Post by Mark Lavallee on May 5, 2013 21:41:42 GMT -5
My son loves Silver Bullet, it's a great ride. Ghost Rider is another really good one at Knott's. But for roller coasters Magic Mountain just destroys the place. Why Knott's wasted all thae space and money building the stupid Windseeker and never having the damn thing running I don't know. The new Boardwalk area they're building is a total rip off of Disney's California Adventure, hopefully it'll be decent. I like Knott's but it's getting tired.
Post by Mark Lavallee on Nov 27, 2012 10:09:00 GMT -5
It's the late 80s and a band is celebrating their 20th anniversary, a monumental achievement at the time, nowadays that's about the time it takes for a band to put out 4 or 5 albums, back in the day that was the length of a long and prosperous career. What to do? Why, the much ballyhooed box set of course!
This is how Jethro Tull celebrated their 20th anniversary coming hot on the heels of the critically acclaimed "return to form" album Crest Of A Knave and the dreaded Grammy win, oh dear.
The inventively titled 20 Years Of Jethro Tull was released on June 27th, 1988 and peaked at #97 in the US & #78 in the UK.
3 CDs loaded up with an extremely generous amount of previously unreleased material, this was my first box set, back when 3 CDs (or 5LPs or cassettes) in an LP sized box with a nice booklet was considered a big deal. The box set is long out of print but fortunately most of the rare material has turned up as bonus tracks on the album remasters. Each CD is broken up into different themes, let's get started...
CD1: Radio Archives And Rare Tracks
This begins with 8 live BBC sessions, A Song For Jeffrey and Love Story from 1969, Far Man and Bouree from 1969, jumping back to 1968 for the non-album blues cover Stormy Monday Blues, back to 1969 for A New Day Yesterday and then jumping ahead to 1975 with strnagely abbreviated versions of Cold Wind To Valhalla and Minstrel In The Gallery. Sadly just the acoutic introductions, cutting out before the full band comes in to finish the songs. Why this was done is beyond me, when these tracks were added to the remaster of Minstrel In The Gallery they were still edited in this way. The older tracks have all since been rereleased on the This Was and Stand Up deluxe editions by the way.
Up next is a very nice live version of Velvet Green recorded in 1977, again this has since been rereleased on the remaster of Songs From The Wood.
Next we get a bunch of unrleased tracks, b-sides, ep tunes, etc. Jack Frost And The Hooded Crow, I'm Your Gun, Down At The End Of Your Road, Coronach, Summerday Sands, Too Many Too, March The Mad Scientist, Pan Dance, Strip Cartoon, King Henry's Madrigal, A Stitch In Time, 17, One For John Gee, Aeroplane and Sunshine Day.
I'm going on memory here but I believe all of these tracks save Coronach and the Aeroplane/Sunshine Day single are available on the remasters. Jack From, Gun, Down At The End, Too Many Too are definitely on Broadsword And The Beast. A Stitch In Time and King Henry's Madrigal are on Stormwatch. Summerday Sands and Pan Dance are on Minstrel In The Gallery. 17 is on Stand Up, One For John Gee is on This Was.
Coronach was a single recorded in 1986, written by David Palmer as the theme to a historical TV series called The Blood Of The British. Beautiful song, a big favorite.
The Aeroplane/Sunshine Day single predates the first album, due to a printer's error it went out credited to Jethro Toe. Sunshine Day was the A side, an old John Evan Band number with the saxaphne edited out. Aeroplane was written by Mick Abrahams and neither were in any way a good indication of the band's sound. Nice to have but not essential.
CD2: Flawed Gems And Other Sides Of Tull
This begins with 14 previously unreleased songs. First, one known about for ages, the Aqualung outtake Lick Your Fingers Clean, little did Tull fans know they'd already had it in slightly reworked form as Two Fingers on War Child.
Next up was a nice slice of the Holy Grail for Tull fans, an 11 minute segment from the Chateau D'Isaster sessions. Scenario/Audition/No Rehearsal. One large chunk of the aborted follow-up to Thick As A Brick. This sat languishing in the vaults for 15 long years, finally fans got to catch a glimpse of what might have been. The audio deficiencis and studio problems that Anderson had with the recording is in no way evident here, indeed this material ranks up with the best the band ever released. Finally the (almost) entire recordings came out in 1993 on the excellent 2CD Nightcap collection.
What follows are a bunch of tracks that have since been rereleased on the album remasters save two, Beltane on Songs From The Wood, Crossword on Stormwatch, Saturation on War Child, Jack-A-Lynn on Broadsword And The Beast.
MotorEyes comes from the Broadsword sessions and hasn't been rereleased. Another excellent track that would have fit well on the album.
There's an untitled Blues Instrumental recorded during the Stormwatch sessions which also hasn't been rereleased. Next up is Part Of The Machine which was recorded specifically for the box set and was added as a bonus track to Crest Of A Knave. Next we have Mayhem Maybe and Overhang which are on the Broadsword remaster. Finally we have Kelpie which is on the remaster of Stormwatch and Living In These Hard Times which is available on Heavy Horses. The CD is rounded out with 5 of Anderson's favorite softer songs from various albums, all previously released material, Under Wraps 2, Only Solitaire, Salamander, Moths and Nursie.
CD3: The Essential Tull
Lots of previously unreleased live material and some songs taken off the albums. We begin with the regular studio versions of Witch's Promise and Bungle In The Jungle then we get a couple live tracks from 1987, Farm On The Freeway and a very abbreviated arrangement of Thick As A Brick. Things move back to 1982 for nice live versions of Sweet Dream, The Clasp, Pibroch/Black Satin Dancer and Fallen On Hard Times.
Back to the studio for Cheap Day Return and then live in 1987 again with Wond'ring Aloud and Dun Ringill. Studio again with Life's A Long Song and One White Duck. Again we're back live in 1987 with Songs From The Wood and Living In The Past. We get the original single mix of Teacher and the set concludes with live versions of Aqualung and Locomotive Breath from 1982.
There you have it. 3 songs on the first disc, 2 on the second and a dozen live tracks on disc 3 are all that remains unavailable. It'd all fit nicely on a single CD I believe. Don't think it'll ever see another release. There's a single disc "best of" that's available, waste of time though, too many gaping holes. The box can be had for a price, not under $100 unfortunately.
Final rating? At the time absolutely essential 5 out of 5, A+ 100%, now that most of it is available elsewhere? Depends on your level of fandom. Do you need the dozen live tracks? Most are inessential, another version of Aqualung, Locomotive Breath, etc. The other five unreleased tracks? Shame they're not available elsewhere. Given those 15 tracks I can only give it a 2 out of 5.
Post by Mark Lavallee on Sept 27, 2012 15:37:26 GMT -5
Having alienated their fanbase Tull decided it was time for a much needed break. The Under Wraps tour concluded in December of 1984 and the band started their break, regrouping for a special concert in March, 1985 to celebrate Bach's 300th birthday, this time with Eddie Jobson handling keys instead of Peter-John Vettese. In the summer of 1986 they did a short series of shows with Vettese back in the keyboard slot, special guests of Marillion at Milton Keynes, a show in Tel Aviv and several festivals in Europe. 1986 saw the release of the Coronach single written by David Palmer as the theme to the historical TV series The Blood of the British. A beautiful song indeed, but not single material by any stretch of the imagination.
Finally in the Spring of 1987 Anderson was ready with some new material and together with Martin Barre and Dave Pegg (Anderson handled all the keyboard duties himself) they began recording in Ian's home studio. Using a combination of drum programming, former drummer Gerry Conway and current drummer Doanne Perry.
Released on September 11, 1987 Crest Of A Knave peaked at #32 in the US and #19 in the UK. In today's world it seems quite odd that having released an album only 3 years prior that this could be viewed as a "comeback" album, but 25 years ago three years between albums was seen as taking a long ass time and not the norm, or even rushing it as they do today.
On the Under Wraps tour, nightly performing songs that were out of his comfort range, Anderson had done some serious damage to his vocal chords and required surgery, forever limiting his range and requiring him to alter his approach to singing. The resulting change in his voice as well as the greatly reduced core of the band essentially to a trio in the studio made the album much, much different from what had come before. Keyboards wouldn't be the dominant instrument this go around, indeed it was like a renaissance for Martin Barre as his guitar drives the songs making him the true stand out player on the album. No attempts at sounding modern were made, this was an older, more assured Tull doing what they do best. This approach paid off well as the album was a critical and commercial success.
Side A opens with the industrial punch of Steel Monkey with it's fast sequenced keyboard riff and Barre's screaming guitar this one sounds quite like what ZZ Top were doing in their 80s synth phase and would fit perfectly on an album like Eliminator! A song about the men who build the steel construction of high-rise blocks and skyscrapers and a critique of the overdevelopment of cities. This was one of the singles off the album and made it to #10 in the US.
The theme of overdevelopment hinted at in Steel Monkey is made quite explicit in the next song, the beautiful, Farm On The Freeway. Barre is allowed to shine here with the wonderful ambient opening with soft keyboard, flute and an understated vocal before things pick up and become more dynamic. Truly one of the best songs Tull had released in years. The mature sound and Ian's changed voice requiring things played in a lower register really gives this song, and several others a Dire Straits feel. This one also was released as a single, where it made it to #7 in the US.
Next up is Jump Start a song about alienation and someone wanting to take part in the materialized world he sees around him. It's punchy acoustic intro and verses give way to a pounding chorus making it a very fun rocker. Another one released as a single, this one peaked at #12 in the US.
The first half concludes with the beautiful ballad Said She Was A Dancer. A song about two people on opposite sounds of the iron curtain meeting and the illusions they make about each other and themselves. This was released as a single in the UK where it peaked at #55.
The CD edition of the album had two tracks not on the vinyl. Following Dancer was the song Dogs In The Midwinter. A dark, brooding song with a threatening atmosphere, a metaphore for western society in the 80s, economic depression and cold war fear.
Side B opens with the wonderful epic Budapest. This brilliant song takes it's time with a nice quiet intro that builds with sweeping keys, Barre's guitar, flute embellishments and Ian's soft vocal. A tale inspired by a hotel waitress Ian witnessed after their 1986 show in Budapest.
Mountain Men is at once an homage to Ian's home country of Scotland and an indictment of war. Great melody here on this mid-paced rocker. A real underrated gem. David Gilmour obviously liked it when he wrote High Hopes...
The album concludes with the eastern influenced into and into The Waking Edge, a melancholy song about the process of waking up and coming out of a dream state into reality.
The CD version added the track Raising Steam, a rocker similar to Steel Monkey, a traditional American road song ala Woody Guthrie.
The remaster of the album includes the single Part Of The Machine which was recorded for the wonderful 20 Years Of Jethro Tull box set in 1988, the single peaked at #10 in the US. A wonderful song, equal to the best on the Crest album. A song about American politics, great lyric as ever.
Crest Of A Knave is the album that forever destroyed the band's name to the mullet crowd by winning the Grammy for Best Heavy Metal/Hard Rock performance.
The tour was a great success, with every night sold out. Ex Rainbow keyboardist Don Airey joined the band for the tour, after which, oddly enough, Fairport Convention lead guitarist Maartin Allcock was brought in on keyboards.
Great album, and a great "comeback" at least commercially. Some of Tull's strongest material in years with songs like Budapest and Farm On The Freeway. A new, more mature Tull ready to take their place as elder statesmen of rock. Anderson knowing his voice is diminished uses it's weakness to his advantage, no Paul Stanley blind posturing here, he knows his limits and doesn't think he can just bluff through it.
Post by Mark Lavallee on Sept 26, 2012 14:53:00 GMT -5
Now we've arrived smack dab in the early/mid 80s to the two most controversial and loathed albums in the Jethro Tull catalog. Ian Anderson's 1983 solo debut Walk Into Light and Jethro Tull's sister-album 1984's Under Wraps. Gone were the lush prog arrangements, the folk influence, the blues guitar. Indeed, it was the 80s, why have drums when you can program a Linn drum machine? On Walk Into Light why have bass when a synth will do? Oh dear.
First up, Walk Into Light, released on November 18th, 1983 where it quickly fizzled out peaking at a lowly 202 in the US and a slightly more respectable #78 in the UK.
Done in collaboration with Tull keyboardist Peter-John Vettese (who better for an 80s synth album than the man behind all those famous synths on the Eurythmics and other bands?), indeed half of the album's songs are cowrites, a very, very rare occurrence with Anderson indeed. Vettesse completely dominates the album with your typical 80s synths, Anderson played everything else, some bass buried in there amongst the mostly synth bass dominated tracks, all the gutars and of course his signature flute.
Almost universally loathed by Tull fans, this is a gem of an album featuring some incredible singing, great melodic tunes and a true sign on an artist "progressing" with the then available technology. No carbon copy of Aqualung or Thick As A Brick here. This was a modern album indeed.
Side A opens with the single from the album, the wonderful Fly By Night and immediately the stage is set. Very catchy song with a great fluttering synthesized riff blended with piano and Anderson's flute and a nice strong melody.
Made In England is, like most of the album, a direct lyrical cousin to the themes of the latest Tull release Broadsword & The Beast, a song about the economic crises in the country at the time. Some nice, complex drum programming in this song.
Next we have the title track with it's jittery rhythm and stabs of electric guitar, no real big vocal hook here, the song being made by it's propulsive beat. Good stuff.
Trains has a nice chugging rhythm, is evocative of Kraftwerk.
The album side concludes with End Game and another great vocal from Ian.
Side two opens with the haunting Black And White Television about a dead man looking back on his life. A nice plodding beat and a great impassioned vocal from Anderson here. One of my favorites.
Next up is Toad In The Hole. A warm love song and one of the album's highlights.
Looking For Eden is another song dealing with Britain's economic situation. Nice arrangement on this one and another great vocal.
User-Friendly deals with the then new idea of computers and the personal disconnect they create.
The album concludes with the absolutely wonderful highlight Different Germany. Dealing with the rise of fascists in the late 70s/early 80s there. An absolutely brilliant piece of symphonic synthesized music. Bits of this arrangement would make it into the closing of Tull's sets throughout the 80s, pretty much unbeknowst to the audience.
There you have it, one thing to completely go against all expectations on a solo album, indeed that's what they're for. But when Tull reconvened for their new one and it's in all manner of speaking the perfect counterpart, well, the fanbase was left in complete bewilderment.
Released on September 7th, 1984 Under Wraps would prove to be Tull's lowest charting album in the US (until the 90s anyway), stalling at #76, in the UK bizarrely it peaked at #19, their highest placing since Songs From The Wood in 1977.
Again working closely with Peter-John Vettesse as a cowriter, and indeed Martin Barre on a couple numbers, and keeping the Linn drum machine in place of a live drummer, the album is in every way a continuation of Walk Into Light. The presence of Dave Pegg on bass keeps things a little more organic, just a little. Indeed, despite it's very electric nature this remains Martin Barre's favorite Tull album.
Anderson has a great love of spy novels, particularly the work of John Le Carré and this inerest permeates the songs on the album.
Side A opens with the single (and MTV video!) off the album, the wonderful Lap Of Luxury, which peaked at #30 in the US and #70 in the UK. Instantly reminiscent of the Walk Into Light album, only Barre's incomparable guitar tone really sets it apart. A great, very catchy song.
Next up we have Under Wraps #1 The first of our spy songs, the old James Bond ploy of sleeping with the enemy and who is tricking whom? A great propulsive rhythm, a very modern Tull with a great melody and vocal from Ian.
Up next is European Legacy a strong song about how differing cultural influences combine to form the new culture. Very catchy melody here.
Next we have one of my favorites the spy themed Later, That Same Evening. The lyrics in this one give it a very filmic quality. Great haunting backing with a great melody and delivery.
The spy theme continues with Saboteur, a song about the psychopathic nature of those who become contract killers. Great melody here.
Side A concludes with Radio Free Moscow, a sarcastic take on Radio Free Europe and it's nature as propaganda. Another great vocal from Ian here.
Side B opens with Astronomy, good vocal but in an album that immediately dated itself by embracing the technology of the present this one really hasn't aged well.
Tundra is another track that could best be described as filler. Plods along but nothing particularly interesting there.
Things definitely pick up with Nobody's Car, another one of the album's spy themed songs and one of the strongest tunes on the album.
Next up is Heat, thematically a continuation of the previous song, unfortunately nowhere near as memorable.
Next we have Under Wraps #2, same song, with a completely traditional acoustic Tull arrangement. A great example of how these songs would have worked given more traditional instrumentation. Throwing a bone to the old fans? A big favorite amongst the diehards.
Next up is Paparazzi. As mundane and unmemorable as it's title. Worked better when it was rearranged as an instrumental...
The album concludes with the poignant song Apogee, a song of space travel gone wrong. The apogee is when the moon or a satellite is at it's furthest distance from the Earth possible. One of the best songs on the album by far.
The album remaster includes two songs originally available on the 12" single of Lap Of Luxury. Automotive Engineering, a song about car technology and General Crossing a song about defecting to the other side. Both rather fillerish. The remaster also includes the video for Lap Of Luxury.
There you have it, for the tour Tull recruited American drummer Doanne Perry (he was one of my teachers at MI!) and he's remained with them ever since.
The highly synthesized nature of these albums leaves them rather cold and hard to get into for a lot people. The presence of several filler tracks doesn't help but there are some serious gems here waiting to be discovered for the more open minded listener.
In 1990 Raw Fruit records released Live At Hammersmith '84, taken from a BBC recording. This album featured an instrumental Locomotive Breath, Hunting Girl, Under Wraps #1, Later That Same Evening, Pussy Willow, Living In The Past, Locomotive Breath and Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll. The inclusion of Doanne Perry on live drums brings the new songs to life and the strikingly different arrangements of the older material keeps it very fresh (Too Old is absolutely wonderful with Different Germany incorporated in there.) Shame it's only a small section of the concert because this tour had quite a unique setlist and even included a couple tracks off Walk Into Light.
Walk Into Light has some strong songs but a lot of filler and lacks the coherence of the full band. Under Wraps has some much stronger material and benefits from the presence of Martin Barre and Dave Pegg, still, the technology of the time dates the album in a bad way and there's quite a bit of filler here. For diehards only.
Post by Mark Lavallee on Sept 25, 2012 13:18:22 GMT -5
For the first time in their career Tull took some time off. With the A tour finishing up in February of 1981 there was a 14 month live break, towards the end of the year Anderson and Co. went into the studio with a revamped lineup to record one of their most popular albums, Broadsword And The Beast.
Released on April 10th, at home in the UK the album peaked at #27, in line with recent releases. Here in the US it made it's way 11 places higher than it's predecessor at a respectable #19. However throughout Europe the album sold phenominally well, outselling all of their earlier albums (which begs the question of why they never play anything off it live anymore???)
After the A tour "special guest" Eddie Jobson moved on and needing a steady paycheck drummer Mark Craney left as well. In their place was keyboardist Peter-John Vettese, a very busy session musician (Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Go West, Pet Shop Boys, Bee Gees, Cher, Foreigner, Carly Simon, Clannad, Paul McCartney [he turned to the keyboard spot in Wings, LOL]) and on drums Gerry Conway, most famous as being Cat Stevens' drummer, and a current member of Fairport Convention.
The album is a nice cross between the more modern synthesizer sound of A and the folk-influenced story of the late 70s. This is one of Tull's heaviest albums and would serve as a good introduction to the mullet crowd that are afraid of acoustic instruments or anything too complicated or atmospheric. This may well be the most accessible album in the entire Tull catalog.
This was a very fuitful writing period for Anderson, a ful 25 songs were recorded for the intended double album, unfortunately Chrysalis Records wouldn't hear of it so a good portion had to sit lingering in the vault. This would be the first time that Tull worked with an outside producer, Anderson having produced everything up to this point. They chose former Yardbird Paul Samwell-Smith most famous for producing Cat Stevens, Carly Simon, Renaissance, Murray Head and others.
Side A opens with the track Beastie. A song about private fears that people don't like to talk about. Straight away you know this album will be quite different from the prior album, A. Still very synth heavy and definitely "80s" the guitar is more prominent and it's much heavier. A good, if not great opener. Strangely enough this was released as a single (peaked at a miserable #50 in the US.) During the tour "which Anderson refers to as Tull's Spinal Tap tour) as the line in the song "There's a beast upon my shoulder and a fiend upon my back" said, well, they took this quite literally for the elaborate stage show...
Next up is the far more traditional Tull sounding song Clasp. With a great driving rhythm and a haunting flute riff, odd arrangement, a truly great song. A song about people who shy away from physical contact.
Up next is another one that was released as a single, the wonderful Fallen On Hard Times, indeed it managed to peak at #20 in the US. Lyrically a perfect summary of political disillusion that most people were feeling at that time. A very strong Tull rocker which is really catchy, great stuff.
Next is Flying Colours, a song about a couple going through a bad patch taking delight in publicly humiliating each other. A softer song with a very poppy arrangement. Good but not essential.
Concluding the first half is the ballad Slow Marching Band, a song about the dissolution of a relationship. One of Anderson's most beautiful compositions. Considering half the songs on the album were released as singles, I think it's quite surprising this one wasn't as it's really got a powerful, memorable chorus.
Side B opens with the menacing slow build of the excellent Broadsword. A song about the history of invasion of the British Isles and the duty of the men to protect their families. A great heavy rocker, one of the best tracks on the album with a nice Martin Barre guitar solo. Shockingly this was also released as a single.
The following track, Pussy Willow, is a more traditional Tull sounding track, another real big favorite. A song about a girl in an unrewarding job who fantasises about a more ideal existence who is forced to face the reality of catching the train to work in the morning. This has been in and out of the live rotation for decades. Great chorus, one of Tull's best. This was also a single off the album. And check out this live video from 1983, now who is that on drums, eh? ;D
Up next we have, IMO, the weakest song on the album, the very dated Watching Me Watching You. A song about the paranoia of being out in public and feeling all eyes on you. It's synth heavy arrangement is quite monotonous. And again, an odd choice for a single.
Thankfully the next tune makes up for that one, the excellent Seal Driver. Lyrically ambiguous, dark and brooding with an excellent guitar solo and great rhythm. One of the very best from the album.
Things wrap up with the short outro Cheerio, used by the band to close concerts for decades. A brief goodbye.
As I mentioned earlier there were a further 15 songs recorded for the intended double album. The remaster gives us 8 of those tracks and in many cases they're even better than what made it onto the album. The strangest thing is considering how many singles were released off the album that none of these tracks ended up as B sides. The remaining 7 tracks are available on the Nightcap compilation which I'll get to in time.
Up first is Jack Frost And The Hooded Crow, this song did eventually see release as the B side to the Coronach single in 1986. A song uses the title characters to symbolise bad luck and the cruelty of nature. A great electro-folk song, a nice cross between where Tull had been and where they were at the time.
Next up the straightforward love song Jack-A-Lynn, Ian's wife Shona's middle name is Jacqueline. One of the most beautiful, tenderest songs Anderson has ever composed. A wonderful vocal and surprisingly heavy ending. Big, big favorite.
Next we have Mayhem, Maybe. This would have been a perfect addition to Songs From The Wood. A song about the mischeivous side of faeries and their practical jokes. Ian's vocals, flute and whistles were recorded in 1988.
Too Many Too is a dark song, an expression of disillusionment with the current state of affairs and a calling for a turning of the tables. Another great rocker with a wonderful melody and some great subtle guitar touches from Martin Barre.
Next we have Overhang, a clear pun on hangover, the narrater of the song unsure about what happened during the night of heavy drinking. A great rocker with a very catchy hook, should have made the album, should have been a single!
Rhythm In Gold is a song about the rich man's mistress and her Porsche 911. Not a favorite of mine, not much there to latch onto.
Next up is I'm Your Gun, a song Erik could get behind with the message clearly spelled out "it's not the gun that kills but the man behind" Ian has a shooting range on his 1000 acre property and is known for his love of shooting targets and things. A great rocker, very catchy.
Lastly we have the brilliant Down At The End Of Your Road. A song about how that nice, respectable neighbour of yours just might be a devious bastard in reality. A real estate agent who sabotages his neigbours houses because he wants to sell them, LOL Great solo by Martin, a nice sense of tension throughout, a great, great song.
Anderson has remarked that this was their "Spinal Tap" tour, it was their last to feature an alaborate set design. The entire stage made out to look like an old ship with giant masts and whatnot which actually rocked as if on waves. Some great video of the tour but unfortunately the cameramen never thought to zoom out and give a good look at the stage.
After the tour drummer Gerry Conway parted ways and Anderson finally went off to do his first solo album, taking along Peter-John Vettese to play keybaords while Anderson played all the guitars, bass, alongside his usual vocals and flute. The album was quite a departure to say the least as was the next Tull album, the highly controversial Under Wraps. I'll cover both in my next review.
A strong return to form while keeping things very modern, a nod to their hard rock roots. This album is beloved in Europe, full of strong, catchy songs, an underrated gem. The addition of another album's worth of outtakes makes this one a no-brainer. A few fillerish moments and one outright bad song mar things a bit.
Post by Mark Lavallee on Sept 21, 2012 10:01:28 GMT -5
And now we have entered the 80s, in a big way. Ian Anderson rang in the decade by jettisoning the entire classic lineup save Martin Barre. Anderson decided to release a solo album, Chrysalis records thought otherwise! What was supposed to be a solo album became Tull's debut album of the 80s, and gone was the earthy sound of previous years in favor of a very synthesizer heavy, modern sound, here we are with Jethro Tull's A.
Released on August 29th in the UK where it peaked at #25, slightly higher than the previous years Stormwatch. And on September 1st in the US where it stalled at #30, a full 8 spots lower than Stormwatch, ouch!
With bassist John Glasock passing away and drummer Barriemore Barlow quit the band after the loss of his friend. Anderson then shockingly fired keyboardists John Evans and David Palmer, whom he had worked with prior to Tull (Anderson was part of The John Evan Smash back in the mid 60's) and David Palmer had been involved with Tull from their debut on. These changes guaranteed that a change was inevitable, how drastic that change was came as quite the shock.
Anderson saw the changes as an opportunity to do something different and release a solo album. Enlisting the services of Martin Barre on guitar was a no-brainer, who better to interpret Anderson's songs? He retained bassist extraordinaire Dave Pegg of Fairport Convention fame who had filled in for the ailing John Glascock on the Stormwatch tour and in a surprising move collaborated with legendary keyboardist/violinist Eddie Jobson (Roxy Music, Zappa, Curved Air, King Crimson, UK, etc.) Rounding out the recording was American session drummer Mark Craney (Tommy Bolin, Jean-Luc Ponty, Gino Vannelli, etc.)
Chrysalis Records seeing Tull sales declining feared an Anderson solo album would be a big money loser so they forced him to release it as Jethro Tull, the album title comes from the fact the reels were labeled 'A' for Anderson. Anderson has always maintained the stylistic change was never intended for the band, but relenting to record company pressure meant this was the new Tull so Anderson retained the band and toured the album, radically reworking older material to fit the more modern sound. The songs are much poppier as a result, in other hands some of these tunes could have seen some serious airplay.
Side A opens with the topical Crossfire. Like Stormwatch the album is lyrically very modern and taken from current events. This song is no exception. It's subject is the siege of the Iranian embassy in London. Immediately the synth heavy sound hits you, this is a very different Tull. However, the song is a great brisk rocker with an incredibly catchy chorus and a wonderful solo from Martin Barre.
Next up is Flyingdale Flyer another one ripped from the headlines as the Americans had a hitch in their early warning systems at the Flyingdake Early Warning Station in Yorkshire and thought the Russians had provoked an attack. Musically it's a folky Tull song at heart, electrified. Electro-Folk, I don't know what to call it! Great effected vocal, very catchy melody in the verses and a great chorus. One of my favorites on the album. There's a very uh, dated video for this one too.
Next is Working John, Working Joe a biting critique of the Thatcher government. Deceptively begins acoustically before the synths hit you, a nice slow synthesized folk song, would have felt right at home on Stormwatch. This was, oddly, the single off the album, it's B side (Flyingdale Flyer) would have been more appropriate IMO.
Side A concludes with the wonderful Black Sunday. Just a brilliant song all around, the interplay of the synths and flute is pure magic. The complex arrangement really shows off the entire band's considerable instrumental dexterity. The melody is incredibly catchy. A fun lyric full of imagery regarding work travel and how things can be quite different when you return home. A real Tull classic.
Side B opens with Protect And Survive, it's title comes from a government pamphlet on how to deal with a nuclear attack and lyrically it's Anderson's bitingly sarcastic take on it. A folk jig at heart, a very complex arrangement, short, sharp and really rocking. The true nature of this song showed on latter tours when the band would play it instrumentally Fairport style.
Up next is Batteries Not Included, a twisted tale of a boy waking up to find a new toy that doesn't work because the batteries weren't included, the boy identifies with the toy so much he becomes like it and his parents wake to find he's switched off as well. A spirited rocker with a very complex arrangement.
Uniform is next with a little eastern influence mixed in with some folk electrified. Nice melody here in this aong about how most people wear a "uniform" to fit in with their peers and lack of individuality. Not particularly memorable.
Next is 4.W.D. (Low Ratio), this is, uh, one of the worst Tull songs ever. Song is about four wheel drive vehicles, a decent jazzy swing to it harkening back to the very early days of the band but the song just does nothing.
Up next is the great little instrumental The Pine Marten's Jig. A traditional folk jig played at breakneck pace with Eddie Jobson on violin and Ian's flute dominating. Barre lets loose all over this one as well, great stuff.
The album ends with the lush ballad And Further On. As delicate as it is powerful and a nice summary of the album's themes as a whole, lyrically dark and full of fear. A big favorite.
The remaster of the album has no bonus tracks, even better it comes with the long hard to aquire Slipstream video from 1981.
An hour long live document of the A tour with videos for Dun Ringill, Flyingdale Flyer, Sweet Dream and Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll mixed in. The live portion is wonderful, the band in those ridiculous white jumpsuits, Anderson his usual manic self. Jobson jumping all around, Dave Pegg and Martin Barre's effortless cool. Interesting seeing this band perform the older material, drummer Mark Craney on bass, Dave Pegg and Eddie Jobson on mandolin for Skating Away...
Or using the band member's individual strengths to his advantage such as Jobson's violin in Aqualung...
Or completely rearranging a s ong to fit the current incarnation of the band...
After the tour Jobson went off on his own, always billed as a "special guest" rather than a permanent member. Drummer Mark Craney moved on afterwards as well, his lifelong diabetes and kidney disease sidelined him for much of his life and he passed away while waiting for a kidney transplant in 2005.
All of this means the next Tull album would again be quite different...
Final thoughts: A much stronger album than it's given credit for, Black Sunday alone is worth the price of admission, though it does slip on side B with several songs being filler at best, and one being outright terrible at worst. The addition of the Slipstream DVD with the album makes this a must own for your collection.
Post by Mark Lavallee on Sept 20, 2012 14:57:44 GMT -5
Perfect review. Exactly the same sentiment I had. Though, I'd say you were generous in handing out points there.
The first half is so completely devoid of personality I forget the verses and choruses before the songs were even done. They're so bland and samey they just blend together into a long stretch of hookless mediocrity.
But then there are the poppier numbers thrown in the middle. They work. Who'd have thought the only bright spot on a Steve Harris solo album would be the "pop" songs?? I don't hear U2 in Judas, I mean, fuck Bono is one of the most powerful singers on the planet, this Taylor dude most definitely is not.
I'm very grateful for the streaming of the album as this was a guaranteed blind purchase for me. Now, there's no way in hell I would add this to my collection. I'd rather sit through Virtual XI again...
Post by Mark Lavallee on Sept 18, 2012 10:02:06 GMT -5
Now we have come upon the last Tull album featuring the classic lineup of Anderson, Barre, Evans, Barlow, Palmer and Glascock, 1979's Stormwatch. The final part of a "folk" trilogy following Songs From The Wood and Heavy Horses. I don't hear it myself but it's always grouped that way.
Released on September 14th, 1979 worldwide the album would peak at #22 in the US and #27 in the UK, their worst charting album in the UK up to that point and their worst placing in the US since the debut back in 1968.
The album is often overlooked, I think this owes to the complete lack of humor that is found on previous albums, for this is a very dark and serious affair. With a very heavy focus on current events and problems with the environment, money and govt. It can't be because of the music contained within because this is a wonderful album. Like Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll this album really requires a lot of attention to fully appreciate.
Sadly John Glascock's heart condition which saw him sidelined during the 1978 US leg of the Heavy Horses tour would eventually lead to his death and after a start he was unable to finish recording on the album, indeed he only appears on three tracks (Orion, Flying Dutchman and Elegy), his presence quite notable when he appears, for all the other tracks Ian Anderson took over bass duties.
This is a much heavier album than what preceeded it and much more oriented towards rock and roll than the folk rock of the prior 2 albums. Heavy guitar riffs take the lead and while the flute doesn't disappear it's use is much more aggressive and less frequent than in the past. Almost a concept album predicting catastrophe and it's aftermath.
Side A opens with the topical North Sea Oil, straight away attacking the greed that fuels the oil industry. Musically in line with the way things were headed on Heavy Horses. A mildly aggressive rocker, heavy emphases on the guitar, some nice stabs of flute inbetween Barre's lines. A geat album opener. This was the first single released from the album, unsurprisingly it went nowhere.
Up next is the song Orion, a direct sequel to Heavy Horses' Weathercock. A plea for help from the heavens, like the appeal in Weatherock. On this album nature is used to great effect throughout. Soft, acoustic verses give way to a heavy electric chorus and back again.
Next we have the tender ballad Home, David Palmer's orchestration really makes this one. A similar sentiment as expressed earlier in tunes like Journeyman and Fires At Midnight. Released on an EP which sadly went nowhere, a trend!
Then we have the centerpiece of the album, the brilliant mini-epic Dark Ages. The song laments the coming of a metaphorical winter for humanity and the fact that people seem to be apathetic to their fate. Dark and ominous, it's lengths let's it take it's time building to the inevitable fury that gives the song such a sense of forboding throughout. Brillint orchestration, short, sharp piano chords and guitar riffs give the sense of impending explosion throughout, Barriemore Barlow really plays with the listener, you're on the edge of your seat throughout waiting for the climax, and when it comes it sure doesn't disappoint.
The side concludes with the instrumental Warm Sporran. A sort of baroque march, simple but effective. And again we have a very bizarre choice for a single, which of course failed to chart, anywhere. A Sporran is the purse like thingy worn on the front of the traditional Scottish kilt.
Side B opens with the fast, frantic rocker Something's On The Move. Here the signs of impending doom from the first side have all been ignored and the metaphorical winter has descended upon the world.
Next up is Old Ghosts, it's haunting lyrics countered with a rather pastoral arrangement, though there's something just ever so creepy about it's arrangement.
Dun Ringill is the shortest song on the album at only 2:41 yet it's my personal favorite. A tight acoustic piece with a beautifully haunting vocal in the verses. It's just dripping with atmosphere. Again lyrically it's referring to ancient tradition as a source of inspiration for modern man "We'll wait in stone circles; 'til the force comes through; lines join in faint discord; and the stormwatch brews; a concert of kings; as the white sea snaps; at the heels of a soft prayer; whispered" Dunringill lies on the shores of Loch Slapin, Isle of Skye which is part of the Straithaird estate where Anderson lived at the time. The ruins of Castle Ringill 900 years ago was the seat of the Clan Fingon and just a few hundred yards from the house Anderson lived in.
Plus there's a very dated, though quite appropriate video for this one...
Up next the other mini-epic of the album, The Flying Dutchman. John Evans wonderful piano is brought to the front here as Anderson very cleverly uses the legend of the Flying Dutchman, a Dutch ship whose captain is doomed to sail the seas until the day of judgment as a metaphor for the Vietnamese who fled their country by boat only to find most countries refused to receive them as refugees. I've always loved the line "Death grinning like a scarecrow." The way the song is transformed by the introduction of new instruments roughly every minute in is quite clever. So very dramatic and chilling, a real beautiful piece of music, and Anderson's best flute solo on the album by far.
The album concludes with the David Palmer penned instrumental Elegy about the death of his father. One of the most beautiful instrumentals ever written for a rock album, a very Bach inspired classical piece. Perfectly shows off David Palmer's compositional genius.
The remaster of the album comes with four bonus tracks. First up is the 1978 single A side A Stitch In Time which was released to promote the live Bursting Out album. The old proverba stitch in time saves nine, simple song about working hard to save time in the end. Recorded during the Heavy Horses sessions, the song would fit perfectly on the album.
Up next, the outtake Crossword, an excellent song with the great chorus hook "Your life is a clue in the crossword", a nice rocker that should have made the album. Next up another outtake from the album and the one song recorded that most would fit the "folk" tag that this one has been saddled with all these years, Kelpie. The Kelpie is a Scottish legend about an aquatic horse that is an agent of Satan that lures it's victims to a watery grave. It has an appropriately folk rock backing that would have fit perfectly on Songs From The Wood and an incredibly catchy melody. Quite unfortunate that songs of this caliber were left to linger in the vaults for so long. This would have been a stronger single than North Sea Oil, Warm Sporran, Home or Something's On The Move (released in France only.)
The final bonus track is the instrumental King Henry's Madrigal, also known as Pasttime In Good Company composed by none other than King Henry VIII!! This was included on the Home EP. If King Henry had a rock band it would have sounded like this.
The real dark horse of Tull's 70's peak. This album just doesn't geet the attention it deserves. It's a very dark album. Musically it fully explores the changing sound that was signalled on Heavy Horses. Some of Anderson's most direct compositions yet in songs like Dark Ages and North Sea Oil. Also, a softer side is shown in songs like Orion and Home. A real grower of an album, give it some time and it'll work it's way up into your absolutely essential pile.
Final rating 4.5 out of 5
After this, massive changes within the band. Anderson went on to outright fire keyboardists John Evans and David Palmer. After the death of John Glascock drummer Barriemore Barlow finished out the tour and then left the group. Tull was reduced to a duo of Ian Anderson and Martin Barre. Anderson decided to record a solo album but as we'll see with the next review that didn't quite work out as planned...
Post by Mark Lavallee on Sept 12, 2012 13:19:53 GMT -5
Easily my favorite Tarantino film. He didn't let his normal excesses get in the way. Pulp Fiction may be more quotable and have more iconic bits but there's an awful lot of amateurish work there and whole characters that could be eliminated without effecting the film at all...
Post by Mark Lavallee on Sept 12, 2012 13:14:53 GMT -5
As I've already gone over these songs in their studio incarnations, this review will be more concise.
Time for a 2-for-1 review. The 1978 live album Bursting Out and the 2009 DVD/CD release Live At Madison Square Garden 1978. One recorded on the European tour (Bursting Out, obviously) and the other on the US leg. For a band with such complicated and incredibly tightly arranged songs the vast difference between the two performances is quite striking.
Bursting Out was a live document of the Heavy Horses tour released on September 22nd in the UK where it peaked at #17 and on the 29th in the US, a couple weeks before the tour even started. The majority of the album was recorded at the Berner Festhalle in Berne, Switzerland on May 28th, 1978.
Side A begins with the current at the time No Lullaby and it's even better than the album version, complete with what should universally be recognized as the greatest drum fill in all of recorded history. A great way to start the concert off with a bang. From there things move ahead into 1969's Sweet Dream, resurrected from the past and heavier than ever, great one two punch. Things move along with 1974's Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of The New Day, amazing to hear a band able to pull a song like this off. Members changing instruments here and there without skipping a beat. The song's mandolin roots fits very well with the following acoustic folky Jack In The Green from 1977's Songs From The Wood and One Brown Mouse off the current album, Heavy Horses.
Side B opens with the band reaching back to 1969's A New Day Yesterday and firmly back in hard rock territory, the arrangement fleshed out for the fuller band, from there we go straight away to Ian Anderson's flute solo, complete with silly grunts, snorts and in keeping things musical including a bit of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and concluding with a bit of J.S. Bach's Bourée which was also included on Stand Up. Up next is an abbreviated Songs From The Wood played at breakneck pace, the song is the perfect showcase for how incredibly tight the band is, able to weather the songs many changes with ease. Amazing stuff. The first album concludes with a 12.5 minute arrangement of 1972's Thick As A Brick. Another perfect showcase for the jawdropping musicianship of the band.
Side C opens with 1977's Hunting Girl, with added punch from the band, a really great showcase for John Glascock's basswork. From there we're off on 1976's Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll; Too Young To Die, the added live energy really brings this one to life. Being a 70's live album and the 3/4 mark of course there is the obligatory drum solo in the form of Conundrum, however it's more of a composed band piece particularly showing off not just Barriemore Barlow's incomprable skills behind the kit but Martin Barre's guitar genius as well. And at just under 7 minutes it doesn't wear out it's welcome like 30 minutes of John Bonham poncing about on a snare drum during Moby Dick does. The unrelenting pace is kept up for 1975's Minstrel In The Gallery, another shining moment for Barre.
Side D takes things back to 1971 with three tracks from Aqualung beginning with a full steam ahead runthrough of Cross-Eyed Mary followed by a short instrumental Barre guitar interlude (92 seconds) called Quatrain which leads straight into Aqualung in an arrangement that fully shows off the skill of the band, from there things quiet down with John Evans' piano intro to Locomotive Breath before the band comes screaming in full blown metal style to finish the song, the concert concludes with the band playing a bit of The Dambusters March and a brief Aqualung reprise.
The original CD release cut out three tracks (Quatrain, Sweet Dream and Conundrum) to fit on a single disc, the 2004 remaster corrects this unforgiveable cost cutting sin.
2009's release of the Madison Square Garden concert is quite a revelation. Bassist John Glascock was quite ill by this point and had to be replaced for the tour, Tull enlisted the bassist from the opening act of their European Leg Tony Williams of Steeler's Wheel (Stuck In The Middle With You...) and he fit quite ably with the band.
The concert was the first worldwide live satellite broadcast. Unfortunately only one hour of the concert was broadcast, with the band performing a few songs, then leaving the stage to stage a new intro for the broadcast, and then after the big concert ending of the broadcast coming back and doing the real ending of the show. Weird.
The CD portion is a condensed version of the show down to 78:40 while the DVD has the entire 93:09 concert with still photos over the non-filmed bits. The arrangements in some spots are wildly different. Sweet Dream is quite a bit longer, No Lullaby is doubled in length, now incorporating Anderson's Flute solo. Songs From The Wood is almost double in length. The Locomotive Breath/Dambusters March is well over double in length and the arrangement even more bizarre and complex. Cross-Eyed Mary is now played in a Medley with 1971's My God and the song Heavy Horses which wasn't included on has found it's way here. The video portion contains Thick As A Brick, No Lullaby, Songs From The Wood, band intro and Quatrain, Aqualung and the Dambusters March.
There we have it, two recordings, two legs of the same tour, both essential. Live sound is excellent across the board, every music library should own these recordings.
Few artists are worthy of owning more than one recording of the same material. By releasing a live document from both legs of the same tour we're able to see how the band could take the same material and keep it fresh for themselves, and their audience. Some of the most tightly arranged, complex tunes ever written underwent some massive changes over the months, who knew? As a live document of Tull at their peak this is as good as you could ever ask for. Makes a great career overview as well. Both receive the coveted 5 out of 5 stars from me.
Coming up next, the folk rock trilogy concludes with 1979's Stormwatch.
Post by Mark Lavallee on Sept 11, 2012 15:12:06 GMT -5
Next we have the very logical successor to the wonderful Songs From The Wood album, 1978's equally as wonderful, if considrably
darker, Heavy Horses.
Released on April 10th in the US where it peaked at #19 and April 21st in the UK where it peaked one step lower at a respectable
This album would, unfortunately, be the last to feature bassist John Glascock playing on all the tracks, he passed away in 1979 as
the result of a genetic heart valve defect.
This album is considered the middle of Tull's "folk trilogy" along with the aforementioned Songs From The Wood and the followup
Stormwatch. The rural element is still quite strong but it's far less romantic, a much darker, more realist view lyrically.
Side A opens with the brilliant, heavy rocker ...And The Mouse Police Never Sleeps. Anderson is a cat lover and the song is a
tribute to them and their nightly vigilance in catching mice. A reminder that death and killing are a part of nature. A great
short rocker and a brilliant way to start the album on an upbeat note.
Up next is another rocker, with a healthy blend of the medieval feel of the prior album and a dare-I-say-it, almost discoish
rhythm! A seemingly simple song about sex, a little bit of thought realizes the true intent, comparing the beauty of nature
(Ian's native Scotland to be precise) and the dreary landscapes of modern city life.
Next up we have the wonderful mini-epic No Lullaby which features (no debate!) the greatest drum fill in all of music history
courtesy of the great Barriemore Barlow. (1:13 - 1:20 mark on the video below) A dark, heavy rocker with a great guitar intro
courtesy of Martin Barre, and all around incomparable playing from all involved. The song builds and builds in intensity,
lyrically the song is a very dark fairy tale, a word of warning to the listener of the, at the time, growing trend of fascism in
many European countries in the mid/late 70s.
Next up we have the beautiful acoustic number Moths, the single from the album which unfortunately went nowhere. It's a beautiful
song with a very beautiful lyric about making love by candlelight with moths fluttering about it.
The side concludes with the midtempo Journeyman. A song with a nice bluesy groove, great bass and crunchy guitar. A song about
businessmen taking trains throughout the country.
Side A opened with an ode to cats so naturally side B opens with an ode to dogs, the aptly titled Rover, about a free wandering
canine. The folk element is strong here with a nice acoustic 12 string filing in the gaps between the heavier rock element of the
Up next is the big favorite One Brown Mouse, a short folky number with Tull's unique blend of unique instrumentation and
hodgepodge of influences combine to perfection. An ode to a mouse in a cage with a little bit of pondering on the routine nature
of life "Which one of us exercises on the old treadmill." A beautiful uplifting gem of a song.
Next we have the epic title track, a Tull setlist mainstay to this day, and for good reason. A eulogy for the working horses of
Great Britain which find themselves no longer needed due to modern machinery. What to say about this perfect song? The beautiful
guitar intro courtesy of Martin Barre, the incredibly catchy chorus, the variety of moods throughout, the amazing orchestration
courtesy of David Palmer, the perfect rhythm section of Barlow and Glascock. This song does it all and does it to perfection.
The album concludes with Weathercock, a prelude to the next album Stormwatch, using weather as an anallogy for the state of
humanity. A slower tune to close us out with song nice mandolin and some nice understated organ from John Evan.
The remaster of the album comes with two wonderful bonus tracks. First up is Living In These Hard Times, why it wasn't included
on the album is beyond me, I'd have replaced either Journeyman or Rover with it. Lyrically it'd fit more on Broadsword And The
Beast. A really great, catchy song.
And finally we have Broadford Bazaar, a song about the small town on the isle of Skye which has a ferry terminal and is a chaotic
spot with tourists, old roads not designed for the traffic and hence the image of a bustling middle eastern bazaar. How this
didn't make the cut is beyond me, it's the best vocal on the album. An incredible song, sometimes I don't know what the artist is
thinking when they decide to track their albums.
The natural sequel to Songs From The Wood which at times reaches even higher peaks. Though a few tracks could be deemed filler. A much darker album than SFTW, nothing overbearing, there's still plenty of Anderson's playfulness. Another essential album in the Tull catalog.
Post by Mark Lavallee on Sept 7, 2012 12:12:51 GMT -5
Haven't listened to this one in ages but I've always loved it. And I definitely agree, it's better than the few that preceeded it and all that came after. Had a head scratching moment when I learned Minka Kelly is Dufay's daughter, LOL
Post by Mark Lavallee on Sept 4, 2012 15:38:26 GMT -5
Now we have entered a new phase for Jethro Tull, fully embracing their folk side here. Not that they went twee and light by any means. They still rocked as hard as anyone, but there was a definite major influence from the English countryside here.
Make note, that cover is not a photograph of Anderson, it is indeed a very realistic looking painting.
Released on February 11, 1977 the album would reach a respectable #8 in the US and #13 in the UK, their highest showing at home since 1973's A Passion Play.
The change in direction shouldn't have come as much of a shock to those who had been paying attention. Tull always included a strong folk element in their sound and a few years earlier Ian Anderson produced Steeleye Span's excellent Now We Are Six album which in very many ways is a huge precursor to what we have here. Anderson managed to make them sound like Tull with Maddy Prior on vocals, LOL.
The change proved to be quite popular with Tull fans and the public at large after the disappointing showing of the prior album Too Old To Rock And Roll, Too Young To Die. At this point longtime collaborator David Palmer (he'd been doing the band's orchestrations since the debut) was made a full fledged member of the band playing keyboards alongside longtime keyboardist John Evan.
Side A opens appropriately enough with the excellent title track. A madrigal like accapella chorus singing and some light flute embellishments in there would have you expecting that Fairport Convention inspired, mention of 'galliards' keep that impression up as well. But once the band kicks in you know you're in for a treat. The arrangement is quite complex and every member of the band is allowed to strut their stuff, without ever showing off. A big favorite and a mainstay of the set for years.
Next up is the wonderful, "Jack-In-The-Green," Anderson performing every instrument on the track. A great little number about the titular character who is responsible for keeping the green alive during winter and bringing it out again in the spring. This song, the title track, and others bear a strong desire for mankind to, "Get back to nature," as it were. Lyrically it's a very beautiful album.
Up next is, "Cup Of Wonder," musically quite inventive and lyrically very clever, with wordplay such as the line, "For the May Day is the great day, sung along the old straight track. And those who ancient lines did lay will heed the song that calls them back." A sly reference to ley lines, the song is a call for the listener to reconsider what tradition has to offer. It's a song about pagan and druidical ritual. Good stuff indeed.
Up next we have a very big favorite, the very naughty indeed, "Hunting Girl." The real star here is bassist John Glascock, who plays an incredible bassline on this one. This is a saucy tale of a stable hand being, "Seduced," by a hunting girl who hunts males! A kick ass rocker, Tull doing what they do best here - it's a great live track as well. The interplay with the string players, flute and Barriemore Barlow's incredibly creative drumming is simply astonishing.
The side concludes with the winter holiday song, "Ring Out Solstice Bells." A very catchy ditty tailor made for those end of the year Christmas compilations, on the EP for this one Ian Anderson made mention of the Christian church coopting the traditional solstice holiday for Christmas. Oh dear. Fortunately no bloodshed ensued. Yet a silly Top of The Pops appearance did...
Side B of the album opens up with the great, "Velvet Green." It is another naughty tale of sex in the field, this time about a young man telling his lover to tell her mother that she spent her time "walking on velvet green." Just listen to that intro, English Folk Rock at it's finest, straight out of a Renaissance Faire, and then the band comes in to kick your ass in a most unusual way. Just go 2:45 in there and listen to the musical interlude, who else is this creative?
Up next is, "The Whistler," a big favorite, I love the verses and Anderson's voice shows him at the top of his game here. A nice positive song with some beautiful imagery. The final verse is hard to interpret other than as pure poetry, and knowing Anderson there's something I'm just missing in interpretation but as a piece of written verse it always stood out to me:
"Deep red are the sun-sets in mystical places. Black are the nights on summer-day sands. We'll find the speck of truth in each riddle. Hold the first grain of love in our hands."
And what's this? An official video? Weird for 1977, the song managed to peak here in the US at a respectable #59, not bad for a piece of medieval folk rock in the midst of disco fever!
Up next is, "Pibrock (Cap In Hand)," which goes all the way back to Anderson's Gaelic roots. A song of unrequited love, a man travelling through the woods to his love's home to propose and finding out he's too late and there's another man. A Pibroch is a form of funeral music, dirge or lament. This is the, "Epic," of the album at 8:27, one of the great unsung songs of the Tull catalog. Martin Barre's guitar is very heavy and really guides the song even when taking a backseat to the more grandiose middle section. It's a stunning, beautiful piece.
The album concludes with the lovely ballad, "Fires At Midnight," a simple song reflecting on the joys of coming home after a hard day's work to spend time with your spouse. A nice soft ballad and the perfect way to end this wonderful album.
The remaster contains a mere two bonus tracks but they're both wonderful. Up first is the song, "Beltane," which somehow didn't make the album. It was slated to be the B side to the, "Moths," single the following year in Ireland only but was mispressed with, "Life Is A Long Song," so it remained in the vault until the 20 Years Of Jethro Tull box set in 1988. It is a great rocker about the ancient Celtic Beltane festival celebrated on May day, the most important festival of the year when winter was proclaimed dead for another year and to ensure fertility people would literally take to the fields and shag each other rotten. Of course the church would have to ruin the fun and ban this festival, bunch of tossers.
The other bonus track is a great live version of, "Velvet Green."
Up next, the folk rock theme continues with the great Heavy Horses...
Somewhat of a career renaissance after the midly disappointing Too Old To Rock And Roll. Tull fully embraced their folk side, which if you'd been paying attention was ever present! Much more rock than other folk rock artists like Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span, still, firmly rooted in time honoured tradition. An album of exceptionally well written and performed songs.
Final rating - 5 out of 5 stars.
Last Edit: Sept 26, 2012 19:00:49 GMT -5 by Erik Rupp
Post by Mark Lavallee on Sept 1, 2012 22:28:48 GMT -5
I really miss 'em too. Even the few that are still around, hell even the few that get hyped up (Amoeba) are a very pale shadow of once was. Prices are much higher than online (it's a niche market now so understandable) and even a huge store like Amoeba doesn't have anything close to the selection of a place like Amazon. Gone are the days of browsing and thinking "this cover looks cool", sampling the album and discovering a new band to love.