The Tea Party have been releasing albums since 1991. All of them under the radar of this writer. So it comes to pass that I get to hear their new album The Ocean At The End without knowing their previous back catalogue. It seems the band have been on an hiatus as this is the first studio release since Seven Circles in 2004. They are a three piece Canadian Band but seem to spread around the world as the writing process started in Australia. It is a rock album rather than a prog album, (except maybe for the title track) lets make no mistake about that. On hearing it for the first time I didn't like it but on subsequent listens I have begun to appreciate it for the mood it sets and the vibe that goes with it. The instrumentation has a sound of Led Zeppelin to it. In other places Rush, and on one track Gary Numan!!! Don't worry. I will explain. The vocals however sound nothing like the aforementioned. Remember Iron Butterfly's Inna Gadda Da Vida. There are the vocals in a nutshell. Jeff Martin has a rich baritone voice that sometimes resembles Scott Walker as well. So imagine Doug Ingle (Iron Butterfly singer) joining Led Zep as vocalist and you have an idea of how this album sounds.
The L.O.C sounds like Achilles Last Stand as it hurtles into the start of the album. Stuart Chatworth on bass and keyboards and Jeff Burrows on drums make a mighty sound with Jeff Martin on guitar and vocals. The Black Sea has a Rush feel to it. Cypher has an eastern vibe while The Maker is lead by the bass until the song turns into a nice mid paced ballad. Black Roses starts with an open tuned guitar that would not be out of place on Led Zep 3. Brazil is a song about the country and the fact that although the world is focusing on it with the FIFA World Cup and The Olympics it still has starving children and corruption. The 11th Hour is another Zep influenced track. I like this track more each time I hear it. Submission is the Gary Numan track. Just couldn't believe it the first time I heard it. Fuzzy bass and guitar underpin the song but there is no mistaking the Numan sound and chord structures. The Cass Corridor takes us back to Zep and some nice harmonica playing. Waters on Fire is another nice mid tempo ballad. Which brings us to the final track and the one true prog song. The Ocean At The End. This has Ian Anderson guesting on Flute. It is very atmospheric and has a slow plodding beat to it that makes it the best track on the album. It morphs into an untitled ambient piece at the end which finishes the album.
From not liking it on first listen, I have grown to enjoy this. Which means its a grower. If you are a big fan of this band then I am sure you will love this album. If you are a novice like me, it may take some time to get into it. But persevere. It will be worth it.
**** Dave Smith
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