Jeff Martin 777 – [Album]

Friday, 25 February 2011

Sixteen years ago, The Tea Party ruled Canadian rock radio airwaves and the band's singer, Jeff Martin, was already an icon. Between the group's first two albums (Splendor Solis and The Edges Of Twilight),  The Tea Party shattered alternative rock conventions of simplicity being the first, best way to a hit by incorporating elements of world music (mainly that of East India) and Classic Rock's love of instrumental virtuosity (the band really did sound like the best possible cross between Led Zeppelin and The Doors) and arriving at a sound was both very old and new. Tea Party music had history but did not crutch on it; older and more worldly sounds were simply used to create an all-new mysticism for fans to savor while the band rocked their pants off. It didn't last, of course – as time wore on and The Tea Party's records started getting more experimental and more electronic, fans began losing interest and fighting within the band eventually tore it apart.

After the band split, Martin signed with Nevado Records and released a solo album along with a series of live releases that were all respectable offerings, but didn't do much in the marketplace. Whispers that the singer's future was in doubt grew louder but, as it turns out, all Martin needed to do was get back to his roots and rediscover the basic strengths that powered those first two Tea Party albums. That's exactly what he does on The Ground Cries Out, and the result is his best album in years.

Those who remember Splendor Solis and The Edges Of Twilight will recognize the sounds of both on The Ground Cries Out from the moment the title track crashes through with guitars, exotic percussion, a Cambodian tro and santoor blazing around Martin's booming, senses-shattering baritone. For those who do remember, “The Ground Cries Out” is the best kind of homecoming for Jeff Martin and that will be instantly captivating for them, but those who aren't familiar will be equally hypnotized; the renewed mysticism of the old world shines beautifully, the singer is in fine voice and the combination of the two casts a perfect new incantation of an old spell.

A return of that caliber would be enough for some fans but, after the last lights of the title track fade out, Jeff Martin goes deeper. The blues and biblical references that once thrilled fans in “Sun Going Down” re-manifest in “Queen Of Spades” and “Riverland Rambler,” the coiling menace of “The River” casts shadows in every corner of “The Cobra” and there's no mistaking “The Pyre” for being anything other than the work of the star who made both “The Bazaar” and "Psychopomp.” The referencing stands out as plain as day and, while some naysayers might scream fraud or say that Martin's re-examination of old practices is a calculated act made to try and save his career, one critical listen proves that can't be all that's going on. While there may be obvious ties to older work running clearly through The Ground Cries Out, it could be argued that such similarities simply illustrate that Jeff Martin hasn't forgotten where he came from. That he's returning to those beginnings here proves to be the best and most incredible move fans could have hoped for.



The Ground Cries Out
will be released via Riverland/EMI on March 8, 2011. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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