Jethro Tull

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Heinrich Klaffs, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

I don’t know too many millennials who call themselves Jethro Tull fans, so I feel the need to explain how I developed a passion for Tull:

  1. My mother plays the flute. Serious flute. Had she chosen to continue her education and pursue a career in music, she would have made first chair in a world-class symphony orchestra. She gave it all up because she couldn’t bear the thought of such a cloistered life.
  2. Following in my mother’s delicate footsteps, I began formal training on the flute at the age of eight (simultaneously with piano lessons). While classical training has its value, I eventually got restless and (with my mother’s assistance), started exploring jazz flute, especially Hubert Laws, Charles Lloyd and Yusef Lateef.
  3. Because both parents are raving Tull fans, their music often appeared on the home stereo. Oddly enough, it wasn’t Ian Anderson’s flute that made me a Tull fan—it was a combination of their excellent use of syncopation and Martin Barre’s guitar. I love the fuck out of Martin Barre.

As for Ian Anderson, I think he’s one-third genius, one-third control freak and one-third butterfly. Tull went through a series of radical transformations, all driven by Ian Anderson’s insatiable restlessness. Listen to these five albums consecutively and you’ll see what I mean: This Was, Aqualung, A Passion Play, Songs from the Wood and Crest of a Knave. Five different albums, five different genres . . . unless you count Tull as its own genre, which is probably the best way to classify a band led by Ian Anderson.

Here are my Tull reviews in release date order:

2 responses

  1. Love the Tull and love Ian Anderson. Thank you for writing these reviews. My favourites are “Stand Up” and “Thick as a Brick” (although I’d say their “Living in the Past” compilation is probably their best, if only it wasn’t for the limp dick side 4).

    I think Ian was a genius back in the early 1970s, but in my humble opinion he shot his load with “Thick as a Brick” and never managed to reach similar heights. I love “A Passion Play” but it’s not even close to the Brick. I tried to get into the Minstrel and the Woods etc. but it all sounds a bit contrived to my ears.

    Mad respect for Barre, but to my ears Ian beats him on the acoustic guitar.

  2. Brendan T Spaulding | Reply

    Ian Anderson’s flute playing and the whole bands gift for rhythm is mesmerizing and you’re right mentioning the excellence of Martin barres guitar! I find him and Dave Davies to be in similar positions where their brilliant guitar playing is often overlooked because they’re playing with a songwriter that generally gets more appraisal. I wish Tull were considered more often among other people around my age, I don’t think they’ve been given a fair shot compared to other bands from their time. Thank you for all the reviews on their glorious records!

    The only modern band who can at least sometimes scratch my Tull itch is the Australian band king gizzard and the lizard wizard who I highly recommend! They have a similar affection for groove and rhythm and have a really nice flute player/songwriter. They also tend to be all over the place genre and topic wise but have good roots in garage and jam rock that lets them stay really consistent with their high and varied output of music.

    I’d check out these five tracks and would recommend the album any of these songs are attached to. They’re a really fun band to be following at the moment with great lyricism ranging from goofy nonsense to well written statements on certain social issues. They aren’t for everyone though! Would love a response if you check them out!

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