This very rare video has been gifted to me some months ago by my friend Baz, from the UK. I have no idea of what he's doing now, he disappeared from the web, but I hope he is ok.
If there is a band whose music can really be called "magic" this is the Third Ear Band. They started in the London underground scene, with the name of Giant Sun Trolley, experimenting their own fusion of western and eastern music, in those glorious days of 1967. It's been because of an accident - part of their instruments had been stolen - that they became an acoustic band, and discovered the secret formula of the most evocative and hypnotic sound ever, combining indian raga, celtic and mediterranean folk, free-jazz, atonal avantgarde and minimal classical music.
The "progressive" label Harvest had the courage to release two memorable albums between 1969 and 1970: Alchemy and Third Ear Band
(also known as "Elements"), followed by an interesting soundtrack for Roman Polansky's movie Macbeth
As written on the sleeve notes of Alchemy: Words cannot describe this ecstatic dance of sound, or explain the alchemical repetiton seeking and sometimes finding archetypal formes, elements and rhythms.
After the second album the strings players Richard Coff and Ursula Smith left the band, so the percussionist Glen Sweeney and Paul Minns, a fantastic oboist, joined by Paul Buckmaster on bass, decided to try to become a more accessible "pop group", after they met the guitarist and singer Denim Bridges. They worked on an album called The Dragon Wakes, that never saw the light, played on a couple of BBC radio sessions, and did a brief tour in Europe, during which they also performed at the Beat Club.
This is, as far as I know, their only video available, with a line-up that they called the Third Ear "Big" Band, including also another percussionist whose identity is unknown to me. I haven't found any informations about him even on the biography written by the Italian musical journalist Luca Ferrari
This unreleased tune is much more conventional than their early recordings, a mellow folk-rock that still sounds enchanting anyway, Minns' work on oboe in particular is great, as ever.
I have to say that the clip is a little frustrating as you don't get to see the musicians very well, they appear as small figures with giant incense sticks in front of them and the front cover of their second album on the backgorund; the idea was probably to make them look as little devotional statues.
My dream to see the Third Ear Band back became true thanks to Luca Ferrari, who was able to find Glen Sweeney and convince him to reform the band. Between the late eightes and early nineties, with different line-ups that for brief periods included also Paul Minns and then Ursula Smith, they recorded three more records for the label Materiali Sonori
and played some concerts, bringing back some of the old magic.
This post is dedicated with gratitude to Paul Minns and Glen Sweeney, who died, respectively in 1997 and in 2005.