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The Third Estate biography
THE THIRD ESTATE were another in a fairly long line of brief collaborations resulting in obscure, private-label albums spawned from college campuses the world over in the late sixties and early seventies. In Third Estate's case the campus was Southeastern Louisiana University, and the music is rather difficult to classify. The 'band' (if it can even be called that) consisted of composer/vocalist/guitarist/bassist Robert Everett, composer/guitarist Chas Harrell, and drummer/percussionist Jerry Lang. This was less of a traditional band, and more of an on-going friendship between Everett and Harrell that involved other musicians when necessary, although the two of them had previously recorded unreleased material as THE ZEALOTS (later changed to AGONISTES).

The band's music is equally balanced between acoustic and electric guitar, with heavy emphasis on picking and strumming but also highly rhythmic and melodic compositions. The lyrical themes range from nostalgic to historical, with the primary theme of their one album being of an historical bent.

That album is the 1976 release "Years Before the Wine", produced with either 500 or 800 copies depending on who is telling the story, and with each cover hand-labeled and unique. The reissued 2006 (vinyl) album is accompanied by a single containing two other Everett compositions from 1968 and 1971, and the tracks on their album were recorded between 1973 and 1975, though not released until 1976. The stated theme of the album is a reflection on the French Revolution of 1789 in which the 'third estate' actually represented virtually the entire country outside of the clergy and nobility; but some of the lyrics on the first side are more introspective and poetic, and seem only vaguely related to those on the back side.

There is no record that the band toured or otherwise existed in any notable fashion after the release of their album. Everett, Lang and Harrell continued for a few years in different lineups of various regional cover bands, but all have moved on to other careers since. Today Everett is a professor of science at the University of Central Florida and is still records occasionally.

THE THIRD ESTATE deserve a place in the ProgArchives for there one album that despite being obscure and brief, still represents all that makes progressive music so appealing and distinctive as compared to mass-produced 'popular' music.

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Years Before The Wine + Agonistes by Third EstateYears Before The Wine + Agonistes by Third Estate
Code 7 - Lion Productions
Years Before the Wine [Vinyl]Years Before the Wine [Vinyl]
City Hall (Generic) 2009
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THE THIRD ESTATE discography

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THE THIRD ESTATE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.96 | 6 ratings
Years Before the Wine

THE THIRD ESTATE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THE THIRD ESTATE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

THE THIRD ESTATE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.05 | 2 ratings

THE THIRD ESTATE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)


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 Agonistes by THIRD ESTATE, THE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2008
4.05 | 2 ratings

The Third Estate Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

4 stars As far as I know this album was never legitimately released until Lion Productions put it out as part of a 2-disc set combined with the slightly better-known Third Estate album ‘Years Before the Wine’. The latter has a place in record-collector lore for its rare production run of 500 copies and rampant bootlegging throughout the eighties. I purchased a copy of the vinyl reissue of ‘Years Before the Wine’ a couple of years ago and had the pleasure of discovering it myself. If you haven’t had the experience then you should go find that thing; if you can’t, locate this one instead since disc one is the same album.

The second CD contains earlier recordings from pretty much the same group consisting basically of the duo of guitarist / keyboardist / composer Robert Everett and guitarist Chas Harrell. The two went by the name Agonistes at the time they recorded these songs (1971-1973 timeframe). I don’t believe they were a proper group per se since they didn’t have a label or agent or regularly touring schedule, etc.

What they did have was an uncanny knack for catchy guitar riffs and song hooks that gave their music something approaching mass appeal, while at the same time clearly demonstrating a prog folk spirit and adventurous, experimental approach to making music.

You’ll hear a number of licks on this album that reappear in more mature fashion on ‘Years’. The opening riff on “Searchin” here for example resurfaces as a transitional bridge toward the end of the title track on ‘Years’ better amplified and better mixed, but otherwise essentially unchanged. “Sing His Song” has a very similar riff and appears twice on this compilation; once as a 1973 studio version and again on the single version that is also included as part of the 2008 Anthology reissue of ‘Years Before the Wine’ (“Thought I Heard You Calling” is also part of the bonus material on this disc).

The driving strumming that permeates “Resurrection” also gets folked up and overlaid with an Al Stewart imitation on ‘Years’ in the form of the song “Look at Me”. And there’s a demo version of “Years Before The Wine” that predates that album by a couple of years but sounds more like an unplugged version even though at least one of the guitars is electric; along with “Teenage Love” which was I believe a high-school recording by the duo in 1968 that is included as a 45rpm single with the 2006 Void Records vinyl version of ‘Years’.

There are a number of other ‘bonus’ and ‘single’ tracks here, although in reality it’s all bonus material since the record was never officially released back when the songs were recorded in the early seventies. Everett has stated the Strawbs were a major influence on the band back when they were recording this music, and I guess I can hear some of the same breezy, easygoing folksy approach that made Strawbs so appealing in their heyday.

Several songs here are fairly rough, the production is predictably uneven considering the various recording sessions they came from and the relative inexperience of the musicians involved. And nothing on this record approaches the cohesive charm and appeal of ‘Years Before the Wine’. But as a period piece this is a great companion disc to ‘Years’ and a welcome inclusion in what is essentially a boxed-set of the band’s entire repertoire. If I were rating ‘Agonistes’ individually I’d say it deserves a respectful two-stars; however, as part of this set I’m going to go with four since you get the Third Estate’s best album with this rarities collection as a bonus. Well recommended to fans of creative guitar noodling and seventies West Coast-tinted folk rock.


 Years Before the Wine by THIRD ESTATE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.96 | 6 ratings

Years Before the Wine
The Third Estate Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

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.


Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the artist addition.

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