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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Jethro Tull

Nightcap

Review by Scott Prinzing

Proving that Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson is one of the most prolific and consistently superior songwriters in rock, this double-disc collection compiles the entire abandoned album, dubbed the Chateau D’Isaster Tapes, recorded at the Chateau D’Herouville near Paris in 1973.  Reportedly never finished, it sounds at least 90 percent so here.  The second disc compiles 18 studio outtakes spanning years 1974 through 1991.  This came out in 1993, the same year as the four-disc 25th anniversary box set…with no duplication (and only four cuts previously available)!  It’s incredible how great some of Tull’s castoffs sound compared to some bands’ having to scrape the bottom of their barrels for a single disc Best Of.  The discs were compiled to satisfy fan demand, with Anderson donating all of his royalties to two charities: a Highland music institute and the Animal Health Trust.  A few of these songs were later included in expanded remastered CD versions of their respective album sessions.  I would recommend the remastered discs to anyone; this entire collection is perhaps essential only to the serious Tull fan. 

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
Disc 1: My Round – Chateau D’Isaster Tapes
First Post

The piece starts off with a flute/saxophone duet followed by a cool acoustic guitar spot lasting two minutes, showing that multi-instrumentalist Anderson is in charge once again.

Animalee

A Baroque instrumental that showcases the talents of every band member in under two minutes, this demonstrates how immensely talented this band was, even in their rejects.

Tiger Toon

Here is another short instrumental that fades out, leading one to believe it was one of the pieces they were unhappy with.

Look at the Animals

“Look at the Animals” is a number exemplifying Anderson’s whimsical yet witty lyrical style; with a riff based on a flute/fuzz-bass harmony line, but plenty of harpsichord in it as well.  It sounds like a natural segue between Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play.  “Look at the animals in the zoo / How would you like to be one? / They're waiting to use the lavatory and putting chewing gum in each other's hair.”

Law of the Bungle
Musically, this is a continuation of the sound and themes of the previous song.  Lyrically, it focuses more on the viewpoint of the tiger: “To kill demands a business sense / Economy moves non-residence / Approaching from down-wind."
Law of the Bungle Part II
“Hello, this is ‘Law of the Bungle, part two,” begins the spoken word intro.  “By the way, I'm Martin Barre. But sometimes I'm an owl. And my feathers are really smooth. And when I feel romantic I like to dress up in men's clothing” - silly fellows, these. It features further development of the musical theme from “Look at the Animals” and is primarily instrumental.
Left Right
This begins with noise resembling a killer bee attack, but created out of what sounds like a mix of a whining child and tape effects.  A mid-tempo rocker with clever lyrics about exiting this life, this doesn’t really rise to the greatness of this band.  “You have an angel on your shoulder / But you wear the old god's horns / And you dance around the Maypole / While the vicar makes a toast / To the pagan celebration."
Solitaire
This song first appeared in 1974 when Warchild was released.  It’s a short solo acoustic piece (1:25) performed by Anderson.  “Well who the hell can he be / When he’s never had V.D. / And he doesn’t even sit on toilet seats?”
Critique Oblique

This cut name checks the “Passion Play,” with music that sounds like it was incorporated into that work.  It incorporates intricate riffs and some cool Middle Eastern motifs with spoken word that is lyrically absurd at times: “And your little sister's immaculate virginity / Wings away on the bony shoulder of a young horse named George / Who stole surreptitiously into her geography revision.”

Post Last
Here’s a continuation of the previous piece that revisits musical themes with a bit of solo flute.  “Who is God's favorite rock star this week?”  It was Ian Anderson at this juncture of his career, for sure."
Scenario
Here begins the best part of the “Tapes,” the three track suite that first appeared on the 20 Years of Jethro Tull box set from 1988.  Instead of the animal theme fine-tuned on Warchild’s “Bungle in the Jungle,” the following year, this album closer looks at life as theater, further developed on A Passion Play.  First off, we get this cut that’s primarily a three-minute solo acoustic guitar piece by Anderson (a bit of glockenspiel provided by Barlow).  The lyrics are comprised of his oft-revisited religious commentary:  “Then God, the director, smells a rat / Pulls another rabbit from his hat."
Audition
The band kicks in and does a full-on electric version of the previous song.  It includes more of the religious observations: “But God is laughing up his sleeve / As He pours himself another cup of tea / And He waves good-bye to you and me / At least for now.”
No Rehearsal
They close out with a big rocking finish that finds a cryptic chorus that is once presented in an aloof spoken word:  “When the bomb that's in the dressing room / Blows the windows from their frames / And the prompter in his corner is sorry that he came."
Disc 2: Your Round – Unreleased & Rare Tracks
Paradise Steakhouse
Sounding like an outtake from Warchild – which it is – this also feels like a Tull classic.  The lyrics are a bit naughty, like most of Anderson’s innuendo: “I'd like to eat you / All fire will consume you / Roast on the spit of love / On this arrow true."
Sealion II
Here’s another take on Warchild’s “Sealion,” with Anderson on sax.  The lyric is mostly delivered as spoken word by bassist Jeffery Hammond-Hammond in his exaggerated and hyper-enunciated “King’s English.”  “Would you like to see my lion? / My friend Cecil is damp and smooth / A damp smooth sea lion.”  Is this, perhaps, more sexual innuendo? 
Piece of Cake
Jumping ahead to 1990, the brighter, punchier production is glaring (why isn’t this arranged chronologically?).  This was probably a contender for Catfish Rising, which had a few less-than-great moments. 
Quartet
We are back to 1974 for a jazzy lounge instrumental “quartet” take on Tull’s “Bouree.”  Anderson is featured on flute, sax and choral vocals; Barre on guitar and marimba; and John Evan and David Palmer on dueling Baroque pipe organs.  This is classic.
Silver River Turning

It’s 1990 again.  Here we get a mid-tempo storytelling about a small town changed over by mining interests: “Where they built their industries on the edge of town/Leaching chemicals from underground/ Now it's true / That Silver River turning blue.”

Crew Nights
This is another of the countless cuts from the 1981 Broadsword and the Beast sessions (could’ve been a triple-disc set!).  Since that was Tull’s last truly great album, it’s no wonder the outtakes rise above the competition.  “Crew Nights” is an ode to the road crew, their hard work and backstage rewards: “Some angel from the Midwest is regretting being / Undressed with no suntan.”
The Curse
Also from 1981, Anderson handles the keys here.  Is there any instrument he can’t play?  How many poetic rock songs are there about a woman’s monthly “curse” are there?  “Nobody told her about the secrets / That ladies have to hide / Mom had no words to describe the things / That happen inside."
Rosa on the Factory Floor
Here is a story song about a blue collar working immigrant.  Its similar in theme to “Budapest” and “She Said She Was a Dancer” form 1987’s Crest of a Knave.  “Signed on for the duration / They say she came from the East / With her tool bag and her coveralls, to pay the rent at least.”
A Small Cigar
This is a classic song about the impression a small cigar makes (no innuendo here!).  It’s an outtake from 1975’s Minstrel in the Gallery featuring Anderson on solo acoustic guitar and David Palmer on cabaret piano.  “A small cigar can change the world / I know, I've done it frequently at parties / Where I've won all the guests' attention / With my generosity and suave gentlemanly bearing.”
Man of Principle
Here’s a song left off of 1989’s Rock Island that probably should have made the final cut.  It includes Lots of flute and electric guitar.  “Well, there's a time and a place now / And it's not tonight she'll bend his will / Slow realization / She's looking at a man of principle.”  Like “Quartet” (and “Bouree”), the melody is based partly on Bach's “Prelude and Fugue in D Minor.” 
Commons Brawl
Yet another Broadsword outtake, this is loaded with very cool mandolin, flute and tin whistle riffs.  Why the leftovers from these sessions weren’t used for a follow-up (a’la Metallica’s Re-Load) instead of the mechanized Under Wraps is a mystery to me.  This is classic Tull.  The lyrics are about political “brawling” in the House of Commons: “Another day in the lives of those / Who would guide us through / If all is prepped that we should / By their example do.”
No Step
I just counted six Broadsword outtakes on this disc; added to the eight or nine on the 20th anniversary box set!  Anderson is featured on keys again on one of his few less-than-stellar compositions. 
Drive on the Young Side of Life
Anderson must have been writing a song a day at this point.  It was the first time there was more than a year between releases, though, so perhaps that’s why. This is a fairly steady rocker with heavy guitar riff, flute flourishes, and lots of big harmonies and lyrics about finding your inner child: "If you find yourself a-growing / To be old before your time / Get off the endless corridor / Set your soul out on the line."
I Don't Want to Be Me

Another Catfish Rising outtake; this is another mandolin and tin whistle sea shanty of sorts.  It’s very catchy.

Broadford Bazaar

One of the few songs left off of Heavy Horses,  this represents top-shelf material.  It’s a solo Anderson piece on acoustic guitar and flute.  He can find rhymes that no one else would consider: “Where once stood oil-rigs so phallic / There's only swear-words in Gaelic.”

Lights Out
The last of the ’81 cuts here, Anderson appears on keys again (he’s no Jobson, but does the job on what is probably a demo).  This is a song about fear of the dark: “Are grownups brave or do they just pretend?”
Truck Stop Runner
One more from Catfish Rising, this is upbeat with a singalong feeling to it.  There’s a tin whistle and guitar duo in the instrumental break.
Hard Liner

From 1989’s Rock Island, this was probably left off because it wasn’t heavy enough after their heavy metal Grammy.  It’s a fine song, nonetheless.

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