Its member’s names might not be as familiar as those of the Traveling Wilburys but make no mistake, the Third Mind is a supergroup. How could it not be when its members have been in or been involved with the Blasters, X, Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker, Monks of Doom, John Hiatt, Counting Crows, Richard Thompson, John Cale, Better Than Ezra, and even more?
Yeah. The Third Mind is a supergroup, all right, and their self-titled debut album is every bit as eclectic and idiosyncratic as you can imagine after reading that list of bands. For the record, the Third Mind is Dave Alvin (guitar, vocals), Victor Krummenacher (bass, vocals), David Immergluck (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Michael Jerome (drums, percussion), and special guest Jesse Sykes (guitar, vocals).
The Third Mind was initially the brainchild of Dave Alvin, who wanted to assemble a group of musicians that would be capable of making music the way Miles Davis did on Bitches Brew and his other electric albums. That is, bring a set of great musicians into a studio, select a key, establish a groove, and hit the record button. The resulting album features six tracks of expansive, adventurous music that might not be for everyone, but that might blow the minds of those who are receptive to it.
The Third Mind contains five covers and one original. The album’s centerpiece is a cover of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s “East/West“, a Mike Bloomfield/Nick Gravenites composition that was also inspired by Miles Davis. It would be a pointless exercise to argue whether the Third Mind’s “East/West” is better or worse than the Butterfield band’s original studio version, although the Third Mind’s cover is three minutes longer, clocking in at over 16 minutes. But you can’t dispute the blazing guitar solos that carry the tune along for all that time. The first 11 minutes are particularly intense. Things chill out a bit after that, but not by much. Fans of the original, as well as anyone who may not be familiar with it, but who love extended instrumental jams, will love where the Third Mind takes “East/West”.
Nothing else on The Third Mind is quite as incendiary as “East/West”, but each of the five remaining tracks offers adventurous musical delights. The album opens with a meditation on Alice Coltrane’s transcendent “Journey in Satchidananda” that features haunting guitar solos. I’m guessing Alice would approve.
“Claudia Cardinale” is a short original with a subtle spaghetti western soundtrack feel that completes the trilogy of instrumentals on the album. Meanwhile, “The Dolphins” (a Fred Neil song, sung here by Dave Alvin) and Bonnie Dobson’s “Morning Dew” (sung by Jesse Sykes) are both given haunting folk-rock treatments that leave plenty of room for some atmospheric guitar work.
The Third Mind closes with a tribute to Roky Erickson and the 13th Story Elevators’ dark classic “Reverberation”. This cover feels like the most straightforward track on the album, coming across like a particularly sprightly (and Edgy) U2 tune with a dash of hair metal thrown in the mix. On paper that might sound horrific but scraping away a bit of the original’s psychedelia reveals “Reverberation” to be a terrific rock tune, and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s the cool thing about The Third Mind. It answers the “where can I find some adventurous music?” and the “where is the rock?” questions simultaneously.