3RDegree: THE LONG DIVISION
Released 4 September 2012
Listen at Bandcamp: https://3rdegree.bandcamp.com/album/the-long-division-cd-quality-24bit-441khz
George Dobbs/ Lead vocals, keyboards
Robert James Pashman/ bass, keyboards, backing vocals
Pat Kliesch/ guitar, backing vocals
Aaron Nobel/ drums, percussion
Eric Pseja/ guitar, backing vocals
Political manifestos aside, this is a darn fine album that I recommend. Political manifestos that in reality are passionate socio-economic critiques of injustice and manipulated inequality are both needed and welcome. From the striking album art on the cover to titles of several of the tunes (A Nihilist’s Love Song, Incoherent Ramblings, The Socio-Economic Petri Dish) this album is pure Prog-concept “BIG” in theme and rewarding in execution.
Track 1: You’re Fooling Yourself (6:51)
There is almost a Spock’s Beard vibe with this tune; something about the vocal harmonies hearkens back to Neal & co. The lyrics plead for self introspection and reflection, i.e. “take the read pill” therapy. I wish there had been more melody lines but then…
Track 2: Exit Strategy (5:44)
This second song told me where the album was going with both its 28 second instrumental opening, which had me hearing “library music” cues from the late 60s, as well as a mellow yet jazzy late 70s California vibe. There are hints of Ambrosia in this tune. I like Ambrosia.
Track 3: The Socio-Economic Petri Dish (6:51)
And now we have the style kicking on all cylinders. This is some fine Jazz/Funk prog with rhythm and base thick as gumbo, raspy-edged vocals, intelligent lyrics, and a cacophonic 2 minute instrumental opening. This song is Steely Dan meeting early Chicago (sans horns) and is simply “smart” music!
Track 4: Incoherent Ramblings (7:44)
This is 3RDegree’s masterpiece. Critically biting and socially conscious lyrics coupled with minor tonalities and numerous tempo changes weave a thematic Prog classic. Did I mention that the band really plays well?
Track 5: The Ones To Follow (3:12)
The prior track notwithstanding, this is my favorite song on the album! Changing up a bit with this shorter tune, the band gives us a light YES-like chimed opening that is then juxtaposed against darker vocals. In addition the almost English-folk melody produces a strange pastoral aftertaste.
Track 6: A Work Of Art (2:50)
This is another short song that falls a bit flat due to dry, almost emotionless, vocals. But with a crystal clear delivery (the mixing is superb) and intimacy, when the synth-saxophone lines come in, all is well.
Track 7: Televised (6:52)
A heavier piece with nice jazz piano and drums coupled with plenty of tempo changes. More Fusion Prog that gets the head a nodding!
Track 8: The Millions of Last Moments (2:06)
A nice short instrumental interlude of soft guitar that sounds like something Peter White would do. This simple understated melody is well placed in the albums’ song sequence.
Track 9: Memetic Pandemic (7:29)
Again, the bands use of vocal harmonies works well and makes up for lead singer Dobbs’ average pipes. This multi-layered track has a beautiful 2 minute piano and vocal introduction that segues seamlessly into the building volume and quickening tempos. This is a “feel good” song with an almost earwig-like catchy chorus. There is real feel of Pop/Prog era Genesis when the beat starts to swing.
Track 10: A Nihilist’s Love Song (3:39)
The band ends their concept work with gradually building and almost rousing anthem like coda. The repeating chorus “all that is—it’s meaningless. And all that was—it’s meaningless” is refuted by their own energy and underlying defiance of blind fate. Not wishing to be a deconstructionist reviewer, I nonetheless maintain that the emotional power of the song “trumps” the pessimistic lyric. This last song is like a Dylan Thomas shout into the void saying “fight on; keep swimming towards shore.”
A special shout out to Progarchy’s Brian Watson (no relation) for featuring 3RDegree on his debut prog-podcast AMERICAN PROG. This must-listen-to show is featured on Progzilla Radio.
The album reviewed above is also given a great review by SEA OF TRANQUILITY’s Pete Pardo at: http://www.seaoftranquility.org/reviews.php?op=showcontent&id=13024
This is a slab (I love that old vinyl term) of top-notch American Jazz Fusion Prog. These guys have some real ‘Jamming’ mojo that bring together both rhythmic drive AND, strange though it may see, a Big Big Train sense of care, concern, and seriousness about the way things are and the way things should/could/may be again one day. This band and album deserve to be discovered.
Mellotron set to 11