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Songs from the Hydrogen Jukebox

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Album Review

An early incarnation of the Third Ear Band (before the group lost several members and signed with Harvest) was known as the Hydrogen Jukebox, a name nicked off Allen Ginsberg. Confusingly, however, the compilation Songs from the Hydrogen Jukebox was not recorded by this late-'60s, pre-historical edition of the Third Ear Band, but by a different side project of the same name formed by percussionist Glen Sweeney. Although Sweeney is the only member of the Third Ear Band present on these recordings, the sound of these songs follows the same template minus the early music and folk influences of his once and future bandmates. Sweeney provides an almost tribal beat over which guitarist Mick Carter, bassist Brian Diprose, and singer Jim Hayes (seemingly) improvise. The results sound a bit like a somewhat more song-oriented version of Angels Egg-era Gong: The groove is paramount, but in a structured format that, in spots, is recognizable as the kind of post-new wave/art-pop music that, say, Simple Minds was doing around the time of New Gold Dream. That connection to '80s pop is cemented in the album's last three songs, recorded by a reunited (and newly electronic) Third Ear Band in the early '90s and sounding like outtakes from Japan's later records, especially on the worldbeat-influenced "Behind the Pyramids."


Formed: 1968

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s

Although they were loosely affiliated with the British progressive rock scene of the late '60s and early '70s, Third Ear Band was in some ways more of an experimental ensemble performing contemporary compositional work. For one thing, they didn't use electric instruments, or even guitars, instead employing violin, viola, oboe, cello, and hand percussion. More important, they didn't play conventional rock "songs." They featured extended instrumental pieces that often built up from a drone, or hypnotic...
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Songs from the Hydrogen Jukebox, Third Ear Band
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