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The Tea Party - Seven Circles CD (album) cover

SEVEN CIRCLES

The Tea Party

Crossover Prog


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FragileKings
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Actually, I rather enjoy this album. So why am I giving it only two stars? Allow me to explain. Take three exquisitely talented musicians who are capable of combining folk with Led Zeppelin-inspired rock, electric and acoustic blues, heavy rock with world music, and industrial with heavy rock and world music and ask them to make a Nickleback record and the result might be something like "Seven Circles". Not that this is like Nickleback exactly. The Tea Party are not a heavy rock bar band who found international success repeating the same formula. They are more sophisticated than that. But this album is similar to the style of Nickleback in that it is mostly four to five-minute heavy rockers without much of what made the Tea Party so interesting over their first six albums.

Now, I enjoy the heavy bombast and monster riffs, as well as the beautiful melodies of songs like "Oceans" and "The Watcher", and I always enjoy hearing Jeff Martin's unique voice which I believe to be one of the best voices in the rock world today. Certainly there are musical passages that you could expect to find on more developed prog albums. Why, just as I was listening to "Luxeria" I thought that part of this could have appeared in Haken's "Pareidolia" from their "The Mountain" album, or some of the heavy guitars with a bit of electronica could be from IQ's "Road of Bones". And the band haven't totally abandoned their world music sound nor their love for strings as we can still get a taste of these on some songs here and there.

No, the reason why I've given it only two stars is that as a prog album, well, it just isn't. Crossover prog might be a bit of a stretch but not entirely unreasonable. However, the album includes a few songs that are pretty much radio fodder, songs like "Writing's on the Wall," "Stargazer" and "Oceans", good though they are if you like heavy rock radio fare. You know, the kind where the chorus is sung over the same chord played for two bars, then another for two bars, and then a third for two bars, all in 4/4 time or 8/4 time. If you want a comparison, look to some of Saga's albums, which are nothing more than pop hard rock and have little more of interest ("Network" springs to mind).

Jeff Martin was against this move, I understand. He did not like this heavy radio rock approach and soon after quit the band. Martin went on and released some very good albums under the name of Jeff Martin, the Armada (with drummer Wayne Sheehy), and Jeff Martin 777, and now the Tea Party have regrouped and are releasing a new album shortly, hopefully true to their unique sound and not another rock album.

Ah, here we are at the end of the album, the title track, and at last we hear what the Tea Party were about, Middle Eastern instrumentation with heavy rock with hints of Led Zeppelin. Ah, well. I still think it's great album for what it is. I'll listen to it any day over Nickleback. But if you really what to hear what the Tea Party is about, check out "Splendor Solis", "The Edges of Twilight", or "The Interzone Mantras", or "Transmission" for their darker side.

Report this review (#1274187)
Posted Wednesday, September 10, 2014 | Review Permalink
russellk
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars And so we reach the rather bleak nadir of this compelling band. THE TEA PARTY learned its chops performing LED ZEPPELIN covers. However, by this, their seventh album, they have all the chops in the world but bind them up rather in the manner Chinese women were once forced to wrap their feet. The result is stunted and unbalanced.

And yet. A surfeit of heavy rock riffs still stirs a faint pleasure in me. Stop it, 'Overload'! I don't want to enjoy this; I shouldn't! But - hee hee - it's still fun. 'Writings On The Wall' is a superior hard rocker. The chorus to 'Wishing You Would Stay' is lovely, with the female voice lifting the song out of mediocrity. Listened to in isolation - perhaps as part of one of their earlier albums - these tracks wouldn't be too bad. (Well, 'The Watcher' is pretty bad, really.) But put 'em all together and you have the same result you'd get if you forced Shakespeare to write a script for a Teletubbies episode.

No, 'Seven Circles', I'm going to resist your crude blandishments. You are a sellout, written to get heavy rock radio airplay, and I despise you for that. If I was the charismatic lead singer and had a desire to make more meaningful music I'd leave after such a limp effort - oh look, he did.

Report this review (#1283406)
Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2014 | Review Permalink

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