Album of the Week 48-2012: The Tea Party – Live From Australia

Lots of big reunion things these days. It’s only been weeks since the recordings of Led Zeppelin’s 2007 reunion gig surfaced, now it’s The Tea Party’s turn. Last year, the Canadian trio reformed after half a decade of inactivity and as this document proves, they haven’t lost their touch even in the slightest bit. This collection of recordings made during this year’s Reformation Tour shows The Tea Party is still inspired, powerful and compelling. Also, singer and guitarist Jeff Martin, bassist and keyboard player Stuart Chatwood and drummer Jeff Burrows are incredibly well attuned to each other still.

For those unfamiliar with this brilliant band: imagine what Led Zeppelin would have sounded like if they further developed the direction they had taken on ‘Kashmir’ with Jim Morrison on vocals. That’s not completely fair to the band, I find Martin to sound a lot more passionate than Morrison and The Tea Party has really taken the Moroccan Folk influenced sound to a higher ground. It’s created a hypnotizing atmosphere within their music and on their first four albums in particular. And those are the albums that are represented with the most tracks on here; only ‘Lullaby’ from 2001’s ‘The Interzone Mantras’ was released later.

As soon as you get halfway through the opening ten minute rendition of ‘The River’, it’s already obvious that The Tea Party doesn’t shy away from stretching out. With two songs past the ten minute mark and only three tracks (and the short instrumental ‘Winter Solstice’, which is hidden before ‘Sister Awake’, but mentioned nowhere in the track listing) under five minutes, this is clearly a show of epic proportions. And that’s where experiencing this album comes out best. The intense acoustic Blues of ‘Sun Going Down’ opens with a rendition of the classic Gospel song ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ and builds towards a goosebumps inducing closing two minutes. Absolutely beautiful. ‘Save Me’ – featuring Martin on esraj and violin bowed guitar – is of similar length and works towards a number of fantastic climaxes. Other highlights include a thrilling version of ‘Halcyon Days’ and the mind blowing experience that is closing track ‘Sister Awake’. Both of these songs are “only” around eight minutes long.

If you get the DVD or Blu-ray, the beautiful performance of only the Sydney show – the CD gives you a compilation of recordings of all the Australian shows – is presented to you in absolutely flawless, razor sharp images with an enormous dosage of blue light. It all adds to the hypnotizing experience. And seeing Burrows attack his drum kit is nothing short of inspiring. The only criticism I could have is that I sometimes miss the bass on the songs on which Chatwood plays keyboards, but that’s usually covered just fine. I guess it’s just that I like his bass playing so much.

Word on the street is that The Tea Party is currently writing music for a new album. That would be just amazing, as this live collection proves that these guys are still among the best bands in the world. Just let the music speak for itself; it is bound to take you on a journey. If you need help to chose between formats: I’d just get both the CD version and the video version of whatever video system you possess. They’re different recordings and just seeing these guys play is simply overwhelming. Let’s just hope it won’t take too long before their new album can be the album of that particular week.

Recommended tracks: ‘Sun Going Down’, ‘Sister Awake’, ‘Halcyon Days’, ‘Save Me’, ‘The River’

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