November 29, 2011

"The Lost Broadcasts" DVD: a review.

Included on “The Lost Broadcasts” series by English label Gonzo Multimedia, this DVD features some rare television performances by the Third Ear Band recorded on September 11th, 1970 by the line-up with Glen Sweeney (hand drums), Paul Minns (oboe), Denim Bridges (guitar), Paul Buckmaster (bass) and Gasper Lawal on congas as a guest musician.
The session was recorded for the German TV programme "Beat Club".


Some philological considerations
The compilation consists of three tracks only - “In D”, “Hyde Park” and “Druid Grocking”. 
According notes editor Jon Kirkman, the first (6:00) was "thought to be "Raga in D" a piece originally recorded  at the sessions for the debut album "Alchemy"", but as every serious TEB fan knows (read on this archive at http://ghettoraga.blogspot.com/2010/10/5-teb-fans-cant-be-wrong-at-last-heres.html) this is a sonorous incredible mistake because actually "Raga in D" was recorded by the very first TEB line-up with acoustic instruments and very different harmonic/melodic structure (please download and compare the tracks Mr. Kirkman!)...
This DVD live in the studio version is instead the same "Eternity in D" played by the band at "John Peel Sessions" radio programme on January 7th, 1971 and recorded the same year in a Balham recording studios with the new title "Ghoo" (abbreviation of "Genetic Octopogillar Goo"): you can read a file at the page http://ghettoraga.blogspot.com/2010/09/ghoo-aka-eternity-in-d-rough-recording.html of this archive.

The Band performing "Druid Grocking".

About “Hyde Park” (8:33), we had that short version circulating on the Net among fans as "Hyde Park Raga", recorded live in the studio for the same "Beat Club" German TV programme on September 26th, 1970 (read at http://ghettoraga.blogspot.com/2009/12/hyde-park-third-ear-band-tv-video_09.html). This is a longer more experimental version, caratherized by brilliant extensive Paul Minns' solos but a poor, slack Bridges on guitar.

Buckmaster, Bridges and Minns performing "In D".

The last track is titled "Druid Grocking" (14:51) and according the DVD editor "was another track played during a John Peel Top Gear session in the Summer of 1969 and was an extended and adapted workout of the song "Druid One" from the "Alchemy" album".
A statement quite arguable because that known session for John Peel (aired on July 27th, 1970) included a track titled "Druid", presumably a live rendition of the original "Druid One"... (even if we know there are some tracks titled "Druid" in the TEB repertoire...).
Also we have no proofs that a track with the name "Grocking" on the title was played by the band for John Peel: you can check the great book edited by  Ken Garrer titled  "The Peel Sessions"  (BBC Books, UK 2007) or read a file published here at http://ghettoraga.blogspot.com/2009/12/how-many-teb-unrealized-tracks-left.html
Instead it's possible that the correct title is "David Grocking".

The TEB on the stage: note the clouds in the back...

Rather intriguing some remarks written by musician/TEB big fan Sedayne about it: "I love the confusion over DRUID and DAVID - this obviously comes from the typeface used, where the R looks like an A and the U looks like V but I think I'll adopt the name 'David Grocking'.
If I recall right this isn't the first time DRUID has been mistaken for DAVID. I've got a laconic John Peel In Concert intro someplace in which he slights his secretary for making the same error...
And then some say Jesus of the house of David came to Glastonbury to become a druid. Listening to this music I can well believe it. Maybe his secret initiate name was David Grocking? After all in the Urban Dixctionary we read that "grokking" is:

'One who has graduated from penultimate hipster status, the educated hobo embodies various attributes from all walks of life, including those of the hipster, nerd, and mountain man variety. The educated hobo can oftentimes be seen grokking about. There can only be one educated hobo in existence.'

I'm cool with that!".


The Mysterious Man revealed: Gasper Lawal on congas performing "Hyde Park".

The music 
Even if I don't like too much this period of the TEB's story (no more esoteric/ritual, just music...) I have to admit the sound here is really intriguing and well played. Rather evident the references to Miles Davis' "Britches Brew" on "In D", but considering the presence in the band of Paul Buckmaster... who conditioned who?
Really fascinating this mixture of jazz, psychedelia, prog that was the trademark of the Band in those months, the brave attempt to mix 'old' instruments as congas (hand drums) and oboe with electric ones, with a very minimalist drums' playing.
The last track, among all, is a really good example of the futuristic cheeky approach to the sounds, with incredible improvisations by Minns, great bass groove and a quite remarkable work on guitar.
In my opinion "Druid Grocking" is the best performance, a clear confirmation the Band, after the 60's acoustic raga immersion, was  experimenting brand new directions to the Land of Electricity, culminated in the wonderful Balham sessions (February 1971) and most of all in the gloomy sound of "Macbeth".

Sweeney on drums on "Druid Grocking".

The video
Quite static, the group is recorded playing in a studio on a low stage with psychedelic effects back (colours, bubbles, clouds taken from the second album cover...) that often distort the view.  
Not that great masterpiece, in short.
Anyway, some interesting clues about the mood inside the band at the time surface: Sweeney and Lawal dress black sunglasses looking like proto 'punk', Minns and Bridges look  hippy...

Sweeney and Lawal with a 'punk' look performing "Druid Grocking".

And what about the infamous double neck guitar played by Bridges that Glen Sweeney said it didn't work (interviewed by "Unhinged" fanzine in 1990)? 
Here we have the definitive proof that he played both necks!

Denim Bridges with his guitar.

So what can we say about this unexpected DVD? 
A great gift, indeed. The only one visual document about the Band from the first phase...
And by the way... when a DVD edition of the rare "Abelard & Heloise" short?  

Paul Minns playing great solos on "In D".

no©2011 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

November 20, 2011

Slivers of TEB music in other two recent Italian underground records...


As we've seen, sometimes the pioneer TEB music resurfaces  on some underground sound projects. 
Two recent examples just come from Italy, published during this year.

A young Neapolitan composer called Salvatore Borrelli (a.k.a. etre) has published a beautiful record titled "Inferno From My Occult Diary" (Porter Records - http://www.porterrecords.com/id106.html) with five instrumental tracks of avant-garde experimental music.
Among the tracks, a 8:32 composition titled "Conseguito silenzio (for Paul Celan)" ["Silence achieved"] seems to come from the "Macbeth" TEB album for its incredibly gloomy mood. Listen to this sinister undertow of rumours, electronics effects, scanty violin chords, loops... that drop yourself in a dimension of dreadful desolate mediaeval landscapes... and decide if it could be an heritage of the Thirds...
or listen to the samplers at 
http://boomkat.com/downloads/389634--etre-inferno-from-my-occult-diary# 
and read reviews (in English) at
Salvatore Borrelli (born 1976)

Less direct references to the TEB music one can find on the album recorded and self produced by Eternal Zio, "Vibbria", even if some Italian journalists states that on the Web.


A sort of Italian underground supergroup (with musicians from Asabikeshiin, Rella The Woodcutter and Valla), playing hurdy gurdy, electric guitars, electronics, keyboards, harp, hand drums... their music is more psychedelic than proper avant-garde, a psych-drone contemporary folk inspired by krautrock, Popol Vuh, Aktuala.
On the only track (30:52 long) also some clear few slivers of the Eighties' Third Ear Band...

 
                                         The Eternal Zio (2011)

You can download and listen to the record at:

 
                                                          Eternal Zio live at Cas'Aupa (Milan 11-03-2011)

no©2011 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

November 16, 2011

"Necromancers of the drifting West". A 1996 essay on the Third Ear Band by Luca Ferrari. (part 1)


On 1996, when I decided to write a book on the Third Ear Band, I got the kind collaboration of all the members of the group, except Richard Coff (apparently none knew where he was) and Ursula Smith (I forgot to insist with Glen for having her address).
In a first time the title intended for the book was "Tickling the Third Ear" and the idea was to make an historical cronological reconstruction of the TEB's story to free the band from that aura of mystery surrounding his story. But just at the end of writing, when I completed the essay for the introduction, I decided for "Necromancers of the drifting West": for myself, infact, the Band has advanced the so-called World Music and the multicultural/intercultural dimension of the relation between West and the rest of the world. At the same time, in my opinion, their music was a sort of sign, a monition of musical (and cultural) decline of the old Europe (for that reason the image of 'necromancers'). A group strongly political, I think, because "silence", acoustic (as natural) sounds (no words), minimalism aesthetic, are really 'political' today, in this age of excess of experiences.

I confess I've been very imprudent to write an interpretation of the TEB's music and probably, read today, this essay is quite outdated or at least arguable (also it's a sort of funny paradox in having set up an archive like this - so full of words! - to tell and document a music that didn't need to have words...).
I remember I asked Glen and Paul to excuse me for my hazard. They was so kind and indulgent to excuse me...
Anyway here I am with this old text. So please, excuse me you too...

(Note: the English adaptation was by Piera Testi)

MUSIC FOR THE THIRD EAR

FOR A CONSCIOUS LISTENING
I'm not persuaded that the sound  of a certain historical period - in acertain society - forecast the times and the social models to come (J. Attali).
The immersion of sounds/noises we are submitted in  these years seems to reflect  the times (of triviality, superficiality, esteriority...) we live in, and it seems to describe  them perfectly, evidencing  the socio-cultural deep crisis in which West countries are and the negative impact  of the Record Industry and the technology on the music creation  and use.
The anonymous non-places (M. Augè), where music is  absently used, acting as simple sound upholstery which brings and keeps company  to the consumption, suggest the idea that the re-producing of sounds, and the hidden possibility to listen to music everywhere, have made the listening experience less the  result of an active, conscious process and more the result of a passive unconscious behaviour.The advertising makers have understood this  process with a great advance and as a matter of fact they use music to persuade people "in a pleasant way" to buy, thus showing our (just presumed) needs.
The music, which goes deep into our daily life, has turned in a non-place, deprived of any identity, history and relation with the time and the place of living, is a sort of undefined and virtual phenomenon.

Sweeney live on  September 1970 (courtesy Facebook TEB's fans page)
The music surround us, and the chaos it determines (just try to tune on any 'free' radio station...) that melting pot of articles which remind us of something "already heard", the consumed symbolic appeals it evokes, the image aggression it goes with, reveals the shy hope of a creative, stimulating"transparent society" which is positively going on, which had seduced and deceived us on the threshold of postmodernity (G. Vattimo).
To oppose the silence to the chaos, as we hear from time to time, seems anyway a quick and candid utopia as it proposes  a runaway (or happy island, or pure oasis, or ivory tower) where, on the contrary, some kinds of "creative resistance" (alternative voyages through personal, choerent inner routes) should be equipped (suggestive is a small book, as a renet example, by Chambers and Gilroy on Jimi Hendix, hip-hop and the evolution of thinking, published in Italy in 1995) to escape the risk to be dazed and submerged.

Bridges live on  September 1970 (courtesy Facebook TEB's fans page)

There are solutions, but they are hard to get and they are placed in a prompt reasearch of a recent and perfect past of the popular music and in an analysis of the present, in spite of some difficulties which are inside  any cultural outgoing phenomenon.
They are inside the variables of the popular music, since its origin inside the delicate balance  freedom-conditioning: the relation between Record Industry and creation (product/goods-product/art), as first; the incidence of technology on the creative process: how 'releasing' is effectively the technological innovation, the usage of the more and more sophisticated sound-machines?; the relation between space and time of listening; the presumed authenticity of the produced musics and its consequent effect on the common imagination.
These criteria may favour a detached approach to music we are exposed to and inevitably immersed in every day. We could, at least, accept as a unique rule (not less right than the others, of course) the casual listening, as a simple daily background".

(end of part one - to be continued)

no©2011 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

November 10, 2011

New Italian book about English folk with quotations on the Third Ear Band.


A new book about English folk music has been written by Italian journalist Antonello Cresti. Titled "Come to the Sabbat. I suoni e le idee della Britannia esoterica"["Sound and ideas of esoteric Britannia"] it's an essay on that kind of folk related to esoterism and occultism
It'll be out at the end of this month, published by Tsunami Edizioni (http://www.tsunamiedizioni.com).
Inside of it (pages 384, € 22,00) there are also quotations on the Third Ear Band and an interview with the editor of this archive, showing this peculiar renewed continual attention to the Glen Sweeney/Paul Minns' project.
The author can be contacted on Facebook at http://it-it.facebook.com/antonellocresti.

no©2011 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first

November 06, 2011

"Fleance" and Chaucer's "Merciless Beauty".


The music of  "Fleance" - track included on "Music from Macbeth" - was composed by Denim Bridges during the sessions for the album.
Despite the fans' appreciation, as the same Bridges admitted on an e-mail sent to me on May 2011, "Glen and Paul hated that track because it didn't fit in with TEB concept". For myself, they was right...

Anyway the track, as we know, was sung by a very young Keith Chegwin with the lyrics based on a rondel poem written by the famous English poet Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400, a bio from Encyclopaedia Britannica at http://www.biography.com/people/geoffrey-chaucer-9245691?page=1) - titled "Merciless Beauty".
These are the track's lyrics:

"Oh your two eyes will slay me suddenly
I may the beauty of them not sustain
so pierced is throughout my heart keen
unless your words will heal me hastily
my heart's wound while that it is green
oh your two eyes will slay me suddenly
upon my troth I tell you faithfully
that you are of my Life and Death the Queen
and with my Death the Truth be seen
oh your two eyes will slay me suddenly
I may the beauty of them not sustain
so pierced is throughout my heart keen
so hath your beauty from my heart chased
Pity that it avails not to complain
for Pride doth hold your Mercy in its chain
guiltless my death hath ye purchased
I say you sooth there is no need to feign
so hath your beauty from my heart chased
alas that Nature hath in your embrace
beauty so great that no man may attain
to Mercy though he starve for pain". 

Of course, this version is just a modern English adaptation of the original Middle Age one, that was this (note that the section used by Bridges for the track, probably provided to him by filmaker Polanski, is highlighted in red):

MERCILES BEAUTE

1. CAPTIVITY

"Your eyen two wol slee me sodenly,
I may the beaute of hem not sustene,
So woundeth hit through-out my herte kene.

And but your word wol helen hastily
My hertes wounde, whyl that hit is grene,
Your eyen two wol slee me sodenly,
I may the beaute of hem not sustene.

Upon my trouthe I sey yow feithfully,
That ye ben of my lyf and deeth the quene;
For with my deeth the trouthe shal be sene.
Your eyen two wol slee me sodenly,
I may the beaute of hem not sustene,
So woundeth hit through-out my herte kene.

2. REJECTION

So hath your beaute fro your herte chaced
Pitee, that me ne availeth not to pleyne;
For Daunger halt your mercy in his cheyne.

Giltles my deeth thus han ye me purchaced;
I sey yow sooth, me nedeth not to feyne;
So hath your beaute fro your herte chaced
Pitee, that me ne availeth not to pleyne.

Allas! that nature hath in yow compassed
So greet beaute, that no man may atteyne
To mercy, though he sterve for the peyne.
So hath your beaute fro your herte chaced
Pitee, that me ne availeth not to pleyne;
For Daunger halt your mercy in his cheyne.

3. ESCAPE

Sin I fro Love escaped am so fat,
I never thenk to ben in his prison lene;
Sin I am free, I counte him not a bene.

He may answere, and seye this or that;
I do no fors, I speke right as I mene.
Sin I fro Love escaped am so fat,
I never thenk to ben in his prison lene.

Love hath my name y-strike out of his sclat,
And he is strike out of my bokes clene
For ever-mo; ther is non other mene.
Sin I fro Love escaped am so fat,
I never thenk to ben in his prison lene;
Sin I am free, I counte him not a bene".


There're no proofs that the band played the song at live concerts, but a radio broadcast is documented on March 21th, 1972 during the radio programme "Drummond" (titled "Fleance's Song"): the TEB line-up was probably the same of the album...

The band appearance on the Polanski's movie (photo c0urtesy of TEB Facebook fan page): (L-R) Minns, Coff, Sweeney, Buckmaster and Bridges.
Just two anedocts to end: "Fleance", the only track with lyrics in the TEB first phase, was one of the Sex Pistols' John Lydon favourite as declared during a 1977 interview with Tommy Vance (read at http://ghettoraga.blogspot.com/2010/03/johnny-rotten-selected-third-ear-bands.html). Just recently, reader Timothy Sommer has confirmed me by e-mail: "During the 1990s, I was friends with John Lydon... He made a point of buying me some TEB albums, and explaining to me that it was one of his favorite bands and a huge influence on him...". A quite incredible thing, you know, considering how much distant is the (great) Sex Pistols music from the TEB's one...

About Keith Chegwin (his personal Web site at http://www.keithchegwin.com/), at that time 14, I've discovered in the Net that he told about the "Macbeth" recording sessions during an interview:

How the hell as a 14-year old from Bootle do you end up in a Roman Polanski Shakespeare production?
"Well it was weird; I mean, to go back even further, as a rough synopsis, I used – when I was eight years of age – to be a great fan of Des O’Connor. And I used to emulate him by coming out from behind the sofa singing Des O’Connor songs".

And what was it like working with Polanski?

"Well, Roman Polanski, great film director, they’d say “He not turn up today”. That’s all we ever heard. I was booked to work on it for six weeks, and ended up working on it for six months!".

Just because he didn’t turn up?

"Just because he didn’t turn up. Or he’d turn up and go “I feel ill, I go home”".

Were you paid per day?
 
"Yes, paid per day! The Evening Standard wrote an article, I’ll always remember, called The Gobstopper Millionaire, because of the money in those days…".
 

                             "Fleance" by the Third Ear Band (1972)

Apart "Fleance", a real hit song in TEB repertoire,  for myself the "Macbeth" soundtrack is a really treasure of sounds and moods, a spectacular pagan mass of blood, death and sublime...
no©2011 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)