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Non-Prog CD Reviews

The Tea Party

Seven Circles

Review by Bruce Stringer

According to Stuart Chatwood (The Tea Party's bassist / keyboardist), this CD contains a more palatable sound as opposed to "..all the weird stuff that no-one likes to hear". On the eve of a new Australian tour, fans of the older albums may need to adjust their listener's caps, however "Seven Circles" should be gentler on the ear to newer fans with great songs, crystal clear production and just enough of the old Tea Party sound to go around.

At a glance "Seven Circles" may seem a little light for the guys, however the level of musical sophistication inherent in their work is still there and the band have allowed for a less than loud approach to quite possibly hook in those who have had a hard time with the band's heavier material of days gone by. It will be interesting to see how these songs are played live when they tour, however anybody who has seen them live in recent years either at the Toronto Rocks SARS concert or their many US, Canadian and Australasian tours (or even those who caught the "Intimate and Interactive" performance in Toronto, 1997), will know that these guys deliver. This is a great CD!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Writing's On The Wall
Thumping along with a radio-friendly number, the opener has the ferocity not unlike the band's previous hit "Temptation". At a mere 2:40 running time these guys really hit you where it hurts and move on.
Stargazer
At a more relaxed pace, "Stargazer"continues to prove the strength of the CD with its big, catchy chorus allowing for singer / guitarist Jeff Martin's subtler side to emerge. At times reminiscent of the Manic Street Preachers, but from a much tighter, more together trio.
One Step Closer Away
Slightly ethereal and weird (like Radiohead) with esoteric lyrics, a fat sound and The Tea Party's uncanny nack of transforming even the strangest of musical ideas into something overtly listenable. Where other bands' weirdness would simply be the lode stone that drags the production down - and often serves as an excuse for poor songwriting - "One Step.." nestles itself neatly into the fold.
Oceans
My first expectation was of a Led Zeppelin-influenced piece when I came to "Oceans", however the lighter, more spacial mode of an FM radio hit soon graced the airwaves and set my ears straight. The song is dedicated to the band's manager who recently passed away and is a grand farewell.
Luxuria
This sounds like the older Tea Party: great Middle Eastern style rock with ethnic percussion and electronics. A huge chorus fit for fans of "Kashmir", and a cool key change make this an interesting tune and one that keeps the flow of the album.
Overload
"Overload" is riffy, akin to "Writing's On The Wall" and could very well pass for an early Zeppelin piece. Once again, this is a tight production and clocks in at less than four minutes of great rock.
Coming Back Again
A Perfect Circle style rhythm section with acoustic guitar offsetting the heavier balance. This number is very similar to the classic Tea Party track "Sister Awake" on a musical level and has the Eastern rock formula that these guys are known for. A thematic slide guitar solo ending with fat octave riffing makes this another great Party song.
The Watcher
This is the ballad on the CD. Light with strings and reminiscent, musically, of another of the trio's songs, "Heaven Coming Down", this allows Martin's emotional vocal passages to really come to the fore. The big drum sound is mixed back slightly to allow a nicer, less aggressive production.
Empty Glass
"Empty Glass" is a tip of the hat to the 70's works of pop icon David Bowie and includes lyrical references ("Tell me Major Tom / Where do we belong?"), some similar rhythmic passages (a la "Ashes to Ashes"), and overall is a great little 'pick that song' number for all budding rock trivia freaks. Another cool slide guitar solo from the man of the hour, Jeff Martin, making this number probably my favourite off the CD and a novel highlight to an already great album.
Wishing You Would Stay
The dual vocals shared by Martin and guest Holly McNarland, once again, bring The Tea Party sound into the radio market. A pop/ rock sensibility and a depth rarely seen by straight rock bands - which The Tea Party are surely not! Possibly a surprise to older fans, yet proof of their versatility. The song fades out on an extended chorus, taking us to the final, title track.
Seven Circles
This is classic Tea Party with the ethnic instruments and their usual mix of blues-rock, celt-inspired themes and Middle Eastern riffs. A great blues solo mid way sees Martin burst into a harmonic guitar sound. Esoteric in nature (- what's new?) and interesting closer to the album, retaining some of the best for last.
 
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