Macbeth / Third Ear Band
Audio CD | Import, Remastered
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Their score for Roman Polanski's Macbeth film required the group to work in a somewhat more constricted format. So instead of lengthy hypnotic drones, this album's split into 16 separate pieces, some of them quite short. It's consequently not as reflective of their highest ambitions as the Third Ear Band album, and loses a bit when placed out of context from the Shakespeare classic. It still works reasonably effectively on its own, conjuring appopriately ominous Elizabethean moods, with the surprise addition of (uncredited) female vocals on one track. ~ Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide
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However, the one thing I can say is that "Macbeth" must rank as one of the most sudden - if not the most sudden - fall from grace of any artist I have ever experienced in over a decade listening to music. Instead of the epic, atmospheric and dark oboe-driven sound that was so enchanting on the long pieces of Third Ear Band and Abelard and Heloise, the group seemed to be trying their hand at commercial pop music - which ought to shock any reader and is certainly not what a band operating far from the world of even out-there rock would be expected to try. Yet that is exactly the impression that sinks into me after hearing "Macbeth": there is so little depth to the playing that one cannot believe they were ever something other than an instrumental pop band. The electronics drown out the oboe and strings to such an extent that all individuality - and they had plenty - was gone. Moreover, the numerous track on "Macbeth" are so alike that they lost all individuality even compared to the six parts of Abelard and Heloise.
Say what you may, Third Ear Band was for a couple of years one of the best avant-garde folk or jazz groups - whatever you might call them. To the surprise of me, they decided it seemed to try for commercial success, and the result is a record whose disappointment can hardly be imagined. It is perhaps fitting that Third Ear Band soon disbanded - and when they did return with albums like Hymn to the Sphinx - which I once saw in a store in Australia - they were the same worthless bland outfit here.
Stick with their first three albums, which are as big a contrast as you can imagine.