Tray of Gift - The Tray of Gift 3/5
1. Blue current
2. The Tray of Gift
3. Full of youth
4. Starry king
5. Sky variations
7. It’s almost improper to ask
8. In memoriam
Tuatha de Danann just seemed to slowly wither away after hitting the peak of their powers with the magnificent ‘Trova di Danu’ in 2004, with the departure of vocalist and apparent lynchpin Bruno Maia a few years later seemingly the death knell for the Brazilian folksters. Guitarist Rodrigo Berne and bassist Giovani Gomes have refused to throw in the towel though, as they have teamed up again with various Tuatha alumni and a few newcomers to keep the spirit, if not the name of the band alive with Tray of Gift, a new project that more or less represents a direct continuation of their old style.
The burning question was whether or not the rest of the band were capable of producing the same sound without Maia, who as well as being the main vocalist also contributed a lot of the traditional instruments and guitar parts, and it is happily answered in positive terms. The celtic melodies - both giddily cheerful and tear-jerkingly sorrowful – remain the same, whistles, flutes, mandolins and so forth keeping the guitarists on their toes, with a variety of vocal approaches contributing to the same carefree cavalcade feeling as before. Though while the sound is recognizably Tuatha, it has less of the all-out joy found on their final CD, with a some of the darker, sadder sounds of the preceding ‘The delirium has just began’ creeping back in again.
New frontman Adriano Sarto proves to be a pretty decent match for Maia, with a similar emotive, middle-to-high pitched wail, which is a big reassurance in regards to the continuity between the 2 projects. With that being said, the opening track, “Blue current” almost seems set to prove that there is life after the erstwhile former vocalist, as Berne’s gruff, trollish vocals are at the forefront right from the opening and throughout. It could even be argued Sarto gets something of a short shrift on his debut with the band, as after sharing center stage on the opener, he is absent altogether on the following title track, which features a likeable enough guest contribution from Brazil’s busiest man, Gus Mosanto. This is somewhat indicative of the piecemeal nature of the CD as a whole, as while it impresses in fits and starts, it never really knits together properly into a cohesive whole.
Apparently the decision not to carry on the Tuatha de Danann name was as much to do with budget constraints making it impossible to match the sound quality of ‘Trova di Danu’ as it was Maia’s absence, and it really does show. The guitar tone is sturdy enough, and the vocals are clear as a bell, but the bass and drums are a bit of a muddy blur at times, and the master fails to hold it all together properly, with the seams between the tracks glaringly obvious.
The rough sound is something that can be forgiven though, as the full songs are almost uniformly good to great – the only problem is that there aren’t very many of them. ‘The Tray of Gift’ is only 31 minutes long, and the 8 tracks here feel more like a scratch recording priming the band for fleshing things out on a more polished and rounded final product. The instrumental, acoustic interlude and outro songs are nice enough, but on a recording this short don’t feel like they are adding to the atmosphere of the CD (already scarce enough with the patchy sound) so much as just filling space.
Heaviness was never a selling point of listening to this crowd anyway, but for anyone counting, there are only 4 metal songs to be found here, with a lovely acoustic ballad (making it 3 out of 5 with no drums) and a Doors-inspired psychedelic rock song in “It’s almost improper to ask” rounding things out. There’s nothing at all wrong with either of these songs – quite the opposite in fact – but they contribute greatly to the unbalanced nature of the CD.
Even with these reservations in mind, ‘The Tray of Gift’ is unarguably better than nothing. It’s an uneven and abortive recording, and probably a hard sell to anyone who isn’t already a Tuatha de Danann fan, but for those in the know it will be tough to deny the simple joy of hearing at least some of the old band back in action.
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