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It’s Tea Time: Twilight of Windsor’s Tea Party

By Dan Rozenson

Similar to the Boston Tea Party upheaval, Windsor’s Tea Party is also busy rebelling against the status quo in today’s music scene. Their second album, The Edges of Twilight stands out as a mosaic of sounds from almost every culture on Earth.

I received a phone call from drummer Jeff Burrows who was in Montreal at the time (the fat cats at EMI paid for the whole thing). When discussing the new album, Jeff sounded very excited: “The album musically describes all three of our lives rolled into one.” The Edges of Twilight features about 31 different instruments such as dumbek drums, sitar and santoor. “We set out from the beginning to incorporate all these influences. This was our way of reacting against the traditional Detroit-influenced Windsor rock scene of the 80’s. In 1988 we began listening to world music on public access radio and that’s when those sounds started infiltrating.”

When performing, the band insists on playing all those instruments live, with no sampling or the addition of other musicians. This turns their live show into an experience where “no idle hands are allowed.” During one song, vocalist Jeff Martin alternates between two types of guitars and Aboriginal drums, while bassist Stuart Chatwood plays harmonium, bass and keyboards. This kind of hyper-activity makes a Tea Party concert intense both musically and visually. 

In 1993, after the release of the Tea Party’s debut album Splendour Solis, heavy criticism was directed towards the band’s image. This was due to Martin’s vocal similarities to Jim Morrison and the band’s Led Zeppelin-like vibe. This doesn’t really seem to bother the band as much, “The question now is only asked in retrospect anyways,” says Burrows. “We never denied listening to Zeppelin, but we all know about four Doors songs, and that’s about it.” At this point we started mocking these bands, until I told Jeff that I own a Zeppelin flag…silence followed.

The band is currently on a Canadian summer tour. On July 2, they will play the Fort Erie Friendship Festival. From there on, the band will tour the U.S. with Bush (the band, not the wimp ex-President) and will appear on the Conan O’Brien show. So if you want to listen to world music and not feel like an elitist snob, pick up a copy of the Tea Party’s The Edges of Twilight.

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