A problem with Universal's "an introduction to" series is that "an introduction to" is not always synonymous with a "best-of" compilation, or even a representative compilation, since it only covers the time when acts are on specific labels whose catalog Universal eventually administered. The Rare Bird volume is a good example, since it only covers 1972-1975 material on Polydor, with nothing from their earlier Charisma releases. Most listeners would rate their Charisma stuff as their best, and certainly as their most adventurous. By the time they recorded for Polydor, their lineup had changed radically, though keyboardist Dave Kaffinetti (perhaps more famous for playing the role of "Viv Savage" in Spinal Tap) was still aboard. So had their sound, retreating from fairly experimental keyboard-based art rock to something more normal. And blander as well, the 17 cuts here being unexceptional period early-to-mid-'70s British rock mixing pop, soul, folk-rock, and occasional echoes of their more progressive period. It's not a crime to go more mainstream if you have good songs, but there's nothing to get too excited about one way or another here. Oddly, they sound close to sub-Crosby, Stills, & Nash groups along the lines of Pure Prairie League from time to time, on songs like "Epic Forrest," "Turn Your Head," "High in the Morning," and "Hey Man." At their worst, on "Don't Be Afraid," they tried their hand at early funk-disco crossover. Only on the eight-minute "Dollars" is there a strong hint of their early prog rock roots. As a bone to collectors, it does include "Roadside Welcome," one of three songs from a free bonus EP that came with the initial copies of their 1972 Epic Forest LP. Considering the group's limited success and the unlikely odds that a cult will mushroom around them, Third Time Around is most likely the last time around for their Polydor catalog.
Third Time Around: An Introduction to Rare Bird Review
by Richie Unterberger