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Jethro Tull

A

Review by Scott Prinzing

When Jethro Tull’s iconic singer/songwriter/flutist, et al, Ian Anderson set out to record this album, it was intended to be his first solo project. Why the man in charge of one of the finest collection of musicians in the 1970s would need a solo outlet is a perplexing question. Perhaps he just wanted to work with a few other musicians and try a more modern sound than the three previous Tull classics (Songs from the Wood, Heavy Horses and Stormwatch), which drew heavily from the folk traditions of England, Ireland and Scotland. The record label argued for releasing it under the Jethro Tull moniker, leading to the unplanned bumping of several superior musicians (most notably, drummer Barriemore Barlow). This lineup survived on tour, as it was never intended to be Jethro Tull in the first place.

Lyrically, Anderson’s themes are a bit more contemporary; even futuristic. Musically, Anderson retained his guitarist foil of the previous decade in Tull’s Martin Barre. If going forward was the goal, Fairport Convention’s Dave Pegg was an odd choice for a bassist. The inclusion of Eddie Jobson (Curved Air/Roxy Music/UK/Zappa) on keyboards and electric violin has the most impact on the overall change in sound. Alas, Jobson had only committed to the album and tour and went on to pursue solo work. Pegg stayed with Tull for the next 15 years, before refocusing his attention to Fairport Convention. In any case, this was the second to the last truly great Tull album from start to finish. Any fan of the band should have a copy of it in their library.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Crossfire

Kicking off with Jobson’s piano, it doesn’t seem like much of a departure.  All the essential Tull components are here, although the flute is minimal; proving that Anderson’s songwriting and voice are the most essential ingredients.  Jobson adds a synth effect that evokes a female voice and a bit of moog-ish twiddling at the end.  This was written after the Iranian Embassy in London was besieged: “A thirty round clip for a visiting card / Admit one to the embassy ball.”

Flyingdale Flyer

Piano introduces the song again - leading into a syncopated a cappella interplay.  The melody still draws on the folk tradition.  It’s written from the point of view of the Fylingdale Early Warning Station in Yorkshire after an American early warning system mistakenly thought the Russians had provoked an attack.  “Keep your hands off that red telephone.”

Working John – Working Joe

This number was written back in the Heavy Horses era about all the daily drudgery experienced by white collar workers; it fits in better conceptually with this collection.  For all the difference in the classes, the blue and white collar workers still have to face rush-hour traffic and get ulcers, etc.  This is the only song from this album that I heard on the radio when it was released.  It’s a mid-paced rocker with a classically-inspired instrumental break.  “And God and the Economy have blessed me with equality / Now I’m equal to the best of you / And better than the rest of you.”

Black Sunday

This number opened the show on the tour with a pompous synth in the vein of ELP before kicking in with a UK-sounding riff;  hence, the credit of “Additional musical material” by Jobson.  Jobson is truly in top form in this tune, mixing classical with a bit of honky-tonk piano seamlessly.

Protect and Survive
A fast-paced, intricate flute riff kicks off the original side two of the album.  This is lyrically based on a British government pamphlet on what to do in the aftermath of a nuclear attack, (a bit sarcastically): “Self-appointed guardians of the race with egg upon their face.”
Batteries Not Included

This is the most electronic sounding song of the set, naturally, as it deals with a child opening presents on Christmas morning only to find the toys do not come with the needed batteries.  “Sitting silent and empty / Wish I could breathe life in my new friend who’s terribly still.”

Uniform

Jobson finally gets to play that violin – and play it he does!  Peg plays a fretless bass.  An observation on the uniforms we all wear, reflecting our occupations, social standing or teams: “Dressed to the nines, meet yourself going home / Like a clone, smartly dressed in your pressed uniform.”

4.W.D. (Low Ratio)

Here is a rather funky tune that rocks as well.  This is about purchasing, and then driving a four-wheel drive vehicle.  “Take you down to the edge of town / Where the roads stops, we start to hold the ground.”

The Pine Marten’s Jig

The most traditional song here; this is an instrumental with lots of rapid fire flute, fiddle and mandolin, all toying with shifting time signatures.  They include some blistering guitar soloing by Barre, just to remind you this is a rock band.

And Further On

The closing ballad is mostly piano based, with fretless bass and a guitar solo.  It ends the album quite nicely, “Wish you goodbye till further on / Will you still be here further on?”

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