They said it couldn’t be done. Not sure who “they” are but man it seemed far-fetched that we’d ever reconvene 3RDegree after our January 1997 breakup. Even though in late ’97 when no one was looking we actually recorded Marillion’s “That Time Of The Night (the short straw)” for a tribute album that never happened it felt like that ship had sailed. After that it was over except for some side projects involving no more than a few of us at a time. Anyway, the story is told in the inside of the album liner notes but when Robert, Rob & Pat met in December of 2005 and decided to reform the band, demos for new songs were then created, re-arranging of old songs never finished ensued and George was included a few months later so that by late 2006 we were recording what would be an album of the same name as a new RJP demo called “Narrow-Caster” which basically laid out exactly how the band would approach the next decade. Instead of going crazy trying to “make it” as they once did, they’d instead narrow in on the pockets of people who might like their type of music enabled by something that really took hold in the time they spent apart: the internet…and to a great extent: social media.
Anyway, you probably know the rest but joined our legion with 2012’s The Long Division or our latest Ones & Zeros albums. If you look at the “crossover prog” page on Progarchives.com you will see our 2008 album Narrow-Caster as one of the revolving “overlooked and obscure gems” and we kind of agree. We’ve put out better albums since (IMHO) but Narrow-Caster was a real bridge from where we were in the 90’s to who we’d become in the 10’s. It was our calling card for a bunch of years as we tried creating a name for ourselves by make friends in various places of the prog world be it radio, the festivals, review websites or with fans on line and at the shows. This would all pay off to our great surprise with our 2009 ProgDay invitation.
Narrow-Caster served us well but would be surpassed in popularity quite quickly with our subsequent releases. We’d love you to take a first-or another-look at our 2008 album that debuted in the merch room at NEARfest that year in jewel case form and then in December with our first “eco-wallet” that would be copied for every release after. This was the “blueprint” if you will, featured all over the CD sleeve.
For the occasion, we are throwing in-for a limited time-many of the demos members of the band made for other members of the band to hear of songs that made the album. Also, we’ve included some songs that never made the album in various states of “finished” and we threw in a one-time-only performance of the title track from our living room.
- This offer is good only for CD purchase. There will be no download-only Narrow-Caster 10th Anniversary edition, however you will receive the download of the album proper and the bonus tracks in download form with your CD purchase.
- For those of you who have the album already and would like the bonus tracks, please do one of two things. Send us an email or message on Facebook, Tweet or whatever with a photo of your Narrow-Caster CD (preferably with you holding it, smiling, fully-clothed) and then we’ll know you bought it already and we’ll send you a link to the bonus disk.
WHAT’S ON THE BONUS DISK?
1. A Capella open
This is a strange experiment Patrick recorded with various melodies from the album. Almost an overture of sorts.
2. Narrow-Caster (live in the living room 4/11/09)
This is a spirited version of the song (faster) with bass, drums, piano and vocals featuring Dan D’Elia on drums along with RJP and George. You may hear Eric Pseja on cowbell too!
3. Apophenia (George Demo)
4. Doesn’t Quite Belong (Demo)
A pretty acoustic number we played at our ’07 Reunion Concerts and recorded for the album but never finished.
5. It Works (George Demo)
6. Home In The Clouds (The Future Doesn’t Need You early version)
This is a song we played live in ’07 and was from ’96. By this point it was in it’s 2nd melodic incarnation with the third featured on our new album Ones & Zeros: vol. 0. It was called “Home In The Clouds” in the first two versions.
7. Heaven Is (Cautionary Tale early version)
A 90’s era demo recording of just drums, rough vocal and keyboards to get the idea down of the song “Heaven Is” which later became “Cautionary Tale”.
8. Live With This Forever (Robert Demo)
An 90’s era demo
9. The Art Of Being Alone
This is a mixed and “finished” version of another pretty number we played in ’07 at our Reunion Concerts. It was “released” on a one-time-only EP we named SNEAK PEAKS.
10. Scenery (Patrick Demo)
11. Narrow-Caster (Robert Demo)
12. The Last Gasp (Patrick Demo)
13. Scenery (A Capella reprise)
Just a little idea Pat had to call back to “Scenery”.
OUR LAST CONCERT OF THE YEAR
at The Waiting Room
Robert Richardson of Cell 15 8:00
Robert pointed out to me that I would be one of the few reviewers coming to the second album immediately after hearing the first, so what would I think of the two albums working together? The albums are designed to be viewed as a pair, from the artwork and layout through the music and ideas. While I smiled when I noticed that this was called ‘Volume 0’, part of me would rather it had been called ‘Volume 10’, which of course is 2 expressed in binary code, but that really is nit-picking (yes, I’m a geek – been working in I.T. for more than 20 years, but it’s not my fault).
Lyrically it is the perfect follow-on from the debut, so much so that it feels that it could become part of a permanent loop, so much so that the question becomes “which came first, 1 or 0?”. Musically it does feel very much of the second half of a piece of work, possibly slightly more acoustic? The musical themes and styling of the debut are carried into this, with the same influences very much in play, so much so that one actually finds it quite hard to realize that there was a break between the recording of the two albums as opposed to being recorded at the same time. And if anyone doubts the City Boy analogy just listen to George at 5:20 on “The Future Doesn’t Need You” and see what I mean.
It is also definitely worth mentioning that all the lyrics are in the pack, apart from one, and the only way to get that is to go the Valhalla Biotech site. Once there the lyrics can be seen, but also there are various links, for example, “5 Things That You Need To Know” (which takes you to a blog about becoming more involved in the local music scene) or “Become A Shareholder” (which of course takes you to their store). As I write this, I see that the album is #2 on the PA charts (interestingly I gave maximum scores to #1, #3 and #5 – haven’t heard #4). It is a totally different album to the latest by Roz Vitalis, the current incumbent of the top slot: that is very much a progressive album, from the RIO scene, while this is progressive pop that is fully Crossover. In terms of sheer pleasure and repeated playing this wins hands down, as it just makes me smile each and every time I play it. And isn’t that something that music should be about? The two ‘Ones & Zeros’ albums perfect complement each other, and all that can be done is buy both and listen to them back to back.
When I first came across 3rDegree some years ago, I said that they reminded me a great deal of the long-lost City Boy, and it was interesting to hear how much of an impact they had had on the band. However, Robert James Pashman (bass, keyboards, backing vocals – and who is also responsible for getting me drinking Trappist-style beers) later informed me that none of them had heard of the band, and it was only after reading reviews mentioning them as an influence that they sought them out! Having given maximum marks to their previous three albums (I’ve only noticed that although I have their 1993 debut I’ve never reviewed it, must amend that at some point), I was looking forward to hearing this 2015 release. But, it arrived while I was working on my book, so ended up in the never-ending backlog. However, with the arrival in 2018 of the second part of the concept, it allows me to review them back to back (and thankfully the guys have been very understanding).
What we have here is a science fiction concept album, set in the fairly near future, where it is possible to live forever or be enhanced in some ways. It is the mix between the human and the machine, the analog and the digital, that makes the story what it is. Although all the lyrics are contained in the digipak, it is easy to understand the storyline without them due to the wonderfully clear vocals of singer George Dobbs, and the fact that they allow the story to tell itself. No need for complex analogies, let’s get to it: my only complaint is that I found it quite distracting while driving, as I would rather listen to what was going on instead of paying attention to the road. We may not have many drivers down here, but our roads aren’t exactly straight and wide.
Musically we are firmly back in the realms of City Boy, with an additional UK band that may surprise many, 10 CC. It took me ages to work out what the harmonies and key changes reminded me of, and then I realized it was like listening to parts of ‘Deceptive Bends’. Added to this surreal pop/rock/prog mix they have added plenty of Utopia for good measure, and come up with something that is instantly 3rDegree, instantly accessible, and guaranteed to make the listener sit there with a massive smile on their face. The one song I found most interesting was “We Regret To Inform You”, which includes the robotic voice of Valhalla Biotech explaining that there has been a slight issue with the recent procedure on the protagonist’s father. I can’t say any more than that without giving away the plot, but coming from an IT background this song really did appeal to my inner geek, and it works incredibly well. Add to that some beautifully phased and treated rock guitar and it is a total delight.
3rDegree probably isn’t a name that too many people recognize from the progressive scene, but as I write this, this album is rated as being #6 on the charts for 2015 releases on ProgArchives. Looking at what is above it, all I can say is that it is in the wrong position, as it should be #1. Absolutely essential, crossover progressive rock doesn’t get any better than this.