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The Tea Club - Grappling CD (album) cover

GRAPPLING

The Tea Club

 

Crossover Prog

4.04 | 184 ratings

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BrufordFreak
4 stars

THE TEA CLUB Grappling

It's taken me a long time to get around to this late arrival to the 2015 catalog as I was fully enmeshed in trying to keep up with the new releases of 2016 before I was able to acquire this one. But time has given me a good chance to get to know this album pretty well. I'd read many reviewers commenting on the "new direction" The Tea Club had apparently taken with this album. I see it--mostly in the form of a much more present and flashy drummer and keyboard player than the last album. (Welcome Tony and Reinhardt!)

1. "The Magnet" (6:07) is a vibrant, intricately arranged song with stellar performances from all band members-- especially the way the guitars and keyboards mimic and weave in and out of each other's shadows. I love the pace of this one. A pretty-near flawless song and my favorite on the album. (10/10)

2. "Remember Where You Were" (7:43). Though new keyboard player Reinhardt McGeddon shone on the opening song, this is the one which really puts on full display his tremendous talents--layers and layers worth. The pacing of this song is a bit slow and syncopated for my tastes--or perhaps I find it difficult to match the rhythm section's play with the vocal and keyboard play. (Are they playing on the same song?) It almost has a Lamb Lies Down on Broadway "In the Cage" feel to it. (8/10)

3. "Dr. Abraham" (8:11) opens with a full low end, drumming on full display, with organ and guitars diddling in the background. When the vocals enter things cohere and then the music shape-shifts beneath. Over the course of the first two minutes I am befuddled by the sudden and, to my ears, incongruous time and dynamic shifts. The story about some kind of Doctor Abraham is told with quite some emotion--and, in the fourth minute, with two separate vocal lines going on simultaneously. Meanwhile, the heavy rhythm section and noodling organ and synths continue to play as if they are oblivious to one another. One of those songs whose choices for musical and vocal expression mystify me. The slow build from 5:00 to 6:00 is cool. The drummer is very good, but maybe a little too busy--which is a distraction for me. The "lamination" finale is just weird. (7/10)

4. "The Fox in the Hole" (4:45) opens with violin and acoustic guitars weaving a kind of medieval tapestry. Vocals soon join in--later to be joined by bass and drums and other multiple other voices. Electric guitar and organ 7 synths fill in the weave as the scattered, layered multiple vocals play around the sound field. Interesting. Adventurous. A top three song for me. (9/10)

6. "Wasp in a Wig" (6:16) opens in standard rock form with a pleasant lower register singing voice singing a fairly normal, straightforward vocal. At 1:10 the music drops and bass chord play are all we are left with. Gradually, a jazzy kind of collaboration builds before the vocals resume for a bit. A very nice drum and keyboard/synth solo ensue into the fourth minute. The vocals rejoin and sing with feeling as they are harmonized by the borther's background voice. (I've never been able to pinpoint which of the McGowan brothers is which.) Another synth solo fills a chunk of the fifth minute before a GG three-way vocal weave takes over. The final minute recapitulates the 1:10 quiet section with gentle key chords, drums and vocalise. Another top three song. (9/10)

7. "The White Book" (9:57) is the longest album on the album. As the band are fond of doing, The Tea Club use this temporal expanse to patiently explore several tangents--one full of subtlety and delicacy, the other with bombast and layers woven into one. My fourth top three song. (9/10)

4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |

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