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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Jethro Tull

Broadsword and the Beast

Review by Gary Hill

This album is sort of a connecting piece in the Jethro Tull legacy. It’s got ties to the Tull of old, and is more along the lines of that sound than the preceding disc (A – makes sense since that started as an Ian Anderson solo album), but still fits quite well with the music that was to follow in the 1980’s. Personally, I think this is a stronger release than much of that era, but it does have some inconsistency issues and the keyboards often times sound dated.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Beastie
This cut is very much in the hard-edged, proggy version of Tull that would dominate the 1980’s. While that sound could at times be rather generic, this seems to have the best of the era while still maintaining plenty of originality and inspiration. It’s Jethro Tull at their best.
Clasp
The first portion of this is a keyboard dominated instrumental motif. They shift it out after a while to a more full Tull-styled prog arrangement. It’s considerably less crunchy than the opening number. There’s a cool little classical excursion in this and a tasty stripped down, more electronic prog segment, too.
Fallen On Hard Times
Here we get a cut that’s more typical of the harder edged, nearly metallic (no, they did not deserve to win a “heavy metal” Grammy) sound that was such a part of the 1980’s era of the band, this is a real stomper.
Flying Colours
Starting in incredibly mellow ways, this is a synthesizer heavy number with a sound that’s rather dated and trite. This is OK, but really one of the weaker pieces here. Still the instrumental journey mid-track goes a long way towards saving this, even if parts sound more like Yes than Jethro Tull. 
Slow Marching Band
The group’s Celtic roots are shown off on this delicate balladic number. It powers up more, but remains essentially a ballad piece. 
Broadsword
There is a definite 1980’s feeling to this, but it’s still trademark Tull, too. There is a great mellow motif that gradually grows. I’d have to peg this as my favorite track on show. I love the contrast between the mellow earlier sections and the harder rocking music later. It also turns into quite a progressive rock showcase. 
Pussy Willow
Here’s a cut that shows both elements of 1970’s Jethro Tull and plenty of the more modern sound the group would adopt fairly fully in the 1980’s. It’s another that’s essentially a powered up ballad and feels like it could have fit on Crest of a Knave. It does become fairly hard edged as they carry on, but still they return to the central musical motif in a ballad approach. 
Watching Me Watching You
When this starts off you might think you’ve wandered into a Kraftwerk album. Elements more like Synergy take over as the keyboards continue to hold it. An electronic sounding percussion track joins as Ian Anderson begins singing. This gets some more Tull-like elements as they carry on, but this is really a very different musical take for them. Personally I think it feels pretty dated and the track at times seems more like 1980’s era ZZ Top or Genesis or even Rush than it does Jethro Tull. 
Seal Driver
Here’s one of the most musically diverse cuts on show here. It’s the most blatantly progressive rock number on show, too. I like this one a lot. It has some elements that aren’t very closely related to earlier Tull, but still this is one of the tracks here that sticks closer to that sound than the rest. There are some Genesis-like and Yes-like sections, though. 
Cheerio
They close it off with the Celtic type of piece. It’s probably the most 1970’s Jethro Tull of anything here, but not all that special.
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