A trio of important albums from this very unique group – brought together here in a single package! First up is Alchemy – the amazing first album from Third
Ear Band – a set that's maybe even more distinct than some of their later, better-known recordings! These guys emerged in the British scene at the end of the 60s – but they're not really psych, or prog – and although they have a love of ancient sounds, they're also not in any of the territory that was being explored by acid folk groups of the time! Instead, they've got this wonderful all-acoustic blend of reeds, stringed instruments, and percussion – all with a feel that seems to link together centuries with its own organic energy, but which also gives a bit of a nod to freer jazz elements of the time. At points, these guys almost sound like a looser, more-jamming version of Penguin Cafe Orchestra – but that's only part of the approach – as things are very unique throughout, in a blend of tablas, hand drums, oboe, recorder, viola, violin, cello, and slide pipes – served up on titles that include "Druid One", "Lark Rise", "Ghetto Raga" and "Stone Circle". Next is the self-titled Third
Ear Band record – key material from one of the most unique groups of the early prog years – as they dropped the electricity of most of their contemporaries, and instead serve up their sounds in a blend of oboe, violin, cello, and percussion – all with really amazing results! There's currents of free jazz in the music at times – especially on the Leroy Jenkins-like violin – but the percussion also grounds the music nicely – and really keeps the whole group tied to the planet with an organic, almost timeless current – a good thing too, as the titles are all based on the elements – "Air", "Earth", "Fire", and "Water". Last up is their very unique Music From Macbeth – an imagined soundtrack handled in a wonderful way –Shakespeare never sounded so compelling before – given a very cool soundtrack by the Third
Ear Band, who were moved to work on this project in collaboration with director Roman Polanski! The music is fantastic away from the film – very different than some of the group's earlier records, and a lot more eerie too – as some of their usual string and reed elements almost take on an electronic vibe in the process! Most tracks are very spacious and open, with the violin and oboe crafting some especially sharp, angular sounds – almost as if the group were let loose in some sort of analogue electronic studio. Titles include "The Beach", "The Banquet", "Dagger & Death", "Bear Baiting", "Groom's Dance", "Prophetics", and "Wicca Way".