United We Stand: A Review of 3RDegree’s THE LONG DIVISION

3rdegree2

3RDegree: THE LONG DIVISION

Released 4 September 2012

CD Baby

Listen at Bandcamp: https://3rdegree.bandcamp.com/album/the-long-division-cd-quality-24bit-441khz

Band:

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.

http://www.progzilla.com/podcast-american-prog-edition-01/

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

Final Analysis:

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.

https://www.facebook.com/#!/3RDegree

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/3rdegree2

Mellotron set to 11

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5 Responses to “United We Stand: A Review of 3RDegree’s THE LONG DIVISION”

  1. Spoiler Says:

    Another one I would have missed. I bought it digitally and liked it enough to buy the cd as well. I will bring my lunch this week.

  2. Jay Watson Says:

    I’ve seen some reviewers mention that 3RDegree reminds them of Echolyn or even Todd Rundgren. But I think my own comparisons are as accurate. Just not your “run-of-the-mill” prog by numbers. They do deserve a wider audience. AND some of them are from “Joisey” 😀

  3. bradbirzer Says:

    Reblogged this on Progarchy: Pointing toward Proghalla.

  4. Robert James Pashman Says:

    Thanks for the interesting review Jay! Glad you so enjoyed it. Hope you can see us live in the fall and please keep up with us by joining our mailing list on our front page below.

  5. Jay Watson Says:

    I’m honored and thrilled that you commented Robert. You guys are a real “find!” I anxiously await your next album!

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