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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Third Ear Band

Alchemy

Review by Gary Hill

I previously reviewed another set from this act, and this is a new reissue with all kinds of cool bonus material. These guys aren't progressive rock, but they are proto prog. Clearly their blend of world music, classical and psychedelia was a huge influence on things ranging from chamber prog to Rock in Opposition and more. This isn't really rock music, but it is clearly progressive for its time. This instrumental music isn't so much written for deep written analysis, but more to set a mood and groove on it. Still, I've done track by track reviews here as that's required for MSJ coverage.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
CD One
       
Mosaic

Weird plinking sounds start this. Then drums join followed by a wind instrument. The piece works forward in a strange, freeform classical meets psychedelic way. Eventually this gets into more of a Rock In Opposition classical approach.

Ghetto Raga
Trippy, psychedelic textures make up the musical concept here. This works out to a more old world styled jam that has plenty of world music in the mix. It manages to remain psychedelic, though. There are moments when this makes me think of The Who's "Baba O'Riley" just a bit. This cut is about ten-and-a-half minutes long.
Druid One
More percussive, this is another trippy piece of instrumental music. There are hints of sounds not unlike the mellower side of early King Crimson.
Stone Circle
I dig the cool world music textures on this thing. It has a lot of psychedelia in the mix, too.
Egyptian Book of the Dead
There is a dramatic and mysterious texture to this piece. The cut is trippy and so cool. It evolves gradually and has some great psychedelic edges to it. It's experimental and a bit unsettling. Again some comparisons to early King Crimson are valid. The driving, climbing section of this has some really intriguing vibes.
Area Three
In a lot of ways this even more dropped back. It's got lots of world music in the mix along with plenty of psychedelic elements.
Dragon Lines
This is crazy and trippy and very interesting. It's not a huge change, but is an intriguing ride with a lot of world music built into it.
Lark Rise
Very old world in texture, this feels like the kind of thing some court minstrel might have played. It's a nice change.
Bonus Tracks
             
BBC Radio One "Top Gear" Session 27th July 1969
            
Previously Unreleased

          

Hyde Park Raga

This comes in with more of a pure psychedelic edge and vibe.

Druid One
Getting quite powerful and rather King Crimson like, I really dig this jam. It has such a driving intensity to it.
CD Two
             
Recordings Made in 1968
                
Cosmic Trip

Percussion leads this out of the gate. It rises upward with an almost rocking texture, but the instrumentation remains classical. The trippy sounds of this are again related to the kind of stuff King Crimson was fond of doing in the early days.

Jason's Trip
Not a huge change, this is another cool musical exploration.
Devil's Weed
This trip gets a bit unsettling at times. It has a good balance between louder and softer passages and is packed full of dramatic moments.
Recorded at Abbey Road Studios - 24th January 1969
               
Previously Unreleased
       
Raga No. 1 (Mono)

I really dig the world music turned psychedelic vibe of this cut. It has a great mood and musical concept.

Unity
There is a lot of cool jamming on this. The cut is packed with world music, classical textures, psychedelia and more all merged together into a tasty slice of sonic art.
Recorded at Abbey Road Studios - 12th September 1969
                   
Previously Unreleased
          
The Sea

There are a lot of classical music elements built into this. It has some powerful melodies and really delivers some of the most "song-like" moments of the set.

Druid
Mellow and atmospheric, this cut works really well. It's quite an intriguing number. This thing gets driving and really has some powerful sections. The world music really shines on it. This piece runs for more than 11 minutes.
Hyde Park Raga
Another extended piece, this is close to 12-and-a-half minutes of music. It isn't a huge change, but rather is made up of more classy, trippy world music meets chamber and psychedelia. There is some driving powerful stuff as this works forward later in the piece.
 
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