Tempest - Shapeshifter

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: MAX-9066-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 47:14:00

Two years after the band's Balance album, Tempest strikes back with another Robert Berry produced album. This time around only leader Lief Sorbye and drummer Adolfo Lazo remain, turning this album more towards a "back to the roots" approach. Not only does the album tend to deliver more acoustic elements due to the arrival of Sue Draheim on vocals and fiddle, some of the music even gets close to the likes of Steelye Span. So don't expect too many electric guitar interventions, as the main ingredients here are mandolin and fiddle. I'd say that you don't have to expect Jethro Tull kind of material but Red Jasper music instead. For sure the collaboration with Robert Berry will still spark some interesting time signatures such as during "Catalina Island," which also contains some great bass work, but the emphasis will remain with authentic folk. When Lief and Sue's vocals meld together you really can't get any folkier than that. "Old Man And The Mill" perfectly illustrates this story-telling instead of original singing, but even the slide guitar can't compensate for the mediocre nature of this song.

Maybe it's the arrival of Sue Draheim that steered the band towards its pure folk roots again. Sue has played alongside John Renbourn, Richard Thompson and the Albion Band so she sure knows what folk is all about. Lief's vocals during "Natural Law" contain just a little bit of Ian Anderson. When violin and guitar play the scales together, "Byker Hill" contains a little bit of that Kansas magic, although when the violin gets a solitary spot, it sounds more like [Jean Luc] Ponty than Robby Steinhardt! A jig like "Coalminers," which is made out of three traditional Irish "reels," certainly will be a live favourite. Yet for me it doesn't really work on this album. Sorry. I'd rather settle for the Norwegian sung "Fjellmannjenta," which apparently is based on a story about a mountain girl with a great appetite for dancing, skiing, food and drink. This song is followed by two instrumentals based on Norwegian traditional fiddle music: "Numedalshalling" and "Kafjell." This is more the kind of material I would associate with Tempest, getting close to their previously released material. Maybe the closest to everything they've done so far has to be the closing song "The Cruel Brother," which is a murder ballad as collected by the late professor Francis James Child. Again the actual traditional is followed by three different "reels." To my ears, this music also contains elements that I find when I listen to a rather unknown band called Roses Amongst Thorns. However, although towards the end of this album Tempest seems to get back to the way they sounded on Balance, I have to be honest and say that I'm not that impressed with this album. Maybe if they had given it the subtitle of "Tempest Unplugged" or something, then maybe I could have understood, but as it stands now Shapeshifter is the kind of album that could have been delivered by The Albion Band or Steeleye Span, for all I care. So the build up towards originality has vanished in one single blow. Back to the drawing board!

Tamosher (3:36) / Catalina Island (4:07) / Old Man At The Mill (3:39) / Natural Law (3:56) / Byker Hill (3:13) / Carnival (4:34) / Coalminers (5:01) / Winter Night (4:15) / Fjellmannjenta (4:48) / Cruel Brother (10:05)

Lief Sorbye - lead vocals, acoustic and electric mandolins and octave mandolas, bodhran
Adolfo Lazo - drums, percussion
Ronan Carroll - electric and acoustic guitars, harmony vocals
Mark Skowronek - bass, harmony vocals
Sue Draheim - fiddle, viola, harmony vocals

Guest :

Robert Berry - keyboards

Springdans (1987) (Lief Sorbye)
Bootleg (1991)
Serrated Edge (1992)
Sunken Treasures (1993)
Surfing to Mecca (1994)
Across The Borders (1994) (Sorbye)
Turn of the Wheel (1996)
To Cry You A Song - A Tribute To Jethro Tull (1996) (contrib. one track)
The Gravel Walk (1997)
Caliban (1998) (Sorbye & Michael Mullins)
10th Anniversary (1998)
1999 Live at the Philadelphia Folk Festival (1999) (only available through Tempest)
Balance (2001)
Shapeshifter (2003)
15th Anniversary Collection (2004)
The Double Cross (2006)
Lief's Birthday Bash (2007)
Prime Cuts (2008
Another Dawn (2010)

Live At Karfluki Fest 2006 (DVD) (2006)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: June 15th 2003
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website: www.tempestmusic.com
Hits: 478
Language: english


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