Friday, 17 June 2016

Jethro Tull (XI): changes

Going from the 70s to the 80s was not just a change of numbers for Jethro Tull. Firstly, John Glascock died in 1979 and soon after that Barrie Barlow, who was perhaps hisclosest friends, quit the band. Also, Ian Anderson decided he wanted to work on a solo album, which made John Evans and David Palmer leave the band as well (and not in the best of terms either, I believe).

At that point, only Anderson, Barre and new member Dave Pegg remained. Two more people joined: drummer Mark Craney and pianist/violinist Eddie Jobson, who made it clear he was only there for one album. Craney would finally leave after one album as well; a real pity, as both he and Jobson were extremely talented.

Ironically, this Ian Anderson solo album ended up being the new Jethro Tull album. The thing is Chrisalis Records pressed Anderson and he gave in to that pressure, naming the new Tull album A (taken from the labels on the master tapes for his scrapped solo album, marked simply "A" for "Anderson", according to what I’ve read in Wikipedia and one or two more websites).

A is a very different album from the previous one, Stormwatch. While the second was quite folky and extremely dark, Jethro Tull took the 80s very seriously in A and Jobson’s synthethizers made themselves heard in pretty much the whole album.

I’ve read many fans complaining about how Stormwatch was the end of Jethro Tull and I don’t agree. I do agree that things were never the same and the band didn’t produce such good music again (with a few exceptios) but, still, they made some good stuff. A, while overlooked by many, has a big bunch of more than decent songs, although perhaps not “Tull good”, with the exception of the unusually catchy Black Sunday.

Other good songs are the slightly jazzy Crossfire, the 1984-themed Working John, Working Joe and the beautiful And Further On. On the other hand, Batteries Not Included is absolutely awful and Uniform is totally forgettable. The rest of the album is good, with Jobson doing a great job at the piano/synths and at the violin as well, as can be seen in The Pine Martin’s Jig.

The tour that came with the album saw the band wear weird parachutey tracksuits which can be seen in a DVD with a few videoclips for older songs (Anderson really enjoyed himself doing the Sweet Dream clip) and some very nice versions as well, such as the one for Skating Away, which I love for several reasons. First of all, it’s an original rendition of a beautiful song but, mostly, it’s proof that Jethro Tull members could all switch instruments without making the song worse. In this case, there are three guitars (ok, a guitar, a mandolin and a mandola) but the guitarist, Barre, doesn’t play. How cool is that? Ian Anderson plays the guitar, Pegg (bassist) plays the mandola, Jobson (pianist and violinist) plays the violin and Craney (drummer) plays the bass. Let me repeat: how cool is that? Let me answer: very.

I guess A can be seen as a transition album, as the next album, The Broadsword and The Beast, proved to be somewhat more solid. But hey, it’s not too shabby for a transition album. It’s a pity Craney left though, because his replacement, Gerry Conway, did a mediocre job. I know, it’s easy for me to say those things from my chair, but I just don’t like his drumming with Tull.

Anyway, this is it for this time. I’ll try not to wait for another two and a half months until I write the next post. By the way, this is the facebook page for the blog (I promise to post more stuff there as well).