Posts Tagged ‘ reunion ’

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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Album of the Week 47-2012: Soundgarden – King Animal


Still I can hear guitarist Kim Thayil say it in an interview which took place shortly after Soundgarden’s return to the stage: “If we make another album, it will probably sound different than we’ve done before.” In the meantime, ‘King Animal’ was released and it sounds exactly like you would expect from Soundgarden. Maybe even slightly better than expected; it surpasses 1996 farewell album ‘Down On The Upside’ in every possible way. To these ears, ‘King Animal’ sounds like the album Soundgarden could have done between ‘Badmotorfinger’ and ‘Superunknown’. The Seattle rockers still sound fresh, inspired, powerful and open to the odd surprise.

Every element that made Soundgarden so good in the first place is still firmly intact on ‘King Animal’. Say what you want about Chris Cornell’s dubious solo carreer, his strong Rock voice with just the right amount of rasp is still among the best in the business. Matt Cameron hasn’t ceased to inject his grooves with the force of Rock and the technique of Jazz, Ben Shepherd still knows how to make his presence known, even during passages in which he plays fairly standard stuff and Cornell and Thayil once again weave their guitar lines into an irresistable, psychedelic tapestry.

Although Soundgarden has recorded a bunch of kick-ass straight forward Rock tunes for ‘King Animal’ – the appropriately titled opening track ‘Been Away Too Long’, ‘Attrition’ and ‘Non-State Actor’ are quite brilliant in that matter – it isn’t until the band hits that semi-psychedelic mode when the album really hits its peak. It’s probably not a coincidence that the three songs Thayil wrote or co-wrote the music to are among the album highlights; ‘A Thousand Days Before’ has a hazy atmosphere with great guitar work reminiscent of the nineties Stoner scene, ‘Blood On The Valley Floor’ has a monstrous groove underneath pleasantly dissonant riffs and the heavy ‘By Crooked Steps’ deliciously stomps through odd meters, which is also a hint of Cameron’s involvement.

That’s not where the fun stops though. Cornell’s slow and introspective ‘Bones Of Birds’ has an inescapable atmosphere, Shepherd’s ‘Taree’ has a bunch of amazing, Black Sabbath-ish riffs, ‘Worse Dreams’ has some killer unexpected twists, Cameron’s ‘Eyelid’s Mouth’ works towards multiple amazing climaxes and features a stellar performance by Cornell and the hypnotizing closing track ‘Rowing’ has a somewhat Delta Blues-like atmosphere, slightly reminiscent of John Lee Hooker, and a killer, fuzz-laden guitar solo near the end.

Okay, that’s a lot of tracks I mentioned, but the truth is that almost every song here is a direct hit. There’s nothing as crushingly heavy as ‘Slaves & Bulldozers’ or as vicious as ‘Jesus Christ Pose’ on here, but ‘King Animal’ quickly became one of my favorite Soundgarden records. It’s just barely short of the brilliance of ‘Badmotorfinger’, but it’s at least on par with breakthrough record ‘Superunknown’. It’s good to hear that this group of musicians can still create something magical together; an album that isn’t a delight to listen to based on nostalgia, but on the amazing music created right now.

Recommended tracks: ‘A Thousand Days Before’, ‘Blood On The Valley Floor’, ‘By Crooked Steps’, ‘Bones Of Birds’, ‘Non-State Actor’, ‘Rowing’

Album of the Week 46-2012: Led Zeppelin – Celebration Day


Magical. That’s what it must have been like if you were at the O2 Arena in London on December 10th 2007, when the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin teamed up the the late John Bonham’s son Jason on drums for a one night only reunion show. Being the Led Zeppelin addict I am – I still think there’s nothing higher attainable musically than Zep – I of course entered the lottery for tickets. Didn’t win any, but this is almost as good. I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to any release as much as this one. I counted down the days. But it was worth it: ‘Celebration Day’ shows a powerful, inspired performance by the best Rock band ever.

Most of the songs have been tuned down half a step to easier facilitate Robert Plant’s voice. It’s obvious from the first second of opening track ‘Good Times Bad Times’. Since Plant has a history of not playing Zeppelin stuff the way it has been released throughout his consistently amazing solo carreer, I don’t mind these little changes. And let’s not forget that the human voice does lower with age. And while Plant’s voice has inevitably aged, he handles this material incredibly well, albeit somewhat less over-the-top than on the originals. This causes him to sound like a reflecting old man rather than a young romantic on the eternal classic ‘Stairway To Heaven’. The subdued performance of the band backs him up there, adding a whole new dimension to an extremely familiar song.

Jason Bonham actually does a great job replacing his father. He has a powerful style that resembles his father’s and therefore makes him the only justified drummer. Just listen to him punishing his kit during a breathtaking version of ‘Kashmir’ – actually played in its original tuning, since it’s in an open D tuning – or ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ (also featuring a mean blues harp courtesy of Plant) and you’ll have no doubt that it’s a Bonham playing. He also shares vocals with Plant on a strong rendition of ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ and does that well.

Pleasantly surprising is that the setlist for the night didn’t only focus on the obvious choices as ‘Stairway To Heaven’, ‘Black Dog’, ‘Rock And Roll’ and ‘Whole Lotta Love’. In fact, with ‘Ramble On’ and ‘For Your Life’, the band played two amazing tracks from their back catalog live for the first time. Especially the latter is executed incredibly well. Unsurprisingly, half of ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ is included, but traditional blues tributes ‘In My Time Of Dying’ and ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ are the songs that the band seems most comfortable with. And let’s not forget my favorite Led Zeppelin song ‘No Quarter’, a psychedelic masterpiece that is just as good as the studio version from the moment John Paul Jones kicks in with the dreamy fuzz piano part. I wasn’t there, but it was a near-divine experience this way anyway. Also, playing ‘Dazed And Confused’ even slower than it was recorded almost sends it into Black Sabbath territory. Awesome!

Critics will always find something to attack on these performances. Jimmy Page is still a sloppy guitarist, but I have always felt that that was what gave his playing and the songs their breath of life. And of course, it doesn’t sound exactly like it did in the seventies, but it would have missed the point if it did. The bottom line is that these guys can still create magical music together. And judging from the looks on their faces, they were having a lot of fun doing it.

Any fan of Rock music should own this piece of history. Period. And if you haven’t gotten it yet, be sure to get a version with the bonus dvd, as it features the entire show as it was done during the production rehearsal. A performance that is filmed with only one camera and that is overal somewhat looser, but no less enjoyable. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put on the dvd again, because one can never have enough Led Zeppelin.

Recommended track: ‘No Quarter’, ‘Kashmir’, ‘Stairway To Heaven’, ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’

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