast with lyrical theme, which is a bitter commentary on contemporary political divisions in America.

Report this review (#1044406)
Posted Wednesday, September 25, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars We're just on the cusp of another presidential election, that several month run to November when it will be impossible to avoid the whole mess. It's either a brilliant time to release an album about the fractured nature of American politics or a sure fire bet to piss off a good hunk of the fan base. Jersey proggers 3rDegree figured out how to do both with The Long Division.

Which is to say that the political half of The Long Division isn't really a polemic, in the "vote for this guy" sense of the word. It's not even "bipartisan," a word that gets thrown around too often to have much meaning anymore. It's about the way we do politics in 21st-century, not the end result.

Take the lead-off track (mixed by Brett Kull of echolyn, who have their own fine and long awaited new album out) "You're Fooling Yourself." It throws around a lot of left v. right catchphrases you hear these days (especially if you read the political blogs), not in an effort to show that one side is right and the other's wrong, but to show that by reducing our political opponents to caricatured cardboard cutouts we're really talking past ourselves. Or there's "The Socio-Economic Petri Dish" which captures the frustration of the modern political world in one line:

Don't want the layoffs, but I don't want the pay-offs to the men in the suits

In other words, we're so far gone that the solution to almost any problem is probably not particularly palatable.

But my particular favorite of the political hunk is "Incoherent Ramblings," which takes aim at the talking head spouters of talking points that populate most cable news shows. I'm not talking about actual analysts who might have some incite into a particular incident. I'm talking about the kind of people who get brought on to argue whether the fact that the sky is blue will favor Romney or Obama come November. "Incoherent Ramblings" nails both the mercenary mentality of those flaks but also the fact that they never really say anything of substance.

It's not all politics on The Long Division. The second half of the album dives into more personal territory from love ("A Work of Art") to the nature of the universe (the absurdly catchy "Nihilist's Love Song"), and the for some people to live their lives in public ("Televised," which hearkens back to the title track from 1996's Human Interest Story). As it happens, my favorite track on the album, "Memetic Pandemic," is in the second half of the album. I don't have a good handle on the lyrics just yet, but I love the slow stalking quality of the music.

Speaking of music, The Long Division sees 3rDegree refining their style as set forth on their previous two records. It rubs up against prog, ciphering off it's intricacy and eclecticism, but is rooted firmly in catchy rock hooks. It's no surprise that the band has never really gone full-on epic (although several tracks on this album stretch to the 6-7 minute mark). But there's not reason they should, since they pack in so many layers of sound into each track that stretching things out just for the sake of it would be pointless.

2012 has already been a banner year for new albums in the prog world and it doesn't show any signs of slowing down. When December comes and those damned lists start popping up, trying to sort the best of from the rest of, The Long Division should come out near the top. Which, in this of all years, is really saying something.

Report this review (#1453704)
Posted Sunday, August 16, 2015 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars As I pointed out in my review of "Narrow-Caster", 3RDegree are one of those bands that are bound to divide opinions within the prog community. While critics have generally greeted their albums with words of praise, the public's response has not always been equally enthusiastic. Though the band members proudly state their allegiance to the progressive rock camp, their sound - in true art-rock tradition - contains enough "mainstream" elements to make purists frown, eliciting doubts as to its actual prog quotient. George Dobbs' extraordinary vocals (clearly more influenced by Stevie Wonder than Jon Anderson or Peter Gabriel) are also a sore point with those fans who find it hard to break away from the Seventies mould. The band's frequent reliance on the conventional song form is another source of controversy for those who forget that, in fact, even in its heyday prog never completely rejected traditional song modes, though often rendering them almost unrecognizable.

Compared to "Narrow-Caster", "The Long Division" ups the ante in terms of complexity, while retaining its accessible, deceptively upbeat flavour. Though there are no epics in the conventional prog sense, the album is intended as a sort of loose concept that, while firmly rooted in the peculiar atmosphere of a US presidential election year, can also resonate with citizens of most Western countries, especially in the current global situation. The clean, geometric lines of the striking cover artwork contrast sharply with the stereotypically fanciful prog aesthetics, its bright blue and red hues identifying the two main US political parties, separated by an apparently unbridgeable gap.

From a musical point of view, the main ingredients that made "Narrow-Caster" such as successful example of modern crossover prog do not disguise the intricacy of the instrumental fabric and the frequent changes in tempo and mood. George Dobbs' authoritative voice is assisted by gorgeous, layered vocal harmonies reminiscent of early Yes (or even The Beatles) that complement the lush instrumental interplay. The double-guitar configuration, with new boy Eric Pseja flanking founding member Patrick Kliesch, has undeniably beefed up the sound, though as a whole "The Long Division" comes across as a smoother-sounding effort, less reliant on high-powered riffs and more focused on Dobbs' keyboards.

The 10 songs on "The Long Division" are arranged in a pattern that alternates uptempo numbers with more laid-back ones. "You're Fooling Yourselves" ? a fitting introduction to the musical and lyrical themes of the album, mixed by Echolyn's Brett Kull ? showcases the band's trademark blend of catchy hooks and subtle complexity, with intriguing vocal textures and sleek guitar solos ranging from meditative to energetic. The mellotron-infused "Exit Strategy", with its airy, orchestral feel, is dominated by vocals, though Robert James Pashman's strong bass lines (well complemented by new drummer Aaron Nobel) emerge prominently. The bass is also the undisputed protagonist of the funky, exhilarating "The Socio-Economic Petri Dish" - sounding like Yes probably would if they had been founded in the 21st century, and displaying the band's collective talent in both the instrumental and vocal department. "Incoherent Ramblings" (the longest track on the album at almost 8 minutes) is an extremely well-constructed piece, bringing together the mellow, atmospheric component of 3RDegree's inspiration and the sense of urgency often lurking even in the more relaxed numbers; while the brisk "The Ones to Follow" offers another vocal showcase for Dobbs and an almost infectious chorus.

The second half of the album opens with the hauntingly romantic, piano-led "A Work of Art", the only song dating back from the early incarnation of the band, enhanced by sax, flute and mellotron and featuring an unusually subdued vocal performance by Dobbs. Things pick up with the slashing riffs and hard rock vibe of the Rush-influenced "Televised", driven by Pashman's fat, groovy bass line and Nobel's muscular yet intricate drumming, the heaviness softened by the Beatlesian flavour of the harmony vocals. The short, gentle instrumental "The Millions of Last Moments" prepares the listener to the album's grand finale ? the melodic-with-a-bite, sinuous "Memetic Pandemic", which allows Dobbs to shine on piano and organ as well as in the singing department, and the catchy "A Nihilist's Love Song", based on a chiming acoustic guitar line reinforced by piano and layers of vocal harmonies.

With "The Long Division", 3RDegree prove that they have reached their full maturity as a band, delivering an intelligent, well-rounded example of modern progressive rock. Avoiding the bloated excesses of many retro-oriented bands, "The Long Division" is a complete package of classy music, top-notch vocals and thought-provoking lyrics ? recommended to anyone but incurable prog purists.

Originally published on my blog, "Fire of Unknown Origin", on August 1, 2012

Report this review (#1500378)
Posted Thursday, December 17, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars When this album came out four years ago in tandem with the 2012 Presidential Election, its relevancy could not be understated. In 2016, it seems that this album is just as poignant as ever -- a testament to both its genius and its resilience, at least from a topical perspective.

Thematically, The Long Division is packed full of wound-poking criticism that equally targets both sides of the US political aisle. Sung with fervor and performed with pop-hooky style, it's chock full of poetic narratives that would force even the staunchest demagogue to blush with embarrassment as disingenuity is dragged into the sunlight. The odd thing about this album is for all the common focus that occurs between certain songs, it's not really a concept album. Although I have read that the band never really considered The Long Division to be a concept album, I still feel it wants to be one -- even if it's not completely realized. Either way, the music itself is strong enough that the debate becomes a moot point.

I've always found it amusing when bands can "trick" listeners into singing and bobbing their head in odd times through crafty arrangement and catchy melody and that's one thing that 3rDegree manages to pull off right out of the gate with You're Fooling Yourself. On the other hand, those seeking more straightforward progressive rock nods will find them scattered throughout the album in places like the opening of The Socio-Economic Petri Dish (how's that for a proggy song name!?) and the breakdown of Memetic Pandemic. On a more songwriting oriented note, you'll be hard pressed to get the melodies from songs like Exit Strategy, Incoherent Ramblings and Televised out of your head. And after all that's done, the album wraps up with the decidedly Queen-y Nihilist's Love Song that drives the final "does any of this really matter?" stake into the political commentary.

Aside from a slight lack of cohesion (whether it was planned or accidental) and varying moments of disparity in production value, this album is a solid cover to cover listen that really captures much of the varying nuance that makes 3rDegree so inimitable.

Report this review (#1531542)
Posted Monday, February 22, 2016 | Review Permalink

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