Canadian Rock trio The Tea Party will be releasing their first new music in Europe since 2014’s The Ocean At The End album with a full-length record titled Blood Moon Rising, out November 26th, 2021 via InsideOutMusic.
The album (cover artwork to be seen above!) features 11 tracks recorded by The Tea Party over the course of the last five years in Canada and Australia, combining the previously released Black River EP with a selection of new compositions and additional bonus material. I have to confess to coming late to the Tea Party (huh, huh!), not being aware of the band’s thirty year history until very recently. And I have to say I cannot understand not having picked up on such an impressive trio before!
The Tea Party (comprising Jeff Martin on lead vocals and guitar, Jeff Burrows on drums and Stuart Chatwood on bass and keys) released their eponymous debut album in 1991, drawing on influences from psychedelic rock and blues. It was produced by Martin, something he would continue with for all the band’s albums. This was followed in 1993 by Splendor Solis, the band beginning to employ Indian-style sounds in tandem with a continued blues influenced style. As a result, The Tea Party was often compared to Led Zeppelin, a parallel that was reinforced by Jeff Martin playing guitar with a violin bow (not unlike Jimmy Page) on “Save Me“. Martin’s appearance, voice and singing style also drew comparisons to those of Jim Morrison, as did some of the album’s lyrics. 1995’s The Edges of Twilight continued this vibe, combining three-piece rock compositions with music from around the world in the band’s most commercially successful album.
“Sure,” said Stuart Chatwood said of these comparisons “we draw from 70s rock as much as the other influences we’ve talked about. You can’t ignore the power that Led Zeppelin or The Doors had, and there are elements of those influences in our songs, but it’s a cop out to then write us off as some retro act. If people listen closely, they’ll appreciate the originality of what we’re doing, time changes. The fact that Jeff’s a rock baritone doesn’t justify the laziness of critics who slag him as a Morrison wanna-be
The Tea Party broke up in 2005 but reformed in 2011, claiming they couldn’t keep apart and had unfinished business. They released their last album Ocean At The End in 2014 which, apart from one or two singles has been it as far as new recorded output until now, although they had been touring aplenty….which brings us up to date with this new album (although it does include the contents of the Black River EP, released in 2018)
Stuart more recently summed up Blood Moon Rising as follows: “Putting together “Blood Moon Rising” has been an epic ordeal split into two parts with recordings and mixing taking place all over the world. After many years away from the European market we’re thrilled to return with such a varied collection of rock songs. That epic riff from “Black River” is what launched the sessions to the follow up to our 2014 release “The Ocean at the End”. Many of our epic songs came from the interplay between the guitar and the drums with those two instruments talking to each other. This riff was imagined in 2015 when Jeff Burrows and Jeff Martin found themselves in our hometown of Windsor with some idle time between tour dates. They decamped to a garage to jam out ideas which turned into an epic five-hour session that resulted in the skeleton of this proto-1970s, British Blues Rock anthem that could only have been written in the shadows of the Detroit skyline!”
“Once again Jeff has helmed the production of the album, we finished the recordings in Vancouver at the legendary Armoury Studios, and we’ve loved re-exploring our rock, acoustic and blues influences. Of particular note is the title track, dedicated to our longtime front of house sound engineer John Watt, who sadly passed away during the recording of the record. With the world thrown into chaos thanks to Covid the band is unsure when the world tour will commence for the record, but we are hoping to return to European audiences for the first time since 2001!”
Maybe the first thing to say about this album is that, if you know the band, you won’t be disappointed! In particular, Jeff Martin’s voice is as rich and magisterial as ever. Maybe overall there’s perhaps less of the eastern-tinged influence and instrumentation than before, in favour of a slightly more conventional rock sound? There’s 14 tracks on the CD and digital download, although only 11 on the vinyl version. It all kicks off with Black River, big riff dominating but interspersed by Jeff’s trademark dexterous acoustic guitar work, very Southern Rock in flavour.
Way Way Down follows, and you could be forgiven for thinking this is the Black Keys, it has that same dirty blues feel, slide guitar slithering under JM’s gritty vocals. Sunshower in contrast is a ballad, with a shimmering, echoey arrangement for the guitars before a simply stellar solo zaps you! Definitely an anthemic “lighters out” number for live performances!
So Careless is back to a simple full-on rock sound, big riff, verses setting you up for the majestic chorus. It’s an interesting arrangement with more lyrical echoes and whispered side-vocals. This will be another massive crowd-pleaser live! Our Love could be early Zep with that lovely acoustic base, a hugely melodic ballad that has the same vibe as “Thankyou” and several others on Led Zeppelin III. I love it!
Hole in My Heart opens with a very Indian cadence of notes, before a slab of fast-paced full-on rock hits you, albeit backed by a string arrangement that blends seamlessly within the arrangement. Mr Martin still knows what he wants production-wise! I could imagine INXS performing this track, and it often occurs to me that The Tea Party’s popularity Down Under is in part driven by this similarity of style, of iconic leaders – several of their songs fit into this melding of styles?
Shelter has a totally different vibe, it’s slow, bluesy, really atmospheric, with lovely guitar lines. Short, but very sweet, my favourite track on the album, I’d love to hear an extended psychedelic live work-out of this! Summertime continues this glorious mix of riffs-to-die-for: pacey, nicely crafted percussion lines; and overtly single / anthemic material. This track perfectly captures and lives up to its title.
Out On The Tiles (Led Zep cover) – very interesting! This version remains true to the original whilst having a clear “Tea Party” stamp on it. Jeff Martin’s voice is impeccable but the whole band vibe is right up there, a consummate tribute to Zep and perhaps mischievously cocking a snook at those detractors who used to say the Tea Party were simply a tribute band. There’s a cracking sense of humour emerging here – and an altogether decent rendition as well!
The Beautiful is simply that – a lovely, floating, melodic number with soaring guitar licks, a high quality arrangement that is timeless in style – that’s the Old Classic Rocker in me enjoying every last note. The (vinyl) album closes with Blood Moon Rising (Wattsy’s Song), the title song and lovingly dedicated to their long-time sound-desk mixer John Watt. This could be The Stones doing Wild Horses, it has that same elegaic vibe to it, down to the blend of acoustic and slide guitars. It’s a fitting and heart-warming tribute.
The three bonus tracks on the digital versions start with a fascinating cover of Joy Division’s “Isolation” – it’s very different to much of what’s gone before, and Jeff Martin’s baritone is indeed eerily reminiscent of the late, great, Ian Curtis. It’s an upbeat version, and works very well! Everyday Is Like Sunday is next, a cover of the Morrissey song, equally surprising/interesting, and highlights how versatile this band really are! The bonus tracks are completed by a live version of Way Way Down – less like the Black Keys and more like a cross between Zeppelin (again III era) and The Band?
All in all, a great way to celebrate the band’s 30th Anniversary of existence – my one small chunter is that I would have liked to heard more of the band’s previously iconic eastern influences regarding instrumentation and arrangements shining through – a shame, because that rootsy / World feel added something unique to their strongest work? But this is still a really strong collection, it’s “less The Doors, and more The Black Keys” but there’s no diminution in the band’s creative and performance skills!
With a career spanning over thirty years and nine albums, The Tea Party can claim to have successfully gained the attention of fans on a worldwide level, although I’m not so sure about their UK status? They have toured countlessly, mainly across Canada, the United States and Australia, and much of the band’s success can be attributed to their larger-than-life stage presence. This album further adds to their already strong material, and will hopefully prove pivotal in reinforcing their live act in the near future!
I for one can’t wait!