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Third Ear Band

Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

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Third Ear Band Music From Macbeth album cover
3.32 | 39 ratings | 12 reviews | 18% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1972

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Overture (4:19)
2. Beach (1:53)
3. Lady Macbeth (1:48)
4. Inverness: Macbeth's Return / The Preparation Fanfare / Duncan's Arrival (4:58)
5. The anquet (1:20)
6. Dagger and Death (2:49)
7. At the Well / The Princes' Escape / Coronation / Come Sealing Night (2:18)
8. Court Dance (3:09)
9. Fleance (4:00)
10. Grooms' Dance (4:21)
11. Bear Baiting (1:09)
12. Ambush / Banquo's Ghost (2:26)
13. Going to Bed / Blind Man's Buff / Requiescant / Sere and Yellow Leaf (3:03)
14. Cauldron (1:24)
15. Prophecies (3:07)
16. Wicca Way (1:26)

Bonus tracks on Esoteric 2019:
17. Court Dance (1st version) (3:15)
18. Groom's Dance (1st version) (4:23)
19. Fleance (1st version) (3:58)

Line-up / Musicians

- Glenn Sweeney / drums, percussion
- Paul Minns / oboe, recorder
- Simon House / violin, VCS3
- Paul Buckmaste / violoncello & bass)
- Denim Bridges / guitars

- Keith Chegwin / boy soprano vocals on 'Fleance'

Releases information

Soundtrack to Roman Polanski's film Macbeth.
LP: Harvest.
Several CD reissues, e.g. Esoteric Recordings 2019 (PECLEC 2656)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Matti for the last updates
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THIRD EAR BAND Music From Macbeth ratings distribution

(39 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(18%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(28%)
Good, but non-essential (38%)
Collectors/fans only (13%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

THIRD EAR BAND Music From Macbeth reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars If you are familiar with TEB's sound , you can easily imagine that this sort of music would make a terrific soundtrack to a tense movie. And Roman Polanski did such a film (which I have never seen, BTW) based on Shakespeare's MacBeth.

However , one cannot say that this is a typical TEB album as the music is rather different, offering many short tracks , some with vocalizing. There is an eerie beautyfulness and gothic feel to this music , but somehow , I always found something was missing. Maybe the film images.

TEB have actually won an award (a grammy or its British equivalent) for this soundtrack , which brought them fame , but although they had recorded the following album (their best IMHO), but for some reason, they chose to pack it in. The last album called The Magus gaining only this year its release, I suggest you start out with the debut album or the Magus

Review by philippe
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Composed as a soundtrack, Music from Macbeth represents an other mysterious, "weird" exploration in progressive "ethnic trance". A first distinction with "Alchemy" & their self title is the accentuation put on dissonant sounds and medieval harmonies and instrumentation. The album is also less rhythmical and more difficult to approach despite that is a soundtrack. "Overture" is a dark reminiscence of what we've ever heard on their previous efforts with the addition of guitars. The combination of oboe and the violin is always as evident as before. "The beach" is an atonal atmospheric track dominated by a violin's single sustained note, some concrete noises of "birds" and guitar effects. "Lady Macbeth" is a rather bucolic composition made of plaintive oboe parts and acoustic guitar then come dissonant violin lines. "Macbeth's return" is a folkish medieval writing for dancing violin and oboe parts accompanied by a constant percussion's pulse. "Banquet" is an other folkish composition sustained by long, linear, monotonous and atonal oboe, violin lines. "Dagger and death" catches the essence of embryonic electronic rock experimentations with lot of guitar effects and violin glissandos & "drones". "At the well" is an other dissonant song with minimal jazzy guitar parts. "Fleance" features some female vocals built on a very pastoral, dancing acoustic instrumental. "Bear Baiting" also put the accent on medieval, celtic, acoustic and dancing structure. A beautiful album but less evanescent than the hypnotic and eastern minimalist "alchemy" or "third ear band". This album needs several listenings to be fully appreciated
Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Before finding this album I knew The William Shakespeare's classic drama which it was based on, and also the minimalistic and archaic ethnic sound of Third Ear Band was familiar to me, but I did not know that Roman Polanski has also directed a film from this play, the record being it's soundtrack.

The "Overture" brings forth the familiar sound of the group, raw pipe sound playing joylessly in unconventional scales, tribal calm drumming, supported by amplified guitar, bass and some strings. After this the music changes more interesting (for me), as there are some ancient European classical music elements included to the sound in interesting way, and there are some quite formless, personal sequences resembling maybe Brian Eno's Pachelbel variations. There is also some rare element for this group here present, this being singing on the very medieval oriented "Fleance" song. The storyline is followed with quite many simple songs, which are often more sound environments than tonal compositions. The music is maybe not totally fitting to my own taste, but contains still quite fine moments, and being very refreshing personal and different record. The band certainly produces something quite personal with scarce amount of musical elements. Maybe the fastness of some ideas distracted little the listening, and also the pleasant moments are companied with some phases not very pleasant to experience.

If you wish to hear very personal, raw and ancient oriented music, it is certainly provided by this record. Due my interest to European classical and folk music, I think this is so far the most interesting album by this group I have heard, and I have to find an opportunity to experience the original film of the master director.

Review by GruvanDahlman
3 stars As with soooo many scores written for the screen the music is suited for an audiovisual experience, rather than simply listening to it. It's the case with, for instance, Popol Vuh's soundtrack albums to the Herzog movies. Extremely beautiful and engaging, when combined with the actual movie. The same goes for Third Ear Band's "Macbeth".

Whenever I watch the movie, a favorite of mine, I love everything about it, not least the music with it's chaotic, scary ambiance. When I listen to the soundtrack I am less amused. Obviously there's brilliance on this record. The band is brilliant. It is simply a question of the music not being able to sustain the brilliance on it's own. Accompanied by the movie it is an easy four star album, when listened to without the movie a solid three star. That does not mean I fully grasp the music. No, not at all ('cause I don't) but I can feel it, knowing and understanding that it is good.

My favorite track on the album is "Fleance". That track is as gourgeous as music gets. Steeped in history and molded in an amazing coat of a strong, beutiful voice of a young boy it lifts me up and transports me in to Time and Space, allowing me to touch tha world of yesteryear. Obviously I am raving but it is quite a powerful track. When combined with the footage it is heavenly, on it's own captivating. Easily a five star song and one I return to ever so often. I thank Third Ear Band from the bottom of my heart for that track.

Conclusion: Great soundtrack, not so great an album. Brilliant but not as enjoyable on it's own as with the actual movie. Still, "Fleance" is a track making the album worth every single penny.

Review by Dobermensch
3 stars I'm always left wondering why I bought albums by this mob. I guess I'm a real sucker for impressive artwork. Being the soundtrack to Roman Polanski's 'Macbeth' film, you'd think it would be a bit more dramatic.

They're known for their swirling, acoustic trance music. It's certainly swirling - Iistening to this makes me feel like I've been on a Merry-go-round for two hours after drinking a bottle of gin and wanting to get off pronto before the unthinkable happens.

There's an awful lot of droning atonal oboe and violin at play here and despite their professionalism it's terribly untuneful and wayward. In fact it reminds me of the superb band 'Biota' but far more minimalistic, gloomy and grey - and being from the early 70's, played with a lot less effect units. Supposedly there's a VCS3 synth used, but for the life of me I'm never aware of it.

A few notes are repeated incessantly, ovelapping and at odds with one another. It's all strangely discordant and vague. I do like the field recordings of the seagulls and later on - blackbirds. I could be cruel and say that they have more musical sense than 'The Third Ear Band'.

I've never seen the film, so perhaps I'm being a bit harsh here. Perhaps it fits perfectly with the visuals it accompanied? It does remind me of Pasolini's 'Canterbury Tales' movie. Both are similar in sound.

'Macbeth' improves the longer it plays. Your ears and senses become accustomed to the out of time beats, the groaning strings and screeching recorders. It's a 'difficult' album but with perseverance can implausibly be quite rewarding in a sadistic kind of way.

I'll give it this - 'Macbeth' must be the worst hangover album ever made. If you play this on a Sunday morning after a heavy Saturday night, you'll regret it - big time...

Review by siLLy puPPy
4 stars THIRD EAR BAND released their self-tiled album also known as "Elements" in 1970 having found notoriety with their other-worldly mix of folk ragas, chamber music and free jazz cranked out on medieval acoustic instruments. The band managed to score gigs by cohorting with some of the psychedelic 60s bigwigs including Pink Floyd and Pretty Things. During the same year, the band was commissioned to create a soundtrack for the animated film "Abelard And Heloise" but remained unreleased until it finally appeared in 1997 on the book / CD set "Necromancers Of The Floating West."

Although it remained occulted for decades, it still resulted in the band participating in yet another soundtrack, the one for Roman Polanski's dark and sombre version of "Macbeth," which was his first movie he made after the horrifying murder of his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, who was snuffed out by Charles Manson and his homicidal death cult. Like his real life tales of torturous pain and doom and gloom set in the tenebrous fog and rainy lands of Scotland, Polanski's version of MacBeth reveled in a cursed and terrifying history and in many ways mirrored the very personal experiences he suffered from the miscreant Manson family.

Polanski could not have chosen a more suitable band for his project for no one at the time matched the sheer terrifying sonic scope of THIRD EAR BAND. For their limitations to a mere handful of acoustic instruments such as oboe, recorder, cello, drums and violins, no one else of the era could evoke such hair-raising emotional power as this band could with their utterly alien approach of seeking out new chapters of musical composition. On MUSIC FROM MACBETH, technically the band's third and final album of the first chapter of their initial run, the band straddles beautifully between bizarre formless constructs of sound and more lugubrious renditions of medieval dance and anachronistic swing.

While there is no mistaking the distinct THIRD EAR BAND sound, this album was different than their previous two works. Firstly, the long improvisations that extended to swallow large chunks of their album's real estate had been truncated into sixteen shorter tracks thus allowing a more focused approach. This album also contains electronic effects as well as angelic vocal contributions by a prepubescent 12-year old Keith Chegwin (although sparingly). The album utilizes the same sort of chamber music as before but there are also elements of Indian and Middle Eastern influences strewn about as well. The tracks alternate between more structured period pieces that are somewhat uplifting and completely detached and alienating tracks that utilized the terrifying effects of aleatoric music which THIRD EAR BAND accomplished with astonishing success.

While some soundtracks are made to accompany a cinematic experience and do not hold up on their own two feet, MUSIC FROM MACBETH is an exception as it lends just enough focusing effects on the music to give it a unifying theme yet allows the band to explore their tumultuous and improvisation acid folk techniques to full glory. This is an excellent slice of early 70s freak folk that manages to take a creative road through what one would assume to be tried and tested material. Much like Polanski's personal experiences, "MacBeth" was a dark and sombre take on Shakespeare's famous oeuvre and THIRD EAR BAND's sonic touches proved to be one of the best decisions he made in regarding the perfect film score to match the film's intensity. This music more than stands up on its own and seems like a logical precursor to the chamber rock avant prog that Univers Zero would adopt several years down the road.

Review by Matti
3 stars THIRD EAR BAND was a British instrumental group that released four albums between 1969 and 1972 (later they reactivated and made many more albums). Perhaps they were originally associated to the progressive rock scene more because of their prog-oriented record label Harvest than the nature of the music itself. The band isn't very familiar to me, so I can't compare this work to their other albums. However, this one obviously differs from its predecessors in the way that the tracks are often very short (mostly between 1 and 3 minutes) instead of containing lengthy hypnotic drones, since it was composed for film, Roman Polanski's Macbeth (1971). I haven't seen it, but it seems to have become a respected classic. "Perhaps William Shakespeare meant to have Lady Macbeth perform her sleepwalking scene in the nude -- it was this X-rated scene and the film's much-publicized spurts of violence, rather than the brilliant performances of Jon Finch as Macbeth and Francesca Annis as his Lady, that lured crowds", says Hal Erickson in his All Movie Guide review. Did you know that the film was financed by Playboy?

To demonstrate the uniqueness of TEB, it's good to begin with the unusual instrumentation: oboe and recorder (Paul Minns), cello and bass (Paul Buckmaster), plus guitars, drums, violin and VCS3 synth. The two last mentioned are played by Simon House, formerly of High Tide and later of Hawkwind -- the only member who hasn't any composing credits here. The music is mostly acoustic, pretty much dominated by oboe, cello and violin. Also the simple percussion sounds like the band is after an old music flavour. But they were no Amazing Blondel; no harmonic troubadour stuff but slightly disjointed and gloomy soundscapes. One can imagine how emotionally effective this music is on the film telling the sinister story of Macbeth, but undoubtedly it loses some of its appeal without that context.

A couple of brief tracks such as 'Dagger and Death' are more experimental and disturbing than the rest. The most accessible pieces are the rhythmic 'Court Dance' and 'Fleance', which is the only track featuring vocals. The album credits don't mention the vocalist. Only the close reading of the liner notes (I'm having the new Esoteric Recordings re-release) reveals the name Keith Chegwin -- surprisingly, since one would expect a woman. Apart from the lengthy liner notes (written by the underground writer/archivist Luca Chino Ferrari), the ER reissue contains three bonus tracks, previously unreleased first versions of 'Court Dance', 'Groom's Dance' and 'Fleance'. To my ears the differences are small, but at least the pieces in question are among the album highlights.

Personally speaking, this album didn't make me very interested in Third Ear Band. A bit too odd for my liking... Not that I'd ever been very keen on so called Raga-Rock in general. If you fancy hearing acoustic, oboe and string dominated, old music flavoured and dark-toned instrumental music, especially the new reissue with the detailed liner notes is worth checking out.

Review by kenethlevine
3 stars If THIRD EAR BAND tends to be aggregated along with the progressive rock movement, the association has far more to do with their period of activity and tendency to experiment, though to a degree that most prog bands of their day could not or would not engage. I would add another quality that they share with the more prototypical artists of this period: elitism, and in fact their first few albums are projections of an exclusivity that relegated them to the commercial margins , though their debut did shockingly brush the lower rungs of the UK charts. More sound than music in the general sense, they, and perhaps most listeners, pleaded for a modicum of the mundane, perhaps a note held for less than 30 seconds followed by another note that belonged with the first. But alas, such was not to be...until they briefly transformed themselves into a stringy Anglo analog to GOBLIN.

It began with the soundtrack for a German made for TV movie, "Abelard and Heloise", and followed just 2 years later with their scoring of a score for Roman Polanski's "Macbeth", and then they inexplicably disappeared for almost 2 decades. The comparison to GOBLIN isn't just for the movie connection but for the morbidity of the motifs, depicted on string and oboe rather than organ, which imparts a demented and twisted atmosphere. This clutches the listener fiercely even without knowledge of how Macbeth yields to his innate and hitherto suppressed evil spurred by the naive and skin deep musings of his Lady.

The shorter track lengths offer a shred of accessibility as well, but this is still far from an easy listen, though the opening "Overture" does scratch that Gothic itch, and "Lady Macbeth" breathily heralds the relative vivaciousness of "Inverness". But it's on the trio of "Court Dance", "Fleance" and "Groom's Dance" that they actually sound like a medieval string and wind ensemble, or at least what I imagine one would sound like. Paul Minns' oboe is especially versatile, though it's his recorder that ushers in "Fleance" and swirls about the guest boy soprano Keith Chegwin throughout. This is a staggeringly lovely number embodying a spirit distant in time and place. Interestingly, others seem to agree based on the frequency with which it is conjured on streaming sites.

Unfortunately, the remaining tracks, apart from the "Going to bed" suite and the foreboding closer "Wicca Way" , offer a more soporific mix of the band's own tendencies while neurotically trying to avoid overpowering the scenes in which they are instantiated. This is a common issue with soundtracks, but, since so much of this one was sliced and diced by Polanski, I'm not sure there is a setting for, say, "Prophecies", that hasn't disintegrated in a landfill.

The remastered version has original takes of the three aforementioned centerpieces, none of which are especially different, but they do reinforce the significance of this path rarely trod by THIRD EAR BAND, and given up before it could flourish. But I suppose THIRD EAR BAND wasn't about compromises, and all told their rendering of Macbeth is no tragedy.

Review by Warthur
4 stars This was the soundtrack to a Roman Polanski of Macbeth, from back when you could collaborate with Polanski without having to consciously overlook his sex crime conviction. Whereas Third Ear Band's self-titled album found them expanding the sound of Alchemy into long, dreamy suites, the requirements of soundtrack work meant they had to condense their music down into shorter, tighter compositions.

The end result sounds an awful lot like a prototype for Univers Zero. That isn't something you might expect given the musical influences that feed into their work - medieval folk, traditional Indian music, a touch of psychedelia here, a larger dab of free jazz and avant-garde classical there - but between the dark atmosphere, the "chamber rock" instrumentation, and the unconventional approach, it very much feels like a prototype for the sort of territory that Univers Zero, Art Zoyd, and Present would eventually explore.

Latest members reviews

3 stars Just when you start to think the third ear band is made up of tone deaf hippies, they surprise you with something quite extraordinary beautiful. I believe the track is called "Fleance" and features a perfect vocal by a choir boy. This track alone is worth the entrance fee. The Film Macbeth ... (read more)

Report this review (#92247) | Posted by burgersoft777 | Wednesday, September 27, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars There might not be rock band with music peculiar like THIRD EAR BAND. They are rare progressive rock band. It is musical in the Middle Ages.However, it is a work with the atmosphere of Indian music. It is suitable album for calling the masterpiece enhanced. They were going to construct the ... (read more)

Report this review (#50682) | Posted by braindamage | Saturday, October 8, 2005 | Review Permanlink

1 stars This is one of those albums I take out every 12 months or so to listen to and try to understand what it's all about. Sadly despite repeated attempts I still don't get it. What makes it so frustrating is that the 2 previous records have a lot of interesting ideas and some strong world music and ... (read more)

Report this review (#46098) | Posted by Dave Preston | Friday, September 9, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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