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The Third Estate

Prog Folk

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The Third Estate Years Before the Wine album cover
3.92 | 5 ratings | 1 reviews | 0% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1976

Songs / Tracks Listing

1a. Years Before the Wine - Destiny (4:44)
1b. Years Before the Wine - Overcast (5:35)
2. Useless Things (3:34)
3. Look at Me (8:42)
4. Kings (2:32)
5. Puppet City (8:07)
6. Think It's Time (4:40)
7. The Third Estate (5:31)

Total time: 43:25

Line-up / Musicians

- Robert Everett / 6-string electric guitars, 6-string acoustic guitars, bass, wind chimes, piano, organ, maracas, feedback & effects, vocals
- Chas Harrell / 12-string acoustic guitars, 6-string electric guitars, saws & hammers, vocals
- Jerry Lang / drums, guiro, bells, claves
- Fae Ficklin / vocals (1)

Releases information

LP private label (1976) US
LP Austro Mechana (1997) EU
CD Mellow Records MMP309 (1998) US
LP Void VOID42 (2006) US

Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the addition
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Buy THE THIRD ESTATE Years Before the Wine Music

Years Before The Wine + Agonistes by Third EstateYears Before The Wine + Agonistes by Third Estate
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City Hall (Generic) 2009

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THE THIRD ESTATE Years Before the Wine ratings distribution

(5 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(0%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(60%)
Good, but non-essential (40%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

THE THIRD ESTATE Years Before the Wine reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars This has become one of the most treasured albums in my collection, even though I only first heard it less than a few months ago. The unadulterated purity of seventies progressive rock runs like a clear mountain brook through these songs, and even after nearly wearing the grooves off the vinyl already I still haven’t tired of listening to it.

The Third Estate may or may not have been a proper band, I’m not really sure. Since picking up what turned out to be a pirated CD version of the record several months ago, I have searched for more information about these guys with little luck. When I bought a legitimate copy of the Void Records 2006 “30th Anniversary Limited Edition” (on vinyl no less!) I was hoping the liner notes would shed more light on the band and/or the album. No such luck. The liner notes consist of one sheet of paper, a reproduced copy of the original mimeographed sheet the group included with their 1976 private-label pressing of the record when they were students at Louisiana State University. Bummer. The credits say the record was produced at Capital City Sound Studios in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1976, but I strongly suspect that there are tracks here that were recorded earlier and got packaged into the vanity release later. This suspicion is reinforced by a 7-inch red-vinyl single that is included with the Void reissue, which contains a couple of singles from group leader/guitarist/bassist/vocalist/composer Robert Everett, one of them including fellow band member Chas Harrell and dating back to 1968. So either these guys knew each other as teenagers, or they spent an awful lot of years at LSU, or they recorded this stuff earlier and found the money to get the record pressed at a later date. This is all speculation, but something to ponder while listening to the music (which I’m doing quite often lately). I wrote to Robert Everett (now Dr. Everett) and to a guy I think is Chas Harrell looking for more information, but apparently those letters must have come across as nerdy stalking or something because neither of them ever responded.

The basic premise of the album is supposed to be a reflection on the French Revolution of 1789. I remember studying French revolutionary history myself as a liberal-arts undergraduate, but that was nearly thirty years ago and I’m not sure now what it was about that revolution that would have struck these guys enough for them to write an entire album about it. I guess the influence of French Cajuns down there in the Louisiana bijou might have played a part.

And the whole album doesn’t really seem to be about those events anyway, or if it is then there is a level of abstraction that has to be considered. The first side of the vinyl album is distinctly different lyrically than the back side. The opening track sets the stage in 18th century France, but the remaining three songs are reflective and speak of introspection and despair and sorrow from what seems to be a first-person point of view. The back side of the album on the other hand contains four tunes that detail the progression of events in 1789 that led to the storming of the Bastille, killing of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette as well as the dispensing of their daughter and imprisonment of Louis XVII, although the sequence of events in Everett’s lyrics seem a bit muddled when compared to the actual historical record. A bit of creative license no doubt.

Anyway, back to the music. Everett plays guitar throughout, as does Harrell, with Everett also providing bass tracks and Jerry Lang playing drums on most of the songs. Everett has a distinctive style of playing that I can’t quite describe but that is steeped in the mid-seventies. When I heard the opening strains of the title track for the first time it reminded me bands like Spirit, Seals & Crofts and CSNY – easy and free-handed, kind of lazy yet expansive melodic sounds that just seem to flow from the strings to your ears. Very relaxing music to listen to. Everett and Harrell both seem to have explored the various riffs quite a bit, possibly helped in their creative endeavors by stimulants (or maybe just by the mood of the times).

After the opening guitar instrumental one Fae Ficklin (possibly the same young lady who appears with outstretched arms in a white robe on the back cover of the album, not sure) offers up the first vocals on the album. For some reason this is the only track she appears on, which is too bad because she has one of those timeless and rich folk voices that seemed to be so plentiful back then. Comparisons to Sandy Denny are always inevitable when discussing contemporary female folk singers, but I’m also reminded of Buffy Sainte-Marie and even Joni Mitchell a little. Jerry Lang adds the rhythm of a giro gourd for a mild Latin feel on the refrain, and both Everett and Harrell play multiple guitar tracks over the soft-rock drumming that sets a timeless and pensive mood for the music. This composition seems to be intended to establish the mood of the people of the third estate in the late eighteenth century leading up to their revolution, with lyrics telling of despair and a pending upheaval. Everett’s string- bending electric guitar riff atop Harrell’s strumming acoustic rhythm is quite a beautiful thing to hear.

“Useless Things” follows in a similar lyrical vein but with only Everett performing on acoustic guitar with his mellow vocals being overdubbed by his own backing vocals. The liner notes say there is only a guitar on this track but there is clearly an organ of some sort being played in the background, probably by Everett.

The longest and most intricate track on the album is “Look at Me”, which opens with piano and a picked electric guitar before ramping up to a funky groove and Eastern-sounding guitar riff that carries on for most of the song. Thematically this seems to be the transitional song to the back half of the album where the events of the revolution itself unfold. Around the three minute mark the music morphs into a soft folk-rock, Al Stewart-like ditty that is musically undistinguished but which does seem to make the appropriate mood shift to the more forceful tracks that will follow. Everett has a great and sustained guitar solo for the last several minutes to end this side of the album.

Side B kicks up with “Kings”, and here Harrell takes over the vocals from Everett. This is also the only track composed solely by Harrell. The dated production results in his voice seeming to be rather hollow, but again the combination of strumming acoustic guitar with Everett’s soaring electric chords makes for a rhythmic flow that will get your foot tapping even while Harrell is causally and sarcastically crooning “Hail the King”.

“Puppet City” contains the most inflected percussion on the album with Everett shaking maracas, Harrell pumping a musical saw and drummer Jerry Lang scraping the guiro again in addition to shaking some sort of bells and keeping the beat by slapping together a couple of claves. Everett again cuts loose with some tasty guitar work, but for the most part this is a rhythmic but rather restrained track that describes the stirring of the third estate and the beginning of the assault on the French royalty. Surprising restrained considering the subject matter.

And finally the time comes for action with “Think it’s Time”. Everett and Harrell both strum away on their guitars while softly but resolutely chanting “Think it’s time for you to go! When you leave… we shall be… set free”.

And finally the overthrow occurs. The band manages to compress the bulk of ten year’s worth of events into a five minute song and don’t seem too concerned with historical accuracy, but the climax is here nonetheless. Everett adds piano and a fairly prominent organ track to the mix here, and after a brief lull in the music and a martial beat the deeds are done amid recorded crowd noises, anticlimactic feedback and muddled monolog. The ending to the album is surprisingly abrupt.

This is a really seductive album that loses much in my rather sterile description of the various tracks. It really has to be taken as a contiguous piece of work and listened to in it’s entirety to truly appreciate. These are the albums that true progressive music fans live for – ones that are like gems buried beneath granite rocks just waiting to enrich our lives when we discover them. I’m going to give this four stars even though I’m tempted to give it five. Someone else is going to review it soon and they will spring for the five stars. Perhaps I’ll revisit this myself at some point. But in any case I’ll close with a very hearty and enthusiastic recommendation for this album. If you are a fan of progressive music you will almost surely find this one to be a very welcome and often-played addition to your collection. Thanks to Void for bringing it back to life after all these years.


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