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Third Ear Band

Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

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Third Ear Band Third Ear Band album cover
3.59 | 60 ratings | 9 reviews | 15% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1970

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Air (10:29)
2. Earth (9:52)
3. Fire (9:19)
4. Water (7:04)

Total Time: 36:45

Line-up / Musicians

- Glen Sweeney / percussions
- Paul Minns / oboe, recorder
- Richard Coff / violin, viola
- Ursula Smith / cello

Releases information

LP Beat Goes On

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THIRD EAR BAND Third Ear Band ratings distribution

(60 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(15%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(37%)
Good, but non-essential (42%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

THIRD EAR BAND Third Ear Band reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars Third Ear Band's second album is not their more particularly exciting album and if I give it a three star , it is a bit out of complacency due to the rest of their Oeuvre .

As you might guess from the track titles , this is supposed to be a concept album about the four elements. Exciting , no? Actually back in 70 , it was a new and relatively fresh idea. Tooo bad that the music is not more interesting, because as you might guess......wave and wind and fire noises appear a lenght on top of the same-sounding music as their debut.

If you are not familiar with TEB, try their debut or their Mc Beth album for which they got a grammy award (or its British equivalent).

Review by Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Third Ear Band were unusual in an era noted for unusual groups. The conventional armoury of the rock band was put through all kinds of odd permutations, but there was always something linking prog groups to conventional rock music - an electric guitar, a drumkit, conventional songs - but TEB had none of those things. violin, cello, oboe and hand held percussion played lengthy instrumental pieces which owed more to minimalism and ragas than to the Beatles or the Stones, so it's remarkable that all of their albums made it into the UK top 50 and that they became a fixture on the festival circuit.

This album (sometimes referred to as Elements) was their sophomore effort, and features four long pieces named after each of the four elements. Air opens the proceedings with some wind noises, the four musicians gradually fading in during the first two minutes. This sets the tone for the rest of the album; nobody solos, nobody coasts and the pieces have a mantra like, compelling quality to them. The playing is good from all four musicians. Glenn Sweeney's feverish percussion at times can be compared to some of Daniel Fieschelsher's work with Popol Vuh, another band who were as concerned with vertical texture as they were with linear development. Paul Minns plays the oboe with a surprising range of tone and impeccable phrasing - in some parts he's overdubbed, creating a shenai-like sound as the melody lines chase each other over the rhythmic foundation. Air is as light and breezy as it's title suggests, while Earth starts as a slow paced dance around the Maypole, with piizzacatto strings and plodding percussion, and gradually builds to a dervish frenzy befroe the whole thing falls away and starts again. Fire is a monotonous, dissonant piece that doesn't really go anywhere and takes over 9 minutes to do it, while Water is appropriately the gentlest of the four tracks, featuring another enchanting Paul Minns oboe part over a hypnotic beat and some low viola and cello chords. The album closes with the sound of waves lapping the shore, as it started with the sound of the wind.

Not a masterpiece, but worthy of four stars for being so adventurous in terms of instrumentation and style. Fans of GY!BE and A Silver Mt. Zion may find this interesting, or it could be seen as an instrumental counterpart to Comus' First Utterance. Well worth tracking down.

Review by lor68
3 stars A new line-up (Davis is replaced by Ursula Smith at the cello) which is able to keep the inspiration high and even through four instrumental songs, whose plot is focused on the natural elements of the world: air, earth, fire and water. In particular this latter is captivating, but also the "ethnical" tone of "earth" is not bad ,as it could be a gift to another interesting proto-prog/indo rock band called "Jade Warrior" (I think of their "Floating World") .but T.E.B. cannot be reduced to a simple emulation of the best English bands within this hybrid genre, because their style was pretty unique and you could discover this way an unknown work, worth to be collected at know it's not my favourite music genre, yet it's another interesting album!
Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The third studio record of Third Ear Band continues the group's excursions within archaic oriental-influenced trance labyrinths. The songs are named as the four basic elements of European medieval alchemists' doctrines, relating to the theme from the band's first album. The first element "Air" builds up from a steady beat of tribal drums giving the rhythms for violin to improvise, the whole piece being surrounded by sounds of howling winds (surprisingly). On "Earth" the guitars and drum play a nice fastening and slowing marching progression, which is colored by klezmer sounding oboe lines. This is the best track here in my opinion. "Fire" has quite chaotic one-key violin / oboe improvisations over a tribal drum beat. The last suite "Water" is introduced by rolling waves, the playing starting up carefully with subtle and mystical string sounds. The start of King Crimson's "Providence" improvisation actually resembles this starting quite much in my opinion, until the primitive drumming comes in and the oboe / violin co-playing movement begins, having more constructed pretty melody runs than the majority of the album. The record is interesting, but maybe not extremely impressive album however. If you like acoustic ancient minimalistic music, this is a good source for such sonic charms.
Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is the second album from UK outfit Third Ear Band(love that name). Although their first album was called Alchemy, the songs here are called "Air", "Earth", "Fire" and "Water". Alchemy would have been a better title for this album, which is sometimes referred to as 'Elements'. The music here is almost completely acoustic. A mix of Indian raga, psychedelic folk and medieval music. It never really "rocks" which might turn off some people.

"Air" starts with wind noises. Then comes violin and oboe along with tabla. Later an odd sounding string instrument plays in a dissonant way. In the middle the tablas get louder and more intense creating a droning sound. The wind noises return and the song slowly fades out. Unlike the other three tracks, "Earth" actually has some key/chord changes. It starts with mandolin(?) and then oboe and another wind instrument. There is a plucked string instrument and constant banging on a percussion instrument. The song slowly increases in tempo, gets faster and more intense. Everything calms down about halfway through and then starts all over again. Then it fades out.

"Fire" is very hypnotic. The song doesn't change very much over it's 9 minute duration. It ends with what sounds like a loud trumpet blast. "Water" is maybe the best song here. Slowly it fades in with the sound of waves. The music starts off slow and then picks up with the tabla. There is a nice bass sound from the cello. Good oboe playing. It ends with wave sounds.

This kind of music was very original when it first came out, but it does not stand the test of time very well. It's nice to listen to when you want to hear something other than vocals, guitars, drums and keyboards. This might appeal to some space rock and Krautrock fans. Overall a good album but nothing essential. 3 stars.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars While initially forming out of the ashes of a band called Hydrogen Jukebox, percussionist Glen Sweeney switched gears to form THIRD EAR BAND, which was created to improvise Indo-raga type droning effects with freeform instruments that swirl like insects around the percussive drive. The band found success as they signed a three record album deal with Harvest Records. The debut release "Alchemy" displayed a totally unique form of musical experience that was part Indo-raga, part Medieval folk and part schizoid avant-garde bizarr-o-rama weirdness. Despite the completely freaked out nature of the album, this was the late 60s, a time when Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart were finding their day in the sun, and THIRD EAR BAND offered yet another mind altering musical experience to the impressive legacy of the era.

The second album, simply called THIRD EAR BAND continued the freeform improvisational setting of the debut album albeit in a slightly more accessible form, if accessible is the right word. By that i mean that this eponymous sophomore release is more structured and more tamped down by a steady percussive drive that sound to me like some sort of talking drums having conversations with one another. There are only four musicians. Percussionist Glen Sweeney, Paul Minns alternating between oboe and recorder, Richard Coff alternating between the violin and viola and Ursula Smith exemplifying her best cello torturing skills, however nothing on this second release is as far out and startling as the debut.

While eponymously titled, the album is affectionately called "Elements," that being due to the fact that it contains four tracks referencing the main elements of the Earth from antiquity. Those being of course: "Air," "Earth," "Fire" and "Water." Each track presents a musical motif that generates the overall vibe of the corresponding element. Therefore, "Air" is somewhat quickened like a vaporous gas with a heavy percussive drive and loose woodwind and string structures that are as formless as the clouds in the skies above. "Earth" is more grounded and sounds more like a Middle Eastern oasis stop with Arabian musical scales augmented by a rather Celtic sounding fiddling session that ratchets up ever slightly until it is fully caffeinated by the end of its near ten minute run.

"Fire," as expected is, well, fiery. This is the most avant-garde track on the album. While it utilizes the same steady percussive drive, it presents a cacophonous series of counterpoints like flickering flames in a campfire. The oboe provides an incessant drone while the recorder bounces around like a cauldron of popcorn at a movie theatre. Likewise the violin and cello are screechy and buzzing around each other like drunken bees on psychedelic honey. "Water" ends as the shortest track (just barely over seven minutes) and provides a nice relaxing counterpoint to the frenetic nature of "Fire." The drone enters and sustains uninterrupted for a long period. It is joined by ocean waves which i assume are field recordings. The percussion enters but is far gentler than any other track. Likewise the strings and wind instruments join in harmony as they gently unify to create a melody. This one offers a strange Celtic vibe with Medieval folk as the oriental influences have dissipated.

While far more adventurous than the average rock band of the 60s, "Elements" does tame down THIRD EAR BAND's bombastic display of their debut "Alchemy" quite a bit. Although staunchly avant-garde, this one has a smoother and more mature display of the musical flow. While some may deem this too repetitive or even dare i say, boring, i find this to be quite meditative. It has a passive beauty with the complexities shining through on the dissonant freeform counterpoints of the strings and woodwinds. It's also easy to hear how THIRD EAR BAND's improvisation style built on droning rhythmic flows of percussion were antecedents to the electronic pioneers of industrial as well as the more artistic angularities of post-punk especially in the no wave world. While not as adventurous as the debut, this one has a charm all its own in how it flows in a more controlled fashion. Another great album by THIRD EAR BAND.

Review by jamesbaldwin
5 stars Third Ear Band's second album is music on the border between the West and the East, between light and cultured classical music. It is instrumental music, from start to finish, played by a chamber musical ensemble, which has little to do with rock, except for the fact that some instruments such as violin or percussion are part of the Western rock repertoire.

The album, dedicated to the 4 elements, opens with Air, an impromptu suite with many due to improvisations mainly of oboe (Minns) and viola (Coff), while the tablas (Sweeney) produce a basic rhythm in Indian style very fast but that acts as a background carpet. Wind noise opens this first movement that looks like a jazz improvisation but the sound is completely different because it is conducted by the viola (and violin?), then at about three minutes takes over the oboe that dialogues with the strings in a continuous reference of dissonances that describe a landscape disjointed, very abstract, held together only by percussion, which give a constant basis to which the other instruments return after their overlapping solo scrolls. It is a magnificent piece and unfortunately the other movements (especially those on B- side) of the disc will no longer reach these heights. The piece will fade and again with the noise of the wind. Rating 9.

The second piece, Earth, is more synchronous between the rhythm of the tablas, which changes in speed, and the sound of the instruments. There is an increasingly sustained progression, a pause and a return of fast pace. More narrative piece, less abstract. It's like a folk dance but you can't say what kind of folk: Irish? Arabic? Chinese? Etruscan? Renaissance? We don't know. Another great piece. Rating 8.5/9

End of a wonderful A-side.

The B-side opens with Fire, which produces an orgiastic sound where all the instruments are engaged in high volume dissonances, we are close to the cacophony, you can only identify the odd rhythm of the tablas. The high notes of the strings and oboe are dubbed on both speakers producing extreme almost random dissonances that after a long time make it ardous to listen. Surely it is the most divisive piece, it seems a satanic ritual where you can just avoid paying attention to the ear (the third) and throw yourself into the dance by moving with your bowels. The ears may be annoying, the sounds are unpleasant, this piece should be taken as a tribal dance without listening to the single instrument but only the overall result. Frankly I can not love it, the more time passes the more I hope in a variation that does not arrive and then the song begins to annoy me for the endless racket. I recognize, however, that again the band has found an unprecedented musical fusion. Rating 7,5.

Water. Rain noise in the distance that bathes the fronds of the trees, soft sounds then come from the percussion of Sweeny, then it is the oboe (Minns) that leads the melody while the viola (Coff) occasionally doubles it and the cello (Smith) produces dissonances in the background. Quiet movement, without particular peaks or falls, is more than anything a variation on a dominant melodic theme with percussion to beat a rhythm in three times. Over time it becomes less and less melodic. Rating 8.

This is an essentially folk-fusion album, completely original and without possible comparison. It has an exceptional first side for both arrangement and music, which could make this album an absolute masterpiece of folk-rock (or chamber music?) but a much less successful second side where the arrangements are still sensational but the music is not of the highest level and then the record is takes "only" a 9+.

Five stars.

Review by Warthur
5 stars Third Ear Band's bizarre variety of raga-influenced ambient medieval folk is taken a few steps further on their self-titled album, consisting of four long suites themed around the classical elements. If their debut, Alchemy, was a rough draft of this musical vision, this is their magnum opus - with better production, richer compositions, more layered instruments, less sparseness. The use of repetitive percussion is reminiscent of some flavours of Krautrock, whilst the foreboding mood evoked manages to bridge the world of the darker sorts of drone ambient and the more sinister flavours of folk.

Careful listeners may also detect elements of avant-garde classical music and free jazz deep in the DNA of this bizarre musical chimera, but really there is little precedent for Third Ear Band besides the group's own debut album; Univers Zero or Art Zoyd would later revisit some of these territories (listen to the start of Water, for instance, and tell me you can't imagine those ROI stalwarts doing something similar). Like its predecessor, astonishingly ahead of its time.

Latest members reviews

1 stars Third Ear Band, or the elements album as you might call it is The Third Ear Bands second studio album which released in 1970. The songs on this album are the names of the elements (air,earth,water,fire) which gave it the nickname elements. I was hoping this album would represent the elements wit ... (read more)

Report this review (#2509570) | Posted by Lieutenant_Lan | Saturday, February 27, 2021 | Review Permanlink

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