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  Specs
  • Full Frame
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • 1 Audio commentary - Jeff Martin, Stuart Chatwood & Jeff Burrows
  • 1 Cast/crew biographies
  • 1 Photo gallery
  • 1 Behind the scenes footage - The Making of Walking Wounded
  • 1 Discography
Illuminations - The Tea Party Collection
Warner Vision/Warner Vision . R4 . COLOR . 59 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

There is a valid truism, which implies that imitation is often the sincerest form of flattery, and that familiarity breeds contempt. When used as a simple proverb, separated from any kind of ideological connotation, this philosophical observation merely transforms into a tired, flaccid, and cliché-ridden catch-phrase, destined to be perpetually wielded by the unthinking masses as though it were a holy mantra of the highest order. Conversely, when this otherwise innocuous cliché is incorrigibly (and in a peculiar sense, almost symbiotically) linked to the frequently controversial public misconceptions that surround Canadian alternative rock outfit, The Tea Party, it crystallises into another inescapable reality.

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"Jim Morrison? Never heard of him..."

It is ironic, then, that this seriously underrated band’s persuasive blend of mind-shattering industrial-tinged electronica (with the advent of their fifth studio album, Transmission, 1995), boldly infused with charismatic frontman Jeff Martin’s predilection for Middle-Eastern music, should generate heated debate (verging, in some instances, on scornful condemnation), with cruel suggestions that it is simply a poor man’s facsimile of other, more universally celebrated groups, which rose to prominence from beneath the shadow of the Swinging Sixties’ cannibalistic cultural fringe.

Since The Tea Party has consistently proved itself to be one of the finest rock acts to emerge from the 1990s, comments such as these may appear overtly harsh or criminally unjustifiable (as, indeed, they are), but it is nigh-impossible not to resist the temptation to draw inevitable comparisons. Certainly, this remains the case when, amid the gratuitous bullshit proclaiming that the band’s mystical lyricism is somehow shamelessly derivative of Led Zeppelin’s trademark occultism, there have also been innumerable allusions, made seemingly without irony, as to Martin being the physical and spiritual embodiment of deceased rock demi-god, Jim Morrison.

Even within unsubstantiated fact, there often lurks an element of truth. So, to a certain extent, it would be foolish not to acknowledge, albeit somewhat dubiously, the overwhelming consensus that Martin – with his raven-black locks, lithe panther-like physique, and silken baritone vocals (which, imbued with a seething sensuality, devoid of any manufactured pretense, seem subtly angelic and demonic) – bears a decidedly eerie physical similarity to the original Lizard King. Yet, to seriously propose that Martin is Morrison incarnate (“the word made flesh,” as it were) is nothing short of ludicrous.

Inevitably, this hollow argument soon degenerates into making insipid, pointless comparisons between consecutive generations of pioneering rock legends and their would-be successors: Elvis Presley versus short-lived 1980’s teddy boy, Shakin’ Stephens, the often-imitated but inimitable Mick Jagger versus Aerosmith’s rubber-mouthed Steve Tyler, or the pyrotechnic virtuosity of Jimi Hendrix versus his contemporary retro-influenced counterpart, Lenny Kravitz… to mention but a selected few. Of course, as accomplished an artist as Martin is, there can be no legitimate substitute for Morrison himself.

Raised in the relatively small township of Windsor, Ontario, just across the Detroit River from the rightful birthplace of proto-punk and the inapproachable Motown sound, Martin was introduced to music through his father, who, by all accounts, was an avid connoisseur of the blues. Considering that Martin, Stuart Chatwood (bass, keyboards, mandolin and harmonium) and Jeff Burrows (percussion and drums) have practically been inseparable since high school, with each of them actively participating in several bands (both together and individually), it would seem that, years before the outfit’s formal inception in July 1990, the formation of The Tea Party was, in fact, pre-ordained.

Never to be artists who would remain susceptible to manipulation from the record companies, the group immediately made clear its autonomous stance against abject commercialism with the 1991 release of its self-titled debut album – a modest effort, The Tea Party's unanticipated success on the local “Sam the Record Man” independent charts ensured that it would eventually anchor itself firmly (like a limpet mine) into Windsor’s hit list for over twelve months. This unprecedented feat, in conjunction with a succession of dynamic live performances that were specifically organised for the benefit of intrigued representatives from several fiercely competitive record labels, enabled the band to negotiate a publishing agreement with Warner/Chappell Music, which, consequently, developed into a lucrative permanent recording contract with EMI Music Canada.

Ultimately released in 1993, The Tea Party’s second album (and their premiere studio release for EMI Music Canada), Splendid Solis, provided the strongest indication yet of Martin’s steadfast commitment to the group’s unadulterated autonomy. Supremely adamant that he alone should be entrusted to produce this effort, Martin and his colleagues retreated to the seclusion of the White Crow Audio studios, located in Burlington, Vermont, with the sole purpose of creating four original songs, which would serve as irrefutable proof to the sceptical EMI executives that he possessed, beyond doubt, the necessary characteristics of a competent and credible record producer.

However, the recording sessions would prove to have a profound cathartic effect upon the trio’s creative output, resulting in the completion of six new tracks (“The River,” “A Certain Slant of Light,” “In This Time,” “Raven Skies,” “Haze on the Hills,” and “The Majestic Song.”). Additionally, these were subsequently integrated with the selection of another five songs, lifted from their previous work (“Midsummer Day,” “Winter Solace,” “Save Me,” “Sun Going Down,” and “Dreams of Reason”) to formulate the structure of Splendid Solis’ formidable musical backbone.

Supported by a sustained media campaign (meticulously coordinated with Machiavellian flair, courtesy of the band’s savvy manager, Michael White) that incited frenzied anticipation prior to its official launch, the album became an immediate smash within The Tea Party’s homeland, rapidly cumulating in sales of over one million copies. When taken into account, based solely upon its own merits, this feat represents not merely a staggering achievement within itself, but one that, for the most part, remains unparalleled in the annuals of contemporary music; because of the comparatively diminutive size of Canada’s population, platinum status is awarded upon the shipment of 250,000 units.

Amid the generally favourable accolades which, among other things, embarrassingly proclaimed the rock trio as “significant as the Second Coming,” there were also the first noticeable stirrings of a malevolent undercurrent – a movement whose fanatical members would ostensibly dedicate themselves to a relentless crusade, advocating The Tea Party’s crucifixion, purely on the invalidated allegation that the group achieved its success from the systematic plagiarism of other artists’ material.

The supposed credence for this preposterous accusation, it was claimed, can be heard on Splendid Solis’ piece de resistance, the compulsively hypnotic six-minute epic, “Save Me,” where it is painfully evident that Martin (in a gesture which has since been recognised as an appreciative, well-intended homage to Led Zeppelin’s flamboyant axeman, Jimmy Page), indeed, uses a violin bow upon his guitar strings. Furthermore, this affectionate nod is explicitly depicted within the accompanying music video, providing an inexhaustible supply of ammunition for the band’s vehement army of detractors.

Receiving worldwide distribution through EMI Music Canada, The Edges of Twilight (1995), continued to refine the warm, organic tapestries weaved by its predecessor, further expanding upon The Tea Party’s zealous penchant for world music (and consequently showcasing Martin’s impressive artistic deftness with a multitude of traditional Middle-Eastern instruments: sitar, hurdy-gurdy, and harp-guitar). Simultaneously, these exotic harmonics were brilliantly fused with the musical foundation of the British hard-rock establishment: the fertile pastures of the classic folk and R&B movements.

Even though their new effort was, in the majority of journalistic circles, lauded as an unmitigated triumph in songwriting and production – injecting a desperately-needed transfusion of genuine fervour and effervescence into the rapidly jaded corpse of the alternative genre (which some speculated, much like punk before it, had become stagnant) – the group, once again, had to contend with inflammatory catch-cries of “copy-cat.” However, on this occasion, the controversy had been narrowed down to focus almost exclusively upon The Edges of Twilight’s scintillating fourth track, “Fire in the Head” (the song was inspired by author Tom Cohen’s intellectually-stimulating book on the practices of Celtic pagan mythology and “the Shamanism of aboriginal tribes”). Admittedly, this argument cannot be readily dismissed; with its resplendent throng of psychedelic synth-strings, “Fire in the Head” irrefutably echoes the seductive, orgasmic strains of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” with the steely precision of a surgeon’s knife.

When analysed in the proper historical context, these indictments are not only dangerously subversive, but reek of ignorance, for the same argument could be applied to implicate literary every successive pop/rock artist who, since the advent of Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm’s 1948 single “Rockit ‘88” (universally considered to be the first rock ‘n roll record ever produced), has constantly sought to refine, if not emulate, the sound of their musical forbearers.

Of course, the music industry has, since its creation, always been saturated with artists who seem content to flounder in their own mediocrity, slavishly imitating their influences (such as manufactured 1950’s pop idol Bobby Vee, who was merely a pale replicant of Buddy Holly, or Oasis’ Noel and Liam Gallagher, who have the self-delusion to liken themselves to John Lennon and Paul McCartney), yet The Tea Party has managed to consecutively evade this potential trap, simply by recognising their musical heritage. Rather than just recycle well-worn rock riffs and arrangements, the group frequently attempt to “reinvent the wheel” through the incorporation of new twists or variations, which make their songs seem like reverent nods to their inspiration, and not impertinent rip-offs.

Probably disillusioned with the adverse disparagement often afforded to them, Martin, Chatwood and Burrows took a two-year hiatus from the dictatorial media scrutiny and resurfaced in 1997 with their fifth studio album, Transmission, heroically making a defiant artistic declaration against the unjustified persecution to which they had been previously subjected. While, upon first glance, it could be easily be misconstrued as being nothing more than the illegitimate mutant progeny of one-man-band extraordinaire Trent Reznor’s angst-ridden alter ego, Nine Inch Nails (the nonpareil advocate of groove-laden nihilism), and sharing a transient resemblance to his own seminal debut, The Downward Spiral (1995), Transmission could not be realistically perceived as mere plagiarism, but as a means to an end.

The album represented another step in a serpentine logical progression, which witnessed The Tea Party irrevocably evolve from being “idealistic hedonists,” into an outfit, unrepentant and unassailable, who now seemed hell-bent on redefining itself as a musical entity. Aggressively militant and resolute in their newly-acquired “take-no-prisoners” approach, Transmission (arguably, the pinnacle of their relatively short career) marked a welcome transition from the group’s earlier efforts, producing anthemic hard-edged electronica in the guise of the pessimistic “Army Ants,” the psychosexual masochism of “Temptation,” and the high-octane fury of the mind-crushing “Gyroscope.”

Fortunately, The Tea Party’s reinvention of itself – certainly, almost as dramatic a transformation as Primal Scream’s adventurous departure from the euphoric psychedelic-pop of 1987’s Sonic Flower Groove, into the acid-house bravado of one of rave culture holiest grails, Screamadelica (1991), or melancholic synth-rockers Depeche Mode’s unexpected inclination towards a darker, grungier guitar-orientated style on 1993’s Songs of Faith and Devotion – did not necessitate the abandonment of their poetic lyrics and lush, textured soundscapes. The brooding techno-fetishistic overtones and dystopian cyberpunk manifestos, so evident on Transmission’s heavier industrial tracks, remained a dominant force on The Tea Party’s next studio recording Triptych (1999). However, unlike its predecessor, there was a seamless juxtaposition between the latter’s “traditional” songs, and those that made the diversion into the sordid, apocalyptic realm of post-punk modernism.

Lyrically intense works such as “The Halcyon Days” and “Samsara” (songs that, for this reviewer, are the absolute personification of the finest elements of alternative music), rested contently alongside the astonishingly emotive power ballads, “Heaven Coming Down,” “The Messenger” (a respectful, though somewhat sombre cover of a song written by prolific producer/songwriter Daniel Lanois, renowned for his collaboration with engineering god, Brian Eno, on the majestic Grammy-winning production of U2’s The Joshua Tree, and his evocative dream-like 1993 solo effort, For The Beauty of Wynona), and the heart-rending desperation of “Take Me Away.”

During their relatively brief career, spanning a little more than thirteen years, The Tea Party has single-handedly managed to conquer repressive media speculation and critical adversity to rightfully establish themselves, alongside with fellow compatriots, Nickleback, at the vanguard of the contemporary Canadian music scene, rivaling (and, very occasionally, actually surpassing) the tiny nation’s most recognisable intercontinental drawcards – including, but not necessarily limited to, the sugar-saccharine Celine Dion, the eternally prepubescent Bryan Adams, and the agonisingly-delectable Shania Twain – in relation to both record sales and popularity.

Without doubt, the largest contributor to the rise of The Tea Party phenomenon can be directly associated with the amount of saturation airplay the band received throughout their whirlwind tour of Europe and (more significantly) Australia, where they tirelessly promoted Splendid Solis with a lightning-fast succession of six live performances commencing straight after Christmas, 1993. The encouraging support from Australian alternative radio station Triple J, the bastion of fine independent music, immeasurably assisted with lifting the group’s profile from that of a potentially obscure, easily forgettable act, into a rock ‘n’ roll leviathan.

Thus far, it remains a sad indictment on the suffocating doctrine of the record label conglomerates and their stooges, that many artists – irrespective of how superb or mediocre their respective talents may be – simply cannot be guaranteed commercial airplay without the release of an accompanying music video (as it has recently been confirmed with George Michael’s contentious mêlée with Sony Music over his reluctance to feature himself in his own videos, it is absolutely mandatory). The Tea Party is, of course, no exception to this bloody-minded regulation.

However, the distinction between The Tea Party’s videos and those of its contemporaries lies in their luxuriant aesthetic beauty. Alternately bleak and subtly horrific (while “Save Me” consciously acknowledges the artistic influences of Hieronymus Bosch, it also seems to stealthily incorporate hints of tormented 20th century Irish surrealist Francis Bacon’s darkest, most twisted sadomasochistic fantasies) and rapturously beautiful (“Heaven Coming Down,” for instance, exhibits textures and colour palettes that, without exaggeration, would find home within Monet’s and Vincent van Gough’s vast repertoire), they resemble something more like moving renaissance or impressionist artworks, rather than the generic, half-regurgitated imaginings of the average corporate-endorsed videos, so readily consumed by impressionable teeny-boppers.

If any further evidence is required as to measure the artistic impact that The Tea Party has made, not just within the realm of alternative rock, but also the video medium, one does not have to look beyond its numerous prize-winning accomplishments; in their homeland, the band has amassed an unprecedented 22 Much-Music Video Award (MMVA) nominations, including six in 1998 alone.

Between 1994 and 1995, The Tea Party were presented with three People’s Choice Awards for “Favourite Music Video,” two of which were bestowed upon avant-garde Italian director Floria Sigismondi’s “The River” (a supremely talented multi-disciplinarian without peer, she was responsible for unleashing onto an unsuspecting public the 1996 hyper-surrealistic Marilyn Manson freakish horror show, “The Beautiful People,” and Icelandic songstress Bjork’s “I Have Seen It All), while auteur George Vale received the other “Favourite Music Video” for his evocative and rather enigmatic mind-trip, “The Bazaar.”

Likewise, Toronto filmmaker Curtis Wehfritz (the justifiably proud recipient of the 1992 “Best Director” MMVA for Tom Cochrane’s “No Regrets”) was nominated for “Best Music Video” at the 1996 Huno Awards ceremony and yet another “Best Director” prize for “Sister Awake,” but regrettably walked away empty-handed; conversely, Ulf Buddensieck’s “Release” (Martin’s poignantly heart-felt “apology to the female spirit,” and used as the anthemic promotional song for Canada’s White Ribbon Campaign, a noble charity dedicated to the eradication of violence against women) deservedly won the 1998 Huno Award for “Best Cinematography.”

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"Look, aren't we carrying this crucifixion business too far...?"

Arguably the greatest video anthology currently available on the market, comfortably seated alongside Bjork’s Volumen or Daft Punk’s Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, and looming head, shoulder and genitals above the rest of the competition, Illuminations: The Tea Party Collection is a veritable showcase of fourteen music videos (including the rarely-seen “Shadows on the Mountainside” that was made specifically for the Australian market), assembled together for the very first time, and spanning the period between the group’s first four studio albums – Splendid Solis (1993), The Edges of Twilight (1995), Transmission (1997) and Triptych (1999).

Most likely because it was released as the only new studio track, and later integrated as part of the band’s greatest hits compilation LP, Tangents: The Tea Party Collection (2000), “Walking Wounded” has a palpable feel surrounding it, as though it were an orphaned child, forcibly separated from its parental linage. Similarly, astute fans will immediately notice that there are no videos derived from either Triptych’s long-awaited successor, The Interzone Mantras (2001) or the Angels EP (2002); the explanation for this is as simplistic as simplicity itself: Illuminations: The Tea Party Collection had received its worldwide distribution long before these studio efforts were even completed.

Track Listing:

  1. The River
  2. Save Me
  3. A Certain Slant of Light
  4. Fire in the Head
  5. The Bazaar
  6. Shadows on the Mountainside
  7. Sister Awake
  8. Temptation
  9. Babylon
  10. Release
  11. Psychopomp
  12. Heaven Coming Down
  13. The Messenger
  14. Walking Wounded

  Video
  Audio
  Extras
Contract

VIDEO

Drawing upon every aesthetic cliché from the alternative rock genus which helped spawn them, the music videos featured on Illuminations: The Tea Party Collection are an eclectic group that would, in the ham-fisted paws of a less imaginative director, degenerate into wretched cheesiness. Yet, as repeatedly demonstrated throughout this disc, when such high-profile conceptual artists such as Floria Sigismondi, Dean Karr or George Vale exhibit their willingness to hijack sociological, philosophical and metaphysical ideas and merge them with an intellectual musical act whose members are aware of their own artistic sensibilities, the results are alternately exciting and subtly disturbing, sensuous and repellent. Either way, the Judeo-Christian visuals, assisted immeasurably as to how they are implemented within the context of the videos themselves, succeed in leaving an indelible imprint on the viewer’s psyche.

Grain filters (recalling, for a succinct moment, Konami Digital Entertainment’s psychosexual Silent Hill horror-survival console videogame series) intentionally “dirty” the screen image to convey a palpable sense of desolation and decay (“Save Me”); soft-focus photography, interspersed with advanced cross-processing techniques, combine to create a dynamic and somewhat hallucinogenic pulsating effect (“Fire in the Head”); stark, solemn black-and-white instill a mood of intolerable sadness (“Release Me”); and monochromic colour palettes, punctuated with strong contrasts and rapid-fire editing, are the directors’ favourite weapon of choice in a fully-stocked arsenal. There is no hesitation, whatsoever, to overwhelm the viewer with, what is at times, an excruciatingly intense blitzkrieg of potentially epilepsy-inducing visuals.

Ultimately, this chaotic kaleidoscope guarantees that an incredible strain is repeatedly imposed on the transfer, yet Warner Vision has somehow performed a remarkable feat that (as frequently exhibited during the review of the actual disc) borders on the miraculous. Indeed, considering what could have transpired if the transfer had been entrusted to less experienced (and, dare it might be said, less professional) hands, the finished product could have been disastrous – instead, Illuminations: The Tea Party Collection stands, without false claim, as a triumph of digital engineering.

Admittedly, some of the material’s visual aspects may, upon first glance to overly-critical eyes, seem more than undesirable (with its artistic heavy grain, the aforementioned “Save Me” possesses the real tendency to invoke headaches, while the Turkish-themed “The Bazaar” and the contemplative “Shadows on the Mountainside” could – depending largely, of course, on the personal settings of the viewer’s contrast, brightness and colour controls of their television equipment – generate a substantial amount of over-saturation, as well as minimal bleeding), these cannot be classified as being inherent flaws within the transfer per se, but rather the original source.

Compression artefacts, consisting of minor pixilation, can be glimpsed, with the slow, meditative fade-in inaugurating the somber “Release,” happening to be the main offender. Nevertheless, the transfer gorgeous sharpness and delineation (when, allowing for aesthetic license, it is actually permitted), contrast, and rock-solid stability against the burden of the non-conformist, near-schizophrenic colour schemes that dramatically (one is almost tempted to remark “violently”) alternate from track to track, more than compensate for any of these forgivable (and, by means of their very own definition, petty) anomalies.

AUDIO

Specially remixed for this compilation DVD by Jeff Martin and Nick Blagona at the Metalworks Studio, Mississauga, the sterling Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and DTS soundtracks certainly warrant their commendation as being near-reference material, with each selection offering aggressive multi-directionality and stunningly immersive soundscapes that swing seamlessly between intoxicating the viewer with lush, melancholic harmonics and sweeping symphonies (the spine-chilling “Walking Wounded” is a definite showstopper), and then pummeling him/her into helpless submission, courtesy of frenetic percussion and a guitar-driven Spector-esque wall of sound (“Fire in the Head”). In comparison, the Dolby Digital two-channel stereo presentation, encoded at the comparatively lowly 192Kbps and perfectly adequate for those who do not possess the optimal home theatre set-up, seems decidedly flat.

Remarkably, despite its full bit-rate, the sonic attributes of the DTS audio track do not appear too dissimilar from that of the full-blooded 5.1 mix. If there is a marked difference between the two (albeit a periphery so miniscule that it renders this contentious argument largely inconsequential), then it must surely reside in the DTS soundtrack’s employment of the sub-woofer and higher-end registers – an aspect that really comes into prominence during the playback of the Transmission-derived videos, “Temptation” and “Psychopomp.”

The former song, featuring Stuart Chatwood’s erotic, snake-like multi-layered synthesiser riffs and sequencer loops, mesmerise the viewer with an encompassing cone of sound issuing from the front and rear speakers, while Jeff Burrows’ muscular, robotic drumming accompanies the percussive drive of Martin’s guitar licks to tactically exploit the .1 LFE channel to the maximum; with its deep resonance and wildly ricocheting acoustic design, “Temptation” equates to an exhilarating, if somewhat exhaustive, aural experience.

Meanwhile, from a studio engineering standpoint, the nihilistic “Psychopomp” – an uncompromising piece of venom-swathed electronica, eerily reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails’ “The Perfect Drug” – superbly demonstrates the fanatical degree to which Martin has judiciously enhanced, yet simultaneously preserved, The Tea Party’s characteristically rich, textured sonic landscapes; retaining the same glacial detachment as it previously had on the Transmission album, the industrial veneer of this specific song’s remastering appears moderately thin (nonetheless, so, too, was the original studio version), making for a scarily intense, suitably discordant listen.

EXTRAS

Loaded with a cavalcade of all-inclusive supplements (impressive for a commercial music release, at least) Illuminations: The Tea Party Collection stands perhaps as the definitive pictorial record of this surprisingly much-maligned, criminally overlooked outfit. More importantly, however, these additional features grant dedicated fans and curiosity-seekers alike intimate access into the labyrinthine, multi-faceted mindset of the band itself, dispelling the numerous misconceptions frequently accredited to its members, and successfully tearing through the mystique which invariably surrounds them.

Animated menus. Even though they might not necessarily warrant classification as an extra supplement, the menus in Illuminations: The Tea Party Collection, nevertheless, do deserve some discussion as to the method of their navigation, and the imaginative way in which they attempt to guide the viewer throughout the disc. Featuring soothing instrumental renditions of “Walking Wounded” and “Heaven Coming Down” as its musical backdrop, the main menu immediately gives the first indication as to the relative complexity of how it branches out into other sub-menus (it must be stressed, though, that the actual navigation, with the probable exception of the Behind the scenes featurette, is also exceedingly simple and straight-forward).

Common logic would dictate that there can be only two methods with which to access the disc’s track selection – either sequentially or individually, depending on the mood. But within a few scant moments of running Illuminations: The Tea Party Collection inside the DVD-ROM drive of this reviewer’s computer system, and used in conjunction with PowerDVD software, a third method of selection suddenly becomes obtainable.

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A quiet moment of reflection.

In an innovative twist, the main menu includes six thumbnail-sized squares, located in the right-hand corner and neatly arranged into two rows of three, with each one (on constant pre-determined rotation, and visible for a brief moment) exhibiting choice screenshots from the videos themselves. By moving the cursor over the thumbnails and right-clicking the mouse, it is possible to access the sub-menu that allows the viewer to watch the videos in their sequential order, however, as far as it can be ascertained, this feat cannot be replicated on a traditional stand-alone DVD player. Granted this selection method does not represent a major issue (nor should it, since it can, of course, be easily bypassed), but for this reviewer at least, it was an interesting observation.

Similarly, when selecting videos individually, the relevant sub-menu features additional touches of its own, displaying not only the available audio selections, but also the sleeve cover art of the video’s accompanying single. There is, too, a screen tab present, which, upon being highlighted and clicked, reroutes the viewer to another Supplementary materials section that contains a wealth of information, detailing from which album the selected song was lifted, the director of the song’s complementary video, the location(s) where it was shot, and the engineering staff who were involved in the labourious production of the song’s original studio recording.

Audio commentary by Jeff Martin, Stuart Chatwood & Jeff Burrows. Undoubtedly, the shining jewel in the crown, this feature serves as an absorbing exploration into the complicated psyche of these Canadian rockers, whose commentary throughout the whole duration remains remarkably balanced – wonderfully articulate, surprisingly amicable, and refreshingly animated (with their portentous image, the trio could easily be misconstrued for possessing the vocabulary of a brain-dead troglodyte or a serial killer’s temperament). Despite the several years that this reviewer has keenly monitored The Tea Party’s burgeoning career with great interest, he was frequently startled by numerous revelations, but by none more so than the following two admissions in particular.

Firstly, the entirety of Splendid Solis was inspired by Robert Graves’ book “The White Goddess,” a collection of near-philosophical essays delving into the origins of poetry in Celtic mythology; and secondly, during the two-day shoot of the “Temptation” video (which occurred inside an abandoned distillery, located somewhere within one of Toronto’s industrial districts), Martin narrowly escaped death via hypothermia. (The guitarist/vocalist was required for the vast majority of filming to stand, immersed waist-deep, in icy-cold water that had been intentionally pumped into the structure’s subterranean basement. Even though he was suitably equipped with a rubber wetsuit, concealed beneath his clothing, Martin experienced severe discomfort).

Discography. For completists and newcomers alike, this comprehensive list cataloging The Tea Party’s first six studio albums – barring the notable omission of the band’s most recent effort, The Interzone Mantras (true to Martin’s intellectualism and his appreciation for beat culture, this album, released in 2001, derived its title from the clandestine secret organisation mentioned in William S. Burroughs’ controversial satire, “The Naked Lunch”) – provides volumes of admittedly brief, but somewhat intriguing information.

Incorporated alongside the obligatory track listings, release dates, and album production notes, are moderate-sized thumbnail images of each recording’s cover art jackets, and several factoids; mentioned purely as a tantalising foretaste of what to expect, according to one of these special facts entries: “The circle images in The Edges of Twilight booklet are ‘The Greater Key of Solomon.’ Solomon’s Key is said to unlock the secrets of the universe.”

Band biography. This twenty-two page supplementary, chronicling the decade following The Tea Party’s inception in July 1990, is also noteworthy for its inclusion of contemporary publicity photographs – one featured on each screen – which depict the band members in a variety of different poses.

Photo gallery. As its name may suggest, this seven-page portfolio includes fourteen promotional stills (equating to two photographs per screen) of The Tea Party, arranged like fashion-store mannequins, in various rock-god poses; regretably, it is somewhat derivative of the aforementioned Band biography, in that many of the photographs featured there, are included here.

Behind the scenes. So elusive that it almost requires reclassification as an Easter Egg, this eleven-minute featurette documents the three-day shoot of the “Walking Wounded” video (which was filmed in various locations around Havana, Cuba – including the Chinese-populated district of Barri Hino), before moving into the Morin Heights and Piccolo Studios, Montreal, to provide a valuable insight into the song’s elaborate studio recording production. No narration per se accompanies the featurette; however, imbedded captions regularly appear throughout the program, offering concise, but fascinating trivia (such as the tragic revelation that the day before a shoot near a Cuban coastal location was scheduled, a twelve-year-old girl had unfortunately drowned). To access the making-of documentary, it is compulsory to take several insufferable steps, which are detailed explicitly within the Easter Eggs section of this very website (so, let it not be said that we don’t have your best interests at heart!).

Play audio only option. Accessed from the main menu, this idiosyncratic feature grants the viewer the opportunity to playback the Illuminations: The Tea Party Collection’s audio tracks in either one of the disc’s three sound formats: 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, 5.1 DTS, or Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. Yet, because the emphasis here is placed solely upon the disc’s audio qualities, and not its video, this supplement does not include visual playback, ensuring that the only thing the viewer will witness is a pitch-black screen (which, coincidently, paints a remarkably-accurate facsimile of John “Jackboot Johnny” Howard’s cold, dark heart – a pool of midnight at the bottom of a coal mine).

The cynics may not be overtly impressed with the Tea Party and, hence, will remain unconverted, but devotees will (and, indeed, should) enthusiastically purchase Illuminations: The Tea Party Collection without the slightest tremor of hesitation. Speaking from the perspective as a fervent aficionado himself (a verdict that the dear reader has probably already reached, due to the witness of the five-thousand word length and occasionally deathless prose contained within this article), the reviewer cannot recommend this title highly enough. Were it not for some minor personal reservations concerning the aforementioned compression artefacts, it would warrant the commendation of the DVD Net Gold Status award, primarily on the basis of its superlative full-bodied sound properties and supplementary materials (on the surface, the extra features may seem rather mundane, seemingly lacking in quantity, but the band commentary is an absolute boon, and worthy of the price of admission alone).

Any attempt to find major faults with this disc would merely be a futile exercise in anally-retentive nitpicking. Therefore, in conclusion, the bottom line is thus: since their respective releases, Warner Vision’s most prestigious music DVD flagships – Cher: Live in Concert, The Corrs: Live in London, Roy Orbison: A Black & White Night, and The Eagles: Hell Freezes Over – have performed a crucial role in elevating the benchmark for excellence to stratospheric heights. Subsequently, these near-seminal titles have become proud ambassadors, championing the argument for embracing the digital format’s superior visual and audio presentation, and providing powerful incentive to discard the infinitely inferior incarnations of home entertainment (Laserdisc, VCD, and VHS).

Now, another candidate can be inducted into this Hall of Fame. Ladies and gentlemen, please grant your warmest welcome and salutations to Illuminations: The Tea Party Collection.


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  •   And I quote...
    "Currently, this stands as the definitive pictorial document of a formidable group who, despite the never-ending comparisons and ridicule, seem destined for greatness. Highly recommended..."
    - Shaun Bennett
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Panasonic SC-HT80
    • DVD Rom:
          Pioneer 303(s)
    • MPEG Card:
          Geforce2 32MB AGP
    • TV:
          Panasonic TX-43P15 109cm Rear Projection
    • Speakers:
          Panasonic
    • Centre Speaker:
          Panasonic
    • Surrounds:
          Panasonic
    • Audio Cables:
          Monster Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
      Recent Reviews:
    by Shaun Bennett

    Engelbert Humperdinck - Live
    "With his superlative vocal technique, smouldering sensuality, and acute witticism, Humperdinck exudes radiance in a concert performance that borders on the sublime..."

    Tangerine Dream - The Video Dream Mixes
    "The digital equivalent of an acid-fueled hallucinogenic experience, featuring a mind-altering barrage of ethereal imagery set to pulsating trance-orientated electronica... "

    Cleopatra - Special Edition
    "Maligned and misunderstood, Cleopatra can be perceived as either a forgotten classic or as a grand folly... "

    What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?
    "Ample proof, if needed, that a sequel does not necessarily equal... Few moments of brilliance cannot save the film’s lack of direction or characterisation... "

    The End of St Petersburg
    "A monumental classic from one of the grand masters of cinema, Vsevolod Pudovkin, and enhanced to no end by an excellent transfer... "

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