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Tea Party rumours squelched

from: June 17, 2004, Ted Shaw
Associated Press Windsor Star

The Tea Party are in it for the long haul. At least that's the take of drummer Jeff Burrows. When everyone else is mum about the LaSalle band's plans, you can usually rely on Burrows to tell it like it is.

"I want to scotch the rumours about us breaking up right here and now," Burrows said this week.

The band's demise is just one of several scenarios suggested by recent developments, including a highly publicized recording session with former Creed frontman Scott Stapp.

A single, Relearn Love, under Stapp's name, was scheduled to be released this week as part of a compilation album inspired by the film The Passion of the Christ. Burrows said a second recording with Stapp was also in the plans, to be recorded in Miami, but nothing firm had been decided beyond that.

FRIENDS

"We're friends with Scott Stapp," Burrows said. "This was a chance to make a record with someone of his stature."

An wire story about the breakup of Creed stated Stapp would make a solo album with The Tea Party. That led to speculation Stapp and The Tea Party would team up under a different name.

But Burrows denied the rumour, saying future work with Stapp will depend on his being available and The Tea Party's own promotional plans for their seventh studio album, The Seven Circles, due later this summer.

The album has been recorded and is being mixed in Vancouver, Burrows said. It may be released in August.

The first single, Writing's On The Wall, could be out as early as mid-July, in time for The Tea Party's July 18 performance at Windsor's Bluesfest International.

"Everything is tentative at the moment," Burrows said, adding he was awaiting word on if and when there will be more Miami sessions with Stapp.

SRO/Anthem, The Tea Party's Toronto management company, and EMI Canada, their record label, were reluctant to say much of anything on the record. "We don't know ourselves," said a spokesman at SRO.

Burrows said he and lead singer and songwriter Jeff Martin recently put together a set list for the Bluesfest concert, which will be The Tea Party's debut at the riverfront blues festival celebrating its 10th anniversary.

"We're really excited about doing that show. We're going to play three or four early songs we haven't done in concert for a while, as well as a couple of blues covers. It'll be more of a jam, sort of like the old Coach and Horses days."

The band rehearsed and recorded their first independent album in the early 1990s in the then-empty space above the Coach and Horses, now known as The Loop.

A couple of years ago, the band showed up at Windsor's Aardvark to perform a blues-rock set of cover songs.

On July 19, the day after Bluesfest, The Tea Party will stage their second annual Up Close and Interactive acoustic show to benefit Windsor charity, Transition to Betterness. Last year's concert at Noi Restaurant raised $12,000. Transition to Betterness raises funds for palliative care programs at Windsor Regional Hospital's cancer clinic.

Last fall, Burrows donated rock and roll memorabilia assembled during The Tea Party's appearance at the Toronto SARS benefit last year, raising another $6,000. This year, he urged his friends in Nickelback to donate four tickets and backstage passes for a July 6 concert at DTE Energy Music Theatre. They will be raffled off by Transition to Betterness.

Burrows said The Tea Party's new album, The Seven Circles, will surprise many of the group's fans.

"It's all over the map musically," he said, "but I think people will warm up to it quickly."

Part of the album was recorded in producer Bob Rock's Plantation Studios in Maui, Hawaii, last fall. Other parts were done at different studios in Toronto. Randy Staub and Jeff Martin have been mixing it in Vancouver.

STRING ORCHESTRA

There is a duet with Holly McNarland, described by Burrows as a "hard-edged ballad." Several tracks feature a string orchestra, under Quebec's Marc Ouellette, who conducted and arranged The Tea Party's orchestra tour in 2002.

"This is a strong album for us," Burrows said. "Jeff (Martin) has written some of the best songs of his career."

All of it points to a renewed faith in The Tea Party. At least as far as Burrows is concerned.

"We've been working at this for nearly 20 years, Jeff and I," said Burrows, who has known Martin since they were in grade school. Bassist Stuart Chatwood joined them while they were attending Sandwich Secondary School.

"We aren't about to call it quits just like that."