The dual proliferation of reissue labels and music blogs has been a blessing and a curse for the dedicated music fan. With the former scouring the globe for obscure releases and the latter offering extensive background information on the most esoteric and collectible LPs in existence, more music than ever before is readily available. On the other hand, quality control is negligible, and for every bona fide “lost classic,” there is an exponential number of releases that are mere curiosities. 1969’s Searching, by South African psychedelic rockers The Third Eye, falls somewhere between these two categories. The second of three albums the group released, Searching is a 35-minute slab of politically minded progressive rock.
Centered on the siblings Ron and Dawn Selby, with the former handling guitar duties and the latter (a mere teenager at the time) giving the Third Eye its distinctive organ-based sound. “Sad Tale” opens the record with a driving organ line and a lengthy guitar solo dropped right in the middle that makes it equal parts heady and heavy. “Selby’s Hospitality” is a short, upbeat instrumental psych side that segues into “Retain Your Half-Ticket,” a slice of organ-soaked narrative songwriting that recalls some of the Zombies most exuberant moments.
“Stagemakers” is an impressive number that explores heavy psychological territory, repeating the lines “The world is falling down on me” to dramatic effect as the two-pronged organ and fuzzed-out guitar attack builds in momentum. The tune approaches liftoff but never leaves the atmosphere, and its clear that “Stagemakers” is a dry run for the album’s centerpiece, the 13-minute “Awakening,” where everything falls into place. The tune comes in two distinct movements, each replete with a Hendrix-like ability to balance a driving rock sensibility with a respect for space and atmosphere key to psychedelic music. Split into two distinct parts, bridged with an aching vocal, “Awakening” is the take-away track from Searching. Album closer “I Can’t Believe It” is an uncharacteristically brief and poppy tune that’s a definite afterthought.
Searching is not a great album, but it offers insight into the healthy South African rock scene of the late 1960s, and connoisseurs of heavy, bluesy hard rock will find that “Awakening” is just about worth the price of admission alone.
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