Whenever something Esoteric Recordings reissues, I would always check it out. Whether it’s Julian’s Treatment, Procol Harum, The Move, Barclay James Harvest, or Cressida, they always release some very interesting reissues that would peak my interest. I’ve always championed them since 2008. Next year will be 10 years since the launch of the label and I always would like to see where the road will lead them into next. One of the reissues that has suddenly landed on my lap is Three Man Army’s debut album, A Third of a Lifetime.
Originally released on the Pegasus label in 1971, it started out as a project between the Gurvitz brothers (Adrian and Paul) who started the band out of the ashes of the late ‘60s band, Gun. While there were various people involved with the debut including the late great Buddy Miles who was a part of the Band of Gypsys with Jimi Hendrix and the Buddy Miles Express which Adrian was a part of.
Not only he played drums, but he played organ also. The production was done by Lou Reizner who worked with Eyes of Blue and the Orchestral version of the Who’s Rock Opera Tommy, brought a heavier, progressive, and symphonic side to Three Man Army. When I was listening to this album, I was completely blown away right from the start. I can hear comparisons of Cream, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top’s pre-Deguello, Free, and The Moody Blues thrown into the mix.
Not only Buddy was on the album, but Spooky Tooth’s drummer Mike Kellie helped on the album. There’s the classical-guitar and pastoral side to Three Man Army which is exampled on the title track as Adrian brings an epic atmosphere of walking towards the sunset as the end credits of a spaghetti western comes to a closing curtain. Three Man Army is a cross between the Rubber Soul-era of The Beatles and Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies sessions while the proto hard-rock opener in the styles of Cream with maximum volume of Butter Queen, could have been a hit single and get some radio airplay.
The Funky Blues Rock featuring Adrian’s wah-wah pedal and Buddy’s smoothing organ sound and Paul’s Bass are showing a team working well together with the waves crashing at the right moment on the instrumental Midnight. The mellotron comes in for a gentle yet heart warmth end in the styles between Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Seals and Crofts of Together. The two bonus tracks are A & B-sides of single releases.
There’s another throttling rapid machine gun fire between Gurvitz and Kellie’s playing as Adrian is not just going hard rock, but doing a little switch of the George Harrison sound at times on What’s Your Name? Travellin’ is done in the styles of Jack Bruce’s songwriting as if he could have written this song for Thin Lizzy. It has the essence of something straight out of an Ennio Morricone arrangement as the Man with No Name returns for one last game.
The 15-page booklet contains liner notes by Malcolm Dome about the history of the band, an interview with Paul and Adrian Gurvitz. When the album was released, it didn’t get the recognition it deserved. And after releasing two more albums (Three Man Army Two and Mahesha), the band called it a day. Then the Gurvitz brothers teamed up with their hero, Ginger Baker and would form the Baker Gurvitz Army and released three albums from 1974 to 1976.
But put that aside, and dig deep into Three Man Army’s A Third of a Lifetime reissued by Esoteric and put this album and crank it up. You can understand it was so ahead of it’s time along with Adrian and Paul because they deserve the recognition.