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3RDegree - Human Interest Story CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.51 | 39 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars I honestly don't know why more people haven't praised this one!

Okay, so when I purchased this band's third studio effort, ''Narrow-Caster'', the album had been hailed by so many as being the second coming of modern Progressive Rock. That kind of reputation can be both good and bad; on the plus side, it meant that these guys, after years of not being able to 'break out' in the music scene, were now finally being heard by everybody and their cousin, which led to much more recognition and sales. Nothing wrong with that at all, but there is also a negative side to such praise; people like me, who try to be as honest as possible in their reviews, went in to that record with much anticipation and and were somewhat let down by ''Narrow-Caster'''s seemingly average content.

Keep in mind, that album had been highly recommended by nearly all of the experts here, and was given high marks all across the board. So my guard wasn't up at all, and my hopes were high. That was my fault. I should have stuck to my guns and approached ''Narrow-Caster'' with the same attitude I approach all records. Perhaps then, I wouldn't have been as initially disappointed with the release.

Fast-forward to a couple of months ago; Robert (James Pashman) and I were exchanging E-Mails with regards to the band's second album, ''Human Interest Story''. Now, while I was initially disappointed to some degree by the first 3rdegree album I heard, I have since come to appreciate it for what it is, and enjoy a bit more than I did in the beginning. Having said that, ''Human Interest Story'' had interested me quite a bit, because Robert had assured me that it was much more 'Prog Rock' in its overall style. So after hearing this, I decided to go ahead and order the sucker. Robert seemed fairly convinced that I would enjoy this album more due to it's more experimental nature. Boy, was he right!

While the pop influences are still there (which by the way, I am not opposed to), there is a clearly more Progressive edge to this music. Plenty of people may disagree with this, but I think ''Human Interest Story'' is a superior album to ''Narrow-Caster''. I honestly wish more people would listen to this one and give their opinion, because I think people like me would enjoy 3rdegree a lot more if they knew that all of this rich music was available.

I'm not trying to say that ''Narrow-Caster'' wasn't a good album. I never disputed that it was. My argument, rather, was for whether or not it was actually a Progessive Rock record. After my initial difference of opinion, a couple of other reviewers also stepped up and gave similar opinions, so obviously there was enough question there for those opinions to be valid. WIth ''Human Interest Story'', I don't think any question exists at all; this is Prog.

The album's first song right off the bat put me into a completely different headspace than the last record I heard by 3rdegree had done. The grooves present in the music here are much more unconventional and experimental, as is all the instrumentation and even the vocal melodies, which shocked me the most, since most of the singing in ''Narrow-Caster'' sounded to me quite straightforward more often than not. Everything on this album just sounds more complex and involved to my ears, and as a result I do enjoy this album more. I suspect some of this is simply because I'm now familiar with 3rdegree's sound, and therefore know a little more of what to expect going in. Even considered that, however, this album DID surprise me quite a bit.

Much more varied than what I have heard from them before, the album boasts a wide selection of prog and pop tunes, seamlessly integrated into one cohesive whole. The tracks flow into each other very well, and the album never feels contrived or forced. No song goes over seven minutes long, either, and most of them are around a four minute average length. The pop moments that are present are done in a way that seems full of originality and complexity, proving that these guys can right pop-like tunes without sacrificing the songwriting itself.

Again, I feel like when I say these things about this album that it somehow eludes to me feeling the exact opposite about ''Narrow- Caster'', and I don't at all, but I am going the extra mile to strain how much more I enjoyed this record simply because I'm sure there have been others in my position that may have listened to the newest album, decided the music didn't really speak to them, and perhaps those people moved on without giving this album a listen first. The music on this thing is absolutely beautiful more often than not, and I want to make that known, since so few people have apparently heard this thing, at least around these parts. I mean, ONE rating prior to this writing? Unbelievable.

Some of the standout tracks to me include: 'Human Interest Story', '13/Mistakes', 'Locked Inside', 'I', 'Stardust', 'Falling Through The Cracks', 'Black Orchid', 'Ladder' and 'We Must Wake Now', among others. There is is just so much varied content packed into this recording, and a hell of an amount of music to listen to. Everything is present here from traditional Pop/Rock tunes to the more staple Prog 'epic' styles, and even some cool, 80s-style Hip-Hop thrown in for brief periods! Yet despite these wide differences in style, it all seems to fit very well musically. You are bound to find something here to like, and most of it you will probably even love.

I have indeed become a much more avid 3rdegree fan upon hearing this gem of an album. So I suggest if you are somebody who like me heard of 3rdegree, invested in ''Narrow-Caster'', and didn't quite relate . . . please give ''Human Interest Story'' a chance. I think you will find that you have been missing out on some truly incredible modern prog music. Plenty of heart and soul has been poured into this effort in particular, and I think it's a shame so few things have been said about it thus far. More people need to to hear and comment on this release. 3rdegree's true diversity shines brilliantly on this album, and I for one hope that they go in this music direction again someday, provided their creative genius does inteed point them in that direction. It shouldn't be forced, of course, but if the guys see it the right direction to once again, I should be particularly thrilled to hear it.

So, I say that ''Human Interest Story'' is, on the whole, a better album than ''Narrow-Caster''. Call me crazy, but that's how I feel about it. I'm sure I'm not alone, but I just wish more good things were said about this one. It seems to be overshadowed considerably by its younger, critically-hailed younger brother, and I wonder how much of that has to do with actual content, and how much of it is simply due to which album got the most exposure.

3.8 out of 5 is my rating for this. Since PA doesn't have a point system, I'm giving it four stars. There is absolutely no excuse for an album this good to be over a decade old, and have only one other person reviewing it. Go buy it, then spread the word. People need to hear this one. It's fantastic.

JLocke | 4/5 |


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