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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Tea For Two

Twisted

Review by Rick Damigella

Tea for Two is not a newcomer on the music scene, having been together in their earliest incarnations since 1984, but with this, their third studio effort, the trio comprised of Michael Schumpelt (keys, recorders, drums) Oliver Sörup (acoustic & electric guitars, mandolin, quint guitar) and Stephan Weber (vocals) have crafted a unique blend of progressive rock that ranges from Tull-ian folk arrangements to Floyd-ian keyboard flourishes. As with any truly good progressive rock album, the music should challenge the listener. What makes Twisted a pleasurable listening experience is the wide-ranging variety of styles that make up the album. These song structures present the band (as they describe themselves on their website) as a unique blend of art-folk-progressive-rock. One minute they are playing a flamenco flourish that sends the listener to the sun-baked shores of the Spanish Riviera in summer and the next they are riffing in territory first trod by Jethro Tull at their prog-folk creative peak.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Spanish Night
The lone high pitched recorder intro from Michael Schumpelt is soon joined by down beat bass and drums but the song truly takes off with the flamenco six strings which propel the newcomer listener into the unique sound of Tea for Two. Vocalist Stephan Weber sings with strength and passion throughout, his German accent barely perceptible, which gives him his unique sound.
Soundscapes
There could be no more perfect title for this instrumental song. Leading off with acoustic guitar and piano in a melancholy chord progression, the song progresses into a more up-tempo passage with the addition of guest player Michael Six on the bass. The tune revisits its opening passage two minutes in with electric guitar added to the audio collage. Here it really picks up pace and morphs into a progressive rocker with the help of some wicked drumming and very crunchy guitars. A minute later the listener is treated to some vintage 80’s style Keith Emerson synth lines. As we approach the four-minute mark, the electric lead guitar has taken over with passionate phrasing from Oliver Sörup. The number fades to an end, once again revisiting the opening refrains. This is a most enjoyable trip through the soundscapes of this talented group of players.
Out In The Sun
For a song whose musical front pieces are mandolin and recorder, this number manages to feel altogether unique and not folky in the traditional sense. Perhaps this is because of the blending of the arrangement with the vocals of Stephan Weber as he sings of the pleasures of being out of doors with the wide-open sky. Spin this number and I challenge you not to feel yourself transported from your existence into a green glen with the sun brightly shining overhead.
Last Drink
A melancholy bluesy solo piano piece from Michael Schumpelt, this is the perfect soundtrack for last call at a dark, yet classy purveyor of adult beverages. One can almost picture newly acquainted couples talking closely as they finish their drinks and head off into the late night to a lovers rendezvous.
Autumn
The opening guitar and organ riff together in a manner worthy of comparison to Pink Floyd circa Wish You Were Here, but that is where the comparisons end. South Western twang guitar riffs and graceful/sinister vocals blend together with the other instruments into a unique pastiche of sounds. The guitar solo midway through the number is inspired, if a bit too short.
Hold On
A bluesy electric guitar intro segues into a vintage 70’s synth lead. Schumpelt’s accent is a bit thicker here, which gives this dark sounding affair its edge. Multitracked vocals singing multiple parts through the bridge create quite a different listening experience. Perhaps the number’s best moment is the analogue synth solo. We just don’t have enough of those in the 21st century.
My Own Way
Piano and vocals handle the introduction to this next piece, but they quickly give way to one of the most fully realized band performances on the disc. Accented by Uwe Haaß’s bass and vocals from Stefie Krug, this song features some of the most passionate playing and singing on the album. The chord progression builds throughout, with a blistering, soulful lead guitar passage.
Scar Folk
It is inescapable - this instrumental could very well have been a long-lost Jethro Tull number never before released. The up tempo guitar/flute chord battle is squarely in the realm of Tull, where as the Hammond Organ and guitar solos are as if Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord sat in for a jam session with Ian Anderson and company circa 1972. If and when the album hits iTunes, if you don’t get the whole thing, at least download this and the previous number.
Why?
A mellow, jazzy guitar instrumental number, this is made up of light, airy, acoustic plucking in a pretty and slightly short arrangement.
Come What May
The shortest number on the disc gives way to the longest. The album’s closer begins with a passionate vocal performance backed by acoustic guitar and cello. As the song builds, all of the elements present in the previous numbers are brought to bear (even the flamenco riffing of track 1) to create a bombastic climax to a wonderful listening experience. The lead guitar riffs are vintage in style yet original in their progression. The synth solo may sound like something torn from the pages of the Pink Floyd songbook, but listen again and you will hear these passages as the unique things they are. With some of the crunchiest electric guitar on the album, along with some of the most beautiful atmospherics on it as well, the song justifies the band’s nomenclature of art folk progressive rock. Let’s hope that the six-year gap between this and their previous release is not repeated between this and Tea for Two’s next.
 
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