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Progressive Rock DVD/Video Reviews

Ian Anderson

Plays the Orchestral Jethro Tull DVD

Review by Gary Hill

I find that often when groups play with orchestras the result is somewhat disappointing. Often the orchestra simply serves as icing on the cake and the power of the music is tempered in trying to lend room to the new found instruments in the arrangement. It almost seems gimmicky. Well, that is not the case with this DVD. Anderson apparently worked hard at creating new arrangements for much of the material. In fact on the songs where the orchestra does tend to just augment the "rock band" sound, it actually adds to the works rather than taking away from it. In other places (most notably "Aqualung" and "My God") the songs have been considerably reworked to entirely new structures. While those looking to hear their old favorites might be disappointed, taken as wholly new works these pieces are spectacular. Particularly in the case of "Aqualung" which, although at one time and incredible song, has gotten somewhat worn out due to being overplayed over the years, this new arrangement truly provides a whole new life for the track. The song has some familiarity, mostly in the lyrical structures, and some melody, with this new incarnation it is like seeing a second generation of something you used to enjoy emerge. It's almost as if Anderson took the opportunity to create a new song from the old structure. The result is incredible. This is really one of the most successful marriages of rock music with orchestra that I've come across. The show is both entertaining and challenging. The band and orchestra work together at their best as one cohesive unit. Anderson is ever the inimitable showman and ringleader, weaving vocals, flute and other instrumentation together to create a wall of sound. The music really thrives in this new format. I suppose having it be just one member (granted the key member) of the group creating the sound allows him to take more liberties than might have been available had this been actually Jethro Tull doing the concert.

The video and audio production here is impeccable. I only have a couple problems with this DVD. The first complaint I have is that my DVD player seemed to choke a bit on some of the navigation - when I tried to access certain points of the DVD out of sequence I got a disc error. I had to restart the disc, then make the movements through the menu and it worked fine. It could just be the copy I got, but I've seen postings where others have had issues with the menu format, too - so, my guess is no. Still that's a minor problem. The other issue I have is with the interviews. Frankly, I couldn't get through them. At times Anderson seemed to be genuine and self effacing and very thoughtful and thorough. However, there were other moments were he seemed to be a bit full of himself and perhaps seeing things with eyes that weren't really capturing the truth of the moment. The truth is, it really through me off from being able to watch all of them. I mean no disrespect to Ian Anderson, though. I think that he is an incredible musician and a very intelligent and well-read and well-spoken man. More times than not I am very much in agreement with concepts expressed in his lyrics. It's just that in the interview segments here he seems a bit disingenuous and it really turned me away from watching them all. The truth, though, is that no matter how you feel about the interview segments, they really have little to do with the musical performance captured here - and that is top notch. So, while I did have a couple minor problems with this product, I would say that overall I think it is a great release, and certainly one well worth adding to your collection.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

You'll find an audio interview of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
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