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(44 min, Quixote)
TRACK LIST: 1. Spanish Night 4:55 2. Soundscapes 5:41 3. Cut in the Sun 3:47 4. Last Drink 3:33 5. Autumn 4:15 6. Hold On 4:23 7. My Own Way 5:27 8. Scar Folk 3:09 9. Why 2:09 10. Come What May 7:18 PERSONNEL: Michael Schumpelt - keyboards; recorders; b/voc Oliver Sorup - guitars, mandolin Stephan Weber - vocals With: Mike Godel - drums Michael Six - bass &: Marc Schafer - cello Patricia Engelmann - voice
Prolusion. Although German outfit TEA FOR TWO (TFT hereinafter) has existed ever since 1985, "Twisted" is only their third studio album, following "Dream of Reality" (1993) and "101" (2000). It is a hard time nowadays to be occupied with progressive music, though it is probably even harder to moralize on the topic.
Analysis. I gave a few attentive listens to this disc prior to writing a review and I liked it better and better with each consequent one. To say "Twisted" is a major improvement, compared to the previous TFT release, is to say almost nothing, since positive changes have touched probably every aspect of the group's work - starting with their overall sound (no programmed bass and drums anymore) and concluding with the album's content as such. The music isn't something sealed with seven seals, but nevertheless it is full of hidden nuances and additionally is filled with a wonderful vintage-like aura. What most of all unites the ten tracks present is that the acoustic instrumentation (guitar, piano, recorder and drums, the former quite often playing an even more important role than its electric counterpart) is offered widely on each, although two of the four vocal-free pieces, namely Last Drink and Why, are woven exclusively of acoustic patterns. The former is an acoustic guitar piece in the style that has been adopted in Symphonic Progressive since the early days of the genre, whilst the latter is new-age piano music which, although good in itself, somewhat falls out of the recording's general concept - perhaps because this is the only track here that doesn't emanate any vintage flavor. There is not even a hint of mediocrity on any of the disc's ten tunes, but nonetheless it was not an intractable problem for me to find out the absolute winners. These are the instrumental, Soundscapes, and the concluding number, Come What May (which is largely-instrumental in its turn), both being the most original and, at the same time, most intricate tracks here. In the teeth of what its title implies, Soundscapes is a living and, what's especially amazes me, ever-changing music, in the beginning appearing as a classically-inflected interplay between acoustic guitar and piano, but later on obtaining an outline of classic symphonic Art-Rock with a full-band sound. From time to time the electric guitar positively rocks, but without entering Metal territory. The sole track with the participation of a guest cellist, Come What May begins and develops in a similar way - only with the cello sharing the field with acoustic guitar in its introductory section, as well as in its postlude. I am especially pleased to realize that TFT have managed to impart a sense of magic to these complex compositions too. All the other tracks are for the most part built up of dense textures, though due to the group's proper use of studio resources the balance between electric and acoustic instruments is in most cases still kept here too. The two numbers with a strong blues-rock component, Hold On and Autumn, both arouse vivid associations with Led Zeppelin, though not everywhere. Cut in the Sun and (the remaining instrumental) Scar Folk, each blends together symphonic, folk and hard-rock elements, now bearing a certain similarity to Jethro Tull, now avoiding any possible comparisons. Spanish Night (progressive Folk Rock with a distinct Flamenco feeling) and My Own Way, both completely eschew outside references, even though I find the latter to be the same for TFT as I'm In Love With My Car is for Queen. As is the case everywhere on the album, on Spanish Night the musicians play also with ease, providing diverse instrumental arrangements alongside the vocal lines too. Unfortunately, there are only three different vocal themes here, though on the other hand some lack in diversity on the tune's vocal angle is well compensated for by its varied instrumental sections.
Conclusion. Although I haven't heard the first TFT release, I have no doubts - "Twisted" is their best effort to date. It would be wrong to draw direct parallels between TFT and anyone else, but nevertheless I think I can set an example for readers: This album is progressively more saturated than Jethro Tull's "War Child", you may be sure. Sincerely recommended. Those who have the desire to dive into the astonishing atmosphere of '70s Rock music again should not miss this CD at all costs.
VM: February 11, 2006
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