Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker, Senior Writer/Journalist ‡
The Sixties are coming to a close, and while the coastal U.S. music scenes are getting most of the attention, there is a movement of sound taking place in the Motor City.
Acts like Frijid Pink, MC5, Rare Earth, The Frost, and SRC (The Scot Richard Case) are fueling a rather localized rock and roll revolution all their own. Yes, the city that gave the world the greats of Motown is on the move once again and for a brief period, THE THIRD POWER (also known as 3rd Power) will participate. The trio is formed in 1967 by Drew Abbott (guitar, lead & backing vocals), Jem Targal (bass, lead vocals), and Jim Craig (drums) after each has spent several years in the Detroit scene.
At a respectable speed of acceleration THE THIRD POWER emerge as a fan favorite of the local club circuit thanks to their bone-jarring sound. It is rooted in an airtight, dense bottom end and the fiery guitar fury of Abbott while offering different types of vocals, depending on the song. Once again, Abbott is partly responsible for this, along with Targal, as the two transition between hazier, ethereal ones or unhinged, angst-driven deliveries. Targal is very much a madman on the bass too, while Craig moves effortlessly from subtle snare rolls to all-out cymbal assaults among his repertoire on double kit drums.
Displaying no restraint in the live setting, they are soon being courted by labels seeking to sign them, eventually going with Vanguard Records. 1970 will prove to be their year as they release the Sam Charters-produced, all original 9-song studio album ‘Believe‘ that year. Though the band draw many comparisons to Cream, such associations are minimal at best, and there’s no doubt THE THIRD POWER have something going on. Tragically, others will not recognize this at that point in time and the album makes only modest sales at best.
A likely disappointment to the band and their fans for Detroit are quite fired up about the slightly psych-tinged, utterly multifaceted rock of THE THIRD POWER. That disappointment will be compounded once the heads of Vanguard Records actually hear the finished album. Almost immediately, the band is dropped from their roster, deemed too heavy for the label’s intended musical direction. Of course this results in no promotion of the record and almost nil distribution, yet consequently, making it an instant collector’s item.
There is no radio airplay, no charting in the Top 40 FM markets, and basically no recognition outside of the Detroit environs. Despite all the home-based love for THE THIRD POWER, these events deflate the trio and they disband by 1971. Jem Targal briefly pursues a career as a solo artist while Drew Abbott joins the band backing Bob Seger in 1972, when Seger wishes to give up guitar playing responsibilities. When Bob Seger decides to reinvent himself by starting the Silver Bullet Band in 1974, Abbott is the only band member asked to stay on.
Today, THE THIRD POWER are a rare and obscure gem in the annals of U.S. rock history, while their one and only album, ‘Believe‘, is a most remarkable wonder. It’s one that stands on its own considerable merits and on Record Store Day in April 2016, the album was reissued in two versions by Light In The Attic Records on their Future Days Recordings imprint. First, as a limited edition (2,000 copies), red vinyl LP with a download card for bonus tracks and second, on CD with the original album supplemented by eleven bonus tracks.
In 2009, THE THIRD POWER reunite to open Detroit’s Grande Ballroom’s 40-Year Reunion concert with Arthur Brown, Big Brother & The Holding Company, and Canned Heat.