Thursday, June 30, 2022

BB's Album Rankings - Jethro Tull

 

BB's Album Rankings - Jethro Tull

 Time for another album rankings session, and this is a big one. This time I'm featuring one of the all-time great classic and progressive rock bands, Jethro Tull. Jethro Tull had its start way back in 1967, and of course has been led from the beginning by the dynamic composer-flautist-guitarist-vocalist Ian Anderson. They started as a mostly blues-oriented rock band, as was very popular in the UK at that time. Their first album, This Was (1968) featured blues gutarist Mick Abraham, but Mick departed after just one album, and was replaced by guitarist extraordnaire Martin Barre, who has been a fixture with the band for most of its long history. The second album, Stand Up (1969), introduced more progressive elements, as well as a more folk-inspired sound and approach, whereas Benefit (1970) returned to a more standard blues-oriented style. But their big breakthrough album was Aqualung (1971), which combined a ferocious hard rock style with more melodic and folky acoustic elements to create a rock masterpiece. They followed that success with a string of classic progressive rock albums, most notably Thick as a Brick (1972), all retaining that mix of biting rock and melodic folk elements. All through their hey-day in the 1970's, they had a pretty stable lineup that, in addition to Anderson, featured Martin Barre's guitar versatility, the fantastic Barriemore Barlow on drums and percussion, John Evan on keyboards, and Jeffrey Hammond on bass. This lineup excelled and weaved intricate ensemble works with one fantastic album after another. But by the 1980's, as the popularity of progressive rock waned and the band struggled to remain successful, the band (with many lineup changes) tried some different styles with varying success. By the 2000's the band seemed about done and Anderson moved on to primarily doing solo albums. But recently (2022), Ian Anderson released a new album (The Zealot Gene) under the Jethro Tull name. Known for their intricate compositions and virtuoso musicianship, as well as as Ian Anderson's antics and their fantastic concert performances, Jethro Tull has been a consistently great and unique rock band. So, over a period of 54 years (!), Jethro Tull has released a total of 23 studio albums, which includes Living in the Past (1972), which is generally considered a compilation album, but since it consists mainly of early singles, EPs, B-sides, and unreleased material that were not included on any album (and were not previously released in the US), I still consider this as a relevant studio album. It also includes the Christmas Album (2003) which was mainly a compilation of re-workings of previously released holiday-themed songs with some traditional seasonal songs, so I am not including this in my rankings. However, I am also including Thick as a Brick 2 (2012), which was released as an Ian Anderson solo album, but since it was billed as a direct sequel of the classic Tull album, I am also including that here in the rankings. Thus, there are 23 albums I am including in these rankings. Overall, they have one of the most impressive catalogs in all of rock history. In going through the albums, I was very familiar with all of the 1970's output, but I had not really listened to most of the albums after that time, so many were new to me. I was prepared to slog through at least some quite bad albums, but happily, just about all of their albums are at least good, if not great or spectacular. I only found one album in their entire output that I would call 'bad', and that was a 1-album anomaly, as well as 1 album that was just OK. All the rest had at least some quite good songs and an overall good ranking, even if not among their best work. Thus, a whopping 21 out of their 23 albums I rated as good or better, with the nearly all of their top ten I consider as great albums, overall an incredible output of quality over the years. As always, this list is just my own personal opinion regarding these albums and does not represent any other assessments or rankings. You will have your own opinion on this, and I welcome any comments or your own version of these rankings.     

#23. Under Wraps (1984)

This is the only Tull album that I would consider to be genuinely bad. This is mainly due to the horrendous production and arrangements. Ian made a terrible decision to use programmed drum machines throughout (no drummer at all), presumably to seem hip and modern, then compounded that error by featuring that awful drum machine prominently above everything else in the mix. Also used programmed synths and cut and paste arrangements throughout that just sound terrible. Should have been considered an Anderson solo album, as sounds like Ian just playing with his new electronic toys and digital software. The music was assembled, not really played here, and the '80's technology used just doesn't cut it. It's too bad, as some of the songs could have been pretty good with the programmed nonsense removed and real instruments and arrangements used, as exemplified with the two different versions of the song 'Under Wraps', one with all the electronic nonsense, the other stripped down. The production and arrangements here deserve only 1 star, but the songs themselves deserve higher, so I arrive at 1.5 for the album. No really good tracks (but the one song with a stripped down version, Under Wraps #2, gives an idea of what the album could have been like with decent production). Rating: 1.5ó

#22. Rock Island (1989)

Probably their heaviest album overall, with more rock-heavy and harder rock songs, with very little acoustic work. This may have been in response to the backlash they received after winning the Grammy Award for best hard rock/heavy metal album in the previous year for an album (Crest of a Knave) that was considered neither hard rock nor metal. So they came back with a more rock-heavy album To solidify their hard rock credentials. Unfortunately, the result is one of their least enjoyable albums, without much to recommend it. I really could not pick out the best and worst songs here, as all are just OK. Nothing really bad, but also just not that good either. Contains many familiar elements of Tull songs, but the songs just don't gel into anything substantial. Somewhat generic songs, mostly not very memorable. Rating: 2.5ó

#21. J-Tull Dot Com (1999)

Ian and the band trying many different things here, so there is a variety of styles, which is interesting, but also what seem like some odd choices for the band. Not at all bad, there are several good tracks here, and some are quite fun, including a strong finish to the album, but also some questionable tracks. Runs the gamut from harder rock songs like Spiral to a lightweight acoustic carribean-themed ditty (Hot Mango Flush) that is unlike any other Tull song. Thus, overall, a pretty good, but somewhat uneven album. Does contain quite a lot of great guitar and flute work throughout. Best tracks: Dot Com, Hunt By Numbers, Far Alaska, The Dog Ear Years, A Gift of Roses. Weaker tracks: El Nino, Black Mamba. Rating: 3ó

#20. The Zealot Gene (2022)

Ian Anderson is back with a new incarnation of Jethro Tull, and the first new Tull album in nearly 20 years. And Ian harkens back to sounds and styles reminiscent of some of their earlier albums. Overall, it’s great to hear Ian’s flute as a major component as well as some of Tull’s characteristic styles and strong songwriting throughout. However, Ian’s voice is certainly not what it used to be, but his talk-singing style works well enough here. Where the album falls flat, unfortunately, is with the backing band, which is just completely generic, lackluster, and unproductive. The album does seem to really be an Ian Anderson solo album, as the backing musicians contribute little here, and weaken what could have been several very strong tracks. Certainly not like Jethro Tull of the glory days, where stellar guitar work from Martin Barre and the dynamic drumming of Barriemore Barlow provided scintillating contributions to the Tull sound. Here, the musicians other than Anderson just don’t provide much spark at all. Because of this, the more acoustic tracks work best here, and there are still several very nice songs, making this enjoyable, but somewhat frustrating. Best tracks: Mrs. Tibbets, Sad City Sisters, Three Love Three, In Brief Visitation, Betrayal of Joshua Kynde. Weaker track: The Zealot Gene. Rating: 3ó.

#19. Crest of a Knave (1987)

Somewhat of a comeback album for the band, following the dismal Under Wraps. Brought back a harder rock edge on a few tracks, and received substantial radio play and acclaim. Notoriuosly won the Grammy for best hard rock/heavy metal album (beating Metallica), which was roundly criticized as it is not really considered a hard rock album, and certainly not metal. Overall, it is somewhat varied in style and substance, ranging from acoustic, pop and rock tracks. This album also marked the start of their 'Dire Straits period', in that multiple songs on this album, and at least one on most of the subsequent albums, bore a strong resemblance to Dire Straits, not only in the talk-singing vocal of Ian by this time, but also in the overall style and structure of the songs. Not sure if this was a conscious decision to emulate the band, but some of these songs sound like they could actually be Dire Straits songs (not that there's anything wrong with that). Overall, a nice direction for the band in the 80's. Good, but still not one of their stronger albums. Best tracks: Jump Start, Budapest, Part of the Machine, Farm on the Freeway. Weaker tracks: Steel Monkey, Mountain Men. Dire Straits-sounding songs: She Said She Was a Dancer, Waking Edge, Raising Steam. Rating: 3ó

#18. Thick As A Brick 2 (2012)

Released as an Ian Anderson album (actually listed as Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson), but claiming to be a sequel to Tull's acclaimed 1972 masterpiece Thick as a Brick. This album continued on from TAAB by following (or speculating) on what had happened in the intervening years to Gerald Bostock, the fictional central figure responsible for the original Thick as a Brick Poem. Thus, in various sections of the full piece Gerald is imagined as a banker, a homeless person, etc. Although Ian tries to incorporate token themes from TAAB at various points in the narrative, overall, there is little here musically or thematically that is very connected to the classic album. The songs here are fine, but only a few are very memorable, and certainly do not reach the heights of innovation and creativity achieved on the classic. It's nice to hear some of the shout-outs to the original, but those are the main highlights here. Best tracks: A Change of Horses, What-Ifs Maybes and Might-Have-Beens, Old School Song, Banker Bets Banker Wins. Weaker tracks:Cosy Corner, A Pebble Thrown. Rating: 3ó

#17. Catfish Rising (1991)

Starts off with a couple somewhat generic rockers, but then gets much more interesting. More acoustic than expected (lots of mandolin), and more diverse. Very Bluesy, from bluesy acoustic numbers to slow blues to blues-rock. Probably their most blues-heavy album since Benefit, and overall, it works very well, as they change-up the various blues styles throughout the album. Best tracks: Roll Your Own, Rocks on the Road, Gold-Tipped Boots Black Jacket and Tie, When Jesus Came to Play. Weaker tracks: This is Not Love, Occasional Demons, White Innocence. Rating 3ó

#16. Roots to Branches (1995)

This one starts off with a more International-World music style, with the first few tracks having a somewaht middle eastern vibe. Rest of album features many strong tracks that make this one of their best from the later years, with a variety of styles, strong songwriting, and excellent musicianship throughout. Also includes another in their Dire Straits-like series from this period: Another Harry's Bar. Best tracks: Valley, Beside Myself, Dangerous Veils, At last Forever, Out of the Noise, Stuck in the August Rain. Weaker tracks: Rare and Precious Chain, This Free Will. Rating: 3ó

#15. This Was (1968)

Strong debut album. At this early stage the band had a very different lineup, with blues guitarist Mick Abrahams, Glenn Cornick (bass), and Clive Bunker (drums), and was primarily a straight blues-rock band, with jazz influences. The album is filled with excellent jazz-blues guitar, bass, and drums work, supplemented with Anderson's flute and vocals, but good UK blues-rock bands were plentiful at that time, and this is fairly straight-forward blues-rock. Although a good start, the band had not yet developed their own unique style, and compared to what the band would later become, this ranks as good, but not great. Best tracks: Beggar's Farm, A Song For Jeffrey. Weaker tracks: Moved On Alone, It's Breaking Me Up. Rating: 3ó

#14. Benefit (1970)

I know a lot of people love this album, but for me, it is somewhat of a step backward from the more unique and progressive Stand Up (1969), as the band has fallen back to a much more standard UK Blues-rock here, without the more innovative approaches and advances made on the previous album. Yes, they are very good at the blues-rock sound and style, but this does not best show their unique style and strengths that would make them a standout rock band. Also, some of the best songs from these sessions were not even included on the album, such as 'Teacher' (which was released as a standalone single) and 'Witch's Promise'. Thus, a very good album overall, but one that did not advance their sound and unique style beyond the blues-rock played by other bands. However, they would make tremendous leap into progressive rock with their next album. Best tracks: Nothing to Say, Alive and Well and Living In, Inside, Sossity You're a Woman. Weaker tracks: Son, A Time For Everything. Rating: 3.5ó

#13. Broadsword and The Beast (1982)

More personnel changes, with Peter John-Vettese brought in on keyboards and synths and Gerry Conway on drums, along with Dave Pegg on bass. The band returns to more folk-style songs and themes here, and acoustic instrumentation, but now also incorporating more synths and electronics as well. Thus, more synths and less acoustic guitar, but the songs and arrangements are quite good overall, although ends a bit weakly compared to rest of album. Best tracks: Clasp, Fallen on Hard Times, Flying Colors, Slow Marching Band, Pussy Willow. Weaker tracks: Seal Driver, Cheerio. Rating 3.5ó

#12. Too Old To Rock n Roll, Too Young To Die (1976)

I remember being quite disappointed with this album upon its original release, as it seemed quite a step down from the thrills and invigorating highs of their previous albums. Not really bad, but somewhat lackluster in comparison. However, going back to it many years later I find it to be a very good album (especially compared to some of the later albums) with lots to recommend it. It still has that warm 1970's production, some great songs, and an overall comfortable feeling. The album starts off great, with a wonderful first half, with strong tracks such as Quiz Kids, Crazed Institution, and Salamander, but then sags quite a bit in the second half. Still very good, but overall the weakest of their great 1970's output. Best tracks: Salamander, Quiz Kids, Crazed Institution, Pied Piper. Weaker tracks: Bad-eyed and Loveless, The Checquered Flag. Rating 3.5ó

#11. Stormwatch (1979)

Often considered to be the third of a trilogy of more folk-oriented albums, but I don't really hear that, as there are only a few songs that follow that example. Overall, the album is less acoustic, and quite a bit darker and heavier than the previous two. I find it to be more closely aligned with albums such as War Child and Minstrel in the Gallery, with its darker and heavier aspects. A fine album nonetheless, but the more acoustic songs do work best here. Best tracks: Flying Dutchmen, Dun Ringill, Warm Sporran, North Sea Oil, Home. Weaker tracks: Dark Ages, Something's On the Move. Rating 3.5ó

Top 10

#10. A (1980)

Different sound from previous Tull albums. Originally planned to be a solo album from Ian Anderson, thus contained a different lineup of back-up musicians, with only Martin Barre present from the previous band. This gave Anderson a chance to experiment and play around with sounds and styles not previously associated with the band. Thus this album introduces synthesizers and more electronic keyboards throughout. However, the label insisted that the album be released as a Jethro Tull album, which essentially re-booted the band with a new lineup, leaving John Evan and Dee Palmer now out of the band (drummer Barriemore Barlow had already left, and bassist John Glascock died in 1979). The album opens with a few rock songs in fairly typical Tull style, but then changes abruptly to a much more 'progressive' or 'proggy' style for the next several songs (most notably Black Sunday, Protect and Survive, Batteries Not Included, and Uniform). Actually, this is the most 'progressive' sounding Tull album, and it mostly works, as the synths and prog are used well, and provides an interesting new sound for the band. But then near the end of the album, there is a throwback to the more folky acoustic sound with Pine Marten's Jig (perhaps a leftover track from the previous folk-influenced albums?). Overall, a very interesting departure for the band, blending their established unique style with a more electronic and open-ended progressive approach and style, and Anderson makes the most of it. Best tracks: Black Sunday, Protect and Survive, Batteries Not Included, Uniform, 4 W.D., Pine Marten's Jig. Weaker track: Working John Working Joe. Rating 3.5ó

#9. Stand Up (1969)

Great advancement from their first album, still starting from a blues-based structure, but introducing more progressive elements, varied songwriting, instrumentation, and arrangements, and starting to show those unique Tull qualities that they would further develop on subsequent albums. The beginning of their great ability to go back and forth between acoustic and more rocking songs. Best tracks: Look Into The Sun, Back to the Family, Reasons For Waiting, We Used to Know, Bouree. Weak tracks:none. Rating: 4ó

#8. War Child (1974)
A divisive album among fans, but I find it mostly excellent. Although the album starts out a bit shaky with the first couple tracks having somewhat odd and less appealing melodies and arrangements, the album takes off from there with the rest of side 1 delivering unique and interesting songs, and then soars with an excellent second half. Anderson uses some of the songs to respond to his critics, but in generally clever ways. The use of additional instrumentation, such as saxophone, accordian, and sitar(?), adds delightful elements to several songs, and the band keeps experimenting and adding additional sounds and textures to their music.  Best tracks: Skating Away, Only Solitaire, Third Hoorah, Two Fingers, Ladies, Back-Door Angels. Weaker tracks: War Child, Queen and Country. Rating: 4ó

#7. Heavy Horses (1978)

A worthy follow-up to Songs From the Woods, continuing somewhat in the folk-influenced and more acoustic style of that album, but with some twists. Lyrically, Heavy Horses shifts to more earthly and realist themes of country living, thus is a bit more somber in mood. However, the songs are uniformly good to great, again mixing more rock-oriented songs with delicate acoustic tracks and beautiful melodies. Best tracks: One Brown Mouse, Acres Wild, Moths, Rover, And The Mouse Police Never Sleep. Weaker track: No Lullaby. Rating: 4ó

#6. Minstrel in the Gallery (1975)

Continues with the electrifying mix of eclectic hard rock and acoustic, melodic ditties of their previous albums, with this one tracking a bit darker and heavier with more of a dichotomy between the lighter and heavier sections. Contans a mix of shorter songs alongside the epic-length centerpiece of the album, Baker Street Muse. Also contains some of their best hard-rocking segments alongside beautiful and memorable melodies. A Great album. Best tracks: Cold Wind in Valhalla, One White Duck/Nothing at All, Baker Street Muse. Weak tracks: none. Rating: 4.5ó

#5. A Passion Play (1973)

This stunning follow-up to their groundbreaking Thick as a Brick remains a divisive album among fans, many hailing it as a masterpiece while others dismiss it as as a cumbersome and pretentious misstep. Once again, it contains a single album-length song split between the two sides of the album (although subsequent releases have divided the single track into numerous named subtracks). The 2 parts are also separated by the short comedic song The Story of the Hare Who Lost his Spectacles, which has also raised speculation on the value of its inclusion. As a whole composition, APP is also quite brilliant, with many virtuosic sections, but it does not quite reach the heights of Thick as a Brick. It is quite dense and complicated, more of an acquired taste that requires repeated listens to fully appreciate. It is clear that the band was trying to replicate or even surpass what they achieved with TAAB, and sometimes that is to its detriment, as APP is just not as melodic, engaging, or accessible, but is nonetheless a compelling and rewarding experience, and an incredible album. Rating: 4.5ó
 
#4. Living in the Past (1972)

Although essentially a compilation album featuring non-album singles and B-sides, EPs, and previously unreleased tracks from their earlier days, along with a few selected album and live tracks, released to capitalize on the newfound success of the band (post-Aqualung and TAAB), this album still deserves to be included here due to the abundance of songs that are not included on any other album. And most of the singles, etc. had never been released in the US (only the UK), so it did contain mostly 'new' songs at that time. Not coincidentally, it also contains some of the band's greatest songs ever. In particular, all the songs from the EP Life's a Long Song (1971) are stellar (Life's a Long Song is one of my all-time favorite songs), and had not been heard in US previously. Those plus the addition of previously unreleased songs from earlier sessions make this an essential part of any Tull collection, and a stellar album. Best tracks: Life's a Long Song, Wond'ring Again, Living in the Past, Nursie, Witch's Promise, Teacher, Love Story, Just Trying to Be. Weaker track: Dharma for one (live). Rating: 4.5ó

#3. Songs From the Wood (1977)

Superb album. The band leans more into the folkier side of their repertoire here, invoking folk songs and tales, mixed with an effervescent driving rock core producing a remarkable Prog Folk classic. A bright, bold, invigorating breath of fresh air amidst the predominant music of that time. Somewhat of a comeback from the mild disappointment of their previous album. Great songs enhanced by stellar production and arrangements, particularly the drums and percussion of Barriemore Barlow (drums, marimba, xylophone, bells, timpani, etc.) and his drumming as a melodic instrument here. Great contributions from John Evans keyboards and of course, Martin Barre's guitar and Ian Anderson's vocals and flute. Some of their most delightful and energetic songs ever. Best tracks: The Whistler, Velvet Green, Songs From the Wood, Jack-in the Green, Fire at Midnight. Weak tracks: none. Rating: 5ó

#2. Aqualung (1971)

A stunning rock masterpiece. Expertly blends driving hard rock riffs with gentle acoustic and melodic sequences, mixing in folk, rock, pop in what would become a very influential and much-copied style, yet never quite achieved so masterfully. Although often considered a concept album dealing with the distinction between religion and God, and Anderson's dour musings on faith and religion, the band disputes this, as only a few songs have any unifying theme relating to religion. Several of the songs also deal with the plight of outcasts and the downtrodden. The religion-themed songs, such as My God, Hymn 43, and Wind-Up are undeniably compelling and powerful, but so is the entire album from beginning to end. The composition and inclusion of the acoustic numbers (Cheap Day Return, Mother Goose, Wond'ring Aloud, and Slipstream) is just magnificent and provide a perfect balance to the album. A tremendous leap from previous album Benefit, and the start of super-stardom for the band. Best tracks: Mother Goose, Wond'ring Aloud, Wind-up, Locomotive Breath, Aqualung, Hymn 43, Cross-Eyed Mary, Slipstream, My God. Weak tracks: none. Rating: 5ó

#1. Thick As A Brick (1972)

As great as Aqualung is, it cannot match the sheer brilliance and gloriousness of Thick as a Brick, the pinnacle of their three masterpiece albums, and one of the best-ever progressive rock albums. Although constructed to be a parody of the concept album approach (in response to critics referring to Aqualung as a concept album when Anderson maintained it was not), this album-length single composition (split into 2 album sides) consisting of many separate parts brought together with ingenious transitions and connecting sections. Intricately crafted songs and parts that fit together magnificently, and mixing the acoustic melodies with the harder rock elements as only prime Tull can, and while still also managing to be quite accessible, featuring some of Tull's most melodic and joyous passages. Even though the whole piece runs for ~44 minutes (with only a brief break between sides), there is not a single dull or lackluster moment anywhere, nor any part or section that doesn't fit or should have been left off. Just brilliant from start to finish. Also, the most cohesive and locked-in the whole band is here, with each member contributing greatly to the whole, particularly Barriemore Barlow's dynamic drumming and inspired percussion work that stands out, as well as Martin Barre's guitar work, and of course Anderson's flute and probably his best-ever vocal performance. And it still stands now, fifty years later, as time has not diminished the power and magnificence of this album in the slightest. it stands as a monumental achievement in rock music. Rating 5ó

BB’s Rating scale:

1ó – Terrible, torturous to have to listen to
1.5ó - Poor, not worth your time
2 ó – Fair, maybe a couple half-way decent songs, but sub-par overall
2.5ó – Average, OK, meh, not bad but not that good either
3ó – Good, solid album, several good songs, but not spectacular. Certainly worthy, but may not be something you come back to very often
3.5ó – Very good album. Some stellar tracks, very enjoyable overall
4ó – Great album, filled with great songs, one that you will want to come back to over and over again
4.5ó – Excellent album, beyond great, superb in every way, just short of a masterpiece 
5ó – A Masterpiece, among the greatest albums of its type, and has stood the test of time

OK, well that's what I think of the Jethro Tull discography, truly one of the all-time great rock bands. So, what do you think? What are your favorite Jethro Tull albums? Your least favorite? Let me know what you think in the comments.

 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Jethro Tull - 1973-07-23 - Oakland Coliseum, Oakland CA (PRRP-044 A Hush in the Play)

Jethro Tull

1973-07-23
Oakland Coliseum, Oakland CA
Remastered audience recording (PRRP-044 A Hush In The Play), very good quality
Available in both Lossless (FLAC) and mp3 (320 kbps) versions

Here's one more show from the mighty Jethro Tull, from a couple years earlier, from their legendary 1973 US tour. But this one is not from taper Mike Millard (this was a few years before he began recording), it is from the Progressive Rock Remasters Project (PRRP), and a fine remastered audience recording. This was the A Passion Play tour, and the tour began prior to the album being released, so for the early dates (May through most of July), the album had not yet been released. The shows started with a complete performance of the entire A Passion Play, which for audiences that had not yet heard it, it was quite a lot to take in, 45 minutes of nonstop music, mostly instrumental, at times quite dense, an even more hardcore escalation from Thick as a Brick. Early reviews and reactions were not very favorable. The show is nonetheless extraordinarily amazing. But A Passion Play takes some getting used to, multiple listens to fully embrace all that is going on. After playing A Passion Play for 45 minutes, without a spoken word, Ian Anderson turns to the audience and says "and now for our second number", before launching into a nearly 20-min excerpt from Thick as a Brick. After that, the band played several selections from Aqualung and other tracks, before wrapping up with all the drama and excitement of  'Wind Up'. I was fortunate enough to see the band on this tour, but I saw them a couple months later (in September), after I had plenty of time to absorb and digest all the intricacies and nuances of A Passion Play (album was released in late July), and I loved the album (not quite as much as Thick as a Brick, but still an incredible album), so seeing it performed live in total by this great band was fantastic, and then to be followed by Thick as a Brick and Aqualung highlights, it was tremendous. Still, one of the best concerts I've ever seen. Anyway, here is the full show (Note: you do have to get past the opening 9 minute stretch of just a hearbeat and background music that opens the show before the band comes out. In person there was a short film that played, but with just the minimal background music, it is pretty boring, but once the actual show starts, it is wonderful).     

Tracklist:
Disc One
- A Passion Play -
01. Lifebeats 08:57
02. Prelude 02:25
03. The Silver Chord 04:24
04. Re-Assuring Tune 01:14
05. Memory Bank 04:32
06. Best Friends 04:35
07. Critique Oblique 05:15
08. Forest Dance #1 01:15
09. The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles 04:15
10. Forest Dance #2 01:43
11. The Foot Of Our Stairs 04:50
12. Overseer Overture 03:26
13. Flight From Lucifer 03:52
14. 10:08 From Paddington 01:06
15. Magus Perde 03:58
16. Epilogue 01:41
17. Thick As A Brick 17:07
18. Cross-Eyed Mary 04:09

Disc Two
01. No Rehearsal (segment) 02:12
02. Drum Solo (cut) 08:09
03. Instrumental 05:21
04. Maternity Ward 01:24
05. Aqualung 10:07
06. Band Introductions 01:35
07. Wind Up 13:05
08. Locomotive Breath 06:38
09. Wind Up Reprise 06:01

Personnel
Ian Anderson - Vocals, Guitar, Flute & Saxophone
Barriemore Barlow - Drums & Percussion
Martin Barre - Lead Guitars
John Evans - Keyboards
Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond - Bass Guitars

FLAC - Jethro Tull_1973-07-23_Oakland (PRRP44)_FLAC.rar

mp3 - Jethro Tull_1973-07-23_Oakland (PRRP44)_mp3.rar

 

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Jethro Tull - 1975-02-09 - The Forum, Inglewood CA (Millard Master Recording)

Jethro Tull

1975-02-09
The Forum, Inglewood CA
Audience recording (Mike Millard Original Master Tapes via JEMS), good quality
The Lost and Found Mike the MICrophone Tapes Volume 30
Available in both Lossless (FLAC) and Mp3 (320 kbps) versions

Here's another Jethro Tull show audience recording by Mike (Mike the MICrophone) Millard. This one from a bit earlier, February 1975, from the tour in support of the War Child (1974) album. This was early in Mike's recording career, before he had optimized his equipment and sound techniques, thus is not as high quality a recording as his later efforts, but overall it is still a good audience recording, and catches the band at an important stage in their career. By this time the Jethro Tull shows had become legendary, and the band did not disappoint. Although the War Child album is somewhat divisive among fans as was the previous A Passion Play (1973) (but personally I love both those albums and all of their '70's albums),   their live shows were always phenomenal. This one starts out with a little taste of their next album, Minstrel in the Gallery (1975) which had not yet been released, with a blistering guitar intro leading into songs from previous albums Aqualung, A Passion Play, and Thick as a Brick, before featuring some songs from War Child. Overall, another great show from Jethro Tull.  

Tracklist:
01 Minstrel In The Gallery Guitar Solo Intro
02 Wind Up
03 Critique Oblique
04 Thick As A Brick
05 Wond’ring Aloud
06 My God > Flute Solo
07 Sealion
08 Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of The New Day
09 Ladies
10 Drum Solo
11 War Child
12 War Child Suite
13 Cross-Eyed Mary
14 Bungle In The Jungle
15 The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles
16 Aqualung
17 Guitar Solo
18 Back-Door Angels
19 Locomotive Breath
20 Hard Headed English General
21 Back-Door Angels Reprise

Lineup:
Ian Anderson - vocals, flute, acoustic guitar
Martin Barre - guitars
John Evan - piano, keyboards, synths
Jeffrey Hammond - bass
Barriemore Barlow - drums/percussion

FLAC - Jethro Tull_1975-02-09_InglewoodCA(Millard)_FLAC.rar

Mp3 - Jethro Tull_1975-02-09_InglewoodCA(Millard)_mp3.rar

 


Monday, May 30, 2022

Jethro Tull - 1979-11-16 - Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA (Millard 1st Gen)

Jethro Tull

1979-11-16
Civic Auditorium,
Santa Monica, CA
Audience recording (Mike Millard First Generation Tapes via JEMS), very good quality
The Lost and Found Mike the MICrophone Tapes Volume 116
Available in both Lossless (FLAC) and Mp3 (320 kbps) versions

Here's another Mike Millard recording, this one of a Jethro Tull show from 1979, as part of the Stormwatch Tour. Tull followed up the great Songs From the Wood (1977) album, with another great album, Heavy Horses (1978), which followed a similar emphasis on folk influences and acoustic instrumentation mixed with driving rock and progressive rock attitudes. In 1979, Stormwatch followed, which had some aspects of these more folk-influenced albums, but also turned to a much darker and heavier style, with more hard rock than the previous albums. This album and tour would also mark the end of the classic lineup featuring John Evan, Barriemore Barlow, and Dave Palmer, as there would be a major shake-up prior to the next album, with only guitarist Martin Barre (and of course Ian Anderson) returning from this lineup. It also would be the beginning of a different sound and style for the band, and for many fans, the beginning of the end of their classic period. However, Tull would continue for many more years, and continue to put out quality albums for years to come. This show features that classic lineup (although bassist John Glascock suffered health problems early in the recording of the Stormwatch album, and subsequently died before the end of 1979, and was replaced by Dave Pegg of Fairport Convention). So, check out Jethro Tull on their last tour to feature extraordinary drummer Barriemore Barlow and John Evan. A fine show.

Tracklist:
01 Intro
02 Dark Ages   
03 Home   
04 Orion   
05 Wond'ring Aloud
06 Dun Ringill
07 Elegy   
08 Something's On The Move   
09 Aqualung
10 King Henry's Madrigal > Drum Solo   
11 Heavy Horses
12 One Brown Mouse
13 No Lullaby + Flute Solo
14 Songs From The Wood   
15 Jams O'Donnell's Jigs
16 Thick As A Brick
17 Too Old To Rock 'N'  Roll
18 Cross-Eyed Mary   
19 Guitar Solo
20 Minstrel In The Gallery
21 Locomotive Breath
22 The Dambusters March
23 Minstrel In The Gallery (Reprise)

Band lineup:
Ian Anderson - vocals, flute, acoustic guitar
Martin Barre - guitars, mandolin
John Evan - piano, organ
David Palmer - synthesizers/keyboards
Pave Pegg - bass
Barriemore Barlow - drums/percussion

FLAC - Jethro Tull_1979-11-16_Santa MonicaCA_(Millard)_FLAC.rar

Mp3 - Jethro Tull_1979-11-16_Santa MonicaCA_(Millard)_Mp3.rar

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Jethro Tull - 1977-01-14 - Pasadena, CA (Mike Millard Master Tape Series)

Jethro Tull

January 14, 1977
Civic Auditorium, Pasadena, CA
Audience Recording (Mike Millard Master Tapes via JEMS), very good quality
The Lost and Found Mike the MICrophone Tapes Volume 51
Available in both Lossless (FLAC) and Mp3 (320 kbps) versions

Continuing with some more wonderful audience recordings from the recently re-discovered master tape series of Mike (Mike the MICrophone) Millard, and so here is one of the all-time great rock bands (and one that has not yet been featured here), Jethro Tull. The origins of the band began way back in the early 1960's, when schoolmates Ian Anderson, Jeffrey Hammond and John Evans formed a band together. Following some growth and lineup changes, Jethro Tull released their first album, This Was (1968), as a UK blues-rock band, followed by Stand Up (1969) and Benefit (1970). After additional personnel changes, the, classic lineup of Ian Anderson (vocals, guitars, mandolin, flute), Martin Barre (guitars), Jeffrey Hammond (bass), John Evan (keyboards), and Barriemore Barlow (drums) was set, and the band set forth embracing a unique style that combined hard rock with acoustic interludes, folk influences, and progressive rock attitudes, and released a series of revolutionary and groundbreaking albums, starting with rock masterpiece Aqualung (1971), and then progressive rock classics Thick as a Brick (1972), A Passion Play (1973), War Child (1974), and Minstrel in the Gallery (1975). And their live shows were equally acclaimed for their virtuosity, theater, and spectacle. In 1976, they released Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die, a concept album about an aging rocker that was not as well received as their previous albums. But the band followed that mild disappointment with a another breakthrough triumph with Songs From the Woods (1977), which featured more folk influences and traditional instrumentation from English folklore, but combined with progressive and hard driving rock rhythms, drums and percussion. The show featured today comes from early in the 1977 tour (the first show of the tour actually), just prior to the release of Songs From the Woods (February '77). Another fine recording from Millard and an excellent show from Tull, featuring a variety of songs from their previous albums as well as some from the new one as well. A great period for the band.

Tracklist:
01 Skating Away (On The Thin Ice Of A New Day)[Cuts in after first line]
02 Jack-In-The-Green
03 Crazed Institution
04 Fire At Midnight
05 Instrumental
06 Thick As A Brick
07 Songs From The Wood
08 To Cry You A Song
09 A New Day Yesterday > Flute Solo incl. Bouree & Quartet > Living In The Past
10 Velvet Green
11 Too Old To Rock'n' Roll
12 Bungle In The Jungle
13 Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
14 Minstrel In The Gallery
15 Hunting Girl
16 Cross-Eyed Mary
17 Aqualung
18 Guitar Solo
19 Wind-Up
20 Back-Door Angels
21 Wind-Up (reprise)
22 Locomotive Breath
23 Land Of Hope And Glory

Lineup:
Ian Anderson - lead vocals, flute, acoustic guitar, mandolin
Martin Barre - electric and acoustic guitars, lute
John Glascock - bass and backing vocals
John Evan - keyboards and backing vocals
David Palmer - keyboards
Barriemore Barlow - drums and percussion

FLAC - Jethro Tull_1977-01-14_PasadenaCA_(Millard)_FLAC.rar

Mp3 - Jethro Tull_1977-01-14_PasadenaCA_(Millard)_mp3.rar

Thursday, May 12, 2022

New Album Reviews - Spring 2022

New Album Reviews - Spring 2022

The Flower Kings, Marillion, D'Virglio Morse Jennings, Pattern-Seeking Animals, Kaprekar's Constant 

There’s been a slew of important new album releases in the world of progressive rock this Spring, and several of them are quite noteworthy. Here’s my takes on the new albums I’ve been checking out recently.

The Flower Kings – By Royal Decree

This is the 15th album from veteran Progressive rock band The Flower Kings, and 3rd since their 2019 reformation with this current lineup. This is a double album, as each of their previous few have been as well, so it is quite expansive and contains a lot of music, 18 tracks of mostly shorter songs (thus, no long epics that they are somewhat known for) coming in at ~96 minutes of music. First, the album sounds great, and the musicianship and lush arrangements are superb throughout. The instrumental passages and sections within songs are the real highlight here, as they generally raise the level of the songs. Unfortunately, I have a bit of an issue with many of the songs themselves, particularly many of the verse and chorus sections, as they tend to be somewhat lackluster and just not very memorable. Overall, it’s quite pleasant and enjoyable, but not much more than that. For me, most of the songs pass by without generating much enthusiasm, doesn’t grab my attention, and just kind of fade into progressive background music. The album doesn't really take off until near the end of the first disc, with a great sequence of songs: 'We Can Make it Work' is a bright little pop ditty that is elevated by the unique instrumentation and wonderful arrangement (use of xylophone, various guitar fills, and vocals), followed by 'Peace on Parade', a great instrumental that shows what this band is capable of, too bad there are not more like this here, and then the disc closer 'Revolution', another album highlight. Disc 2 continues with hit and miss tracks, but includes several more highlights. So yes, overall, the album is quite good, and contains many great moments, but it is just not great overall. I do not think it measures up to their best work. There are several fine songs here, but also many just OK ones.  Best tracks: 'Peacock on Parade', 'Revolution', 'Evolution', 'We Can Make It Work', 'The Big Funk', 'Funeral Pyre', 'A Million Stars'. Weaker Tracks: 'World Gone Crazy', 'Blinded', 'The Soldier', 'The Darkness in You', 'Moth'. Rating: 3ó.

Marillion – An Hour Before It’s Dark

This is the 20th studio album from Prog mainstays Marillion, but their first since F.E.A.R. in 2016. I have to admit that although I was a fan of the early days of Marillion (with vocalist Fish) in the ‘80’s, I haven’t really followed the band through the Steve Hogarth years, so was not very familiar with what the band has done in recent years. This album pushes forward presenting commentary on all the pressing issues of the day with an immersive sound and dark and moody atmosphere. But this album also offers a bit more hope than some of their previous ones, with very emotional and stirring lyrics and music. The album features four suites of songs covering 4 major themes, as well as a couple of standalone songs. Marillion fills the musical spaces with their own version of a wall of sound, as keyboards and synths fill the background creating a dark, flowing, moody atmosphere throughout. The music often reminds me of a somewhat gloomier version of those ‘80’s synth-pop bands like Tears for Fear and Talk Talk. At other times, there are definite similarities to U2, both in the music and emotional heft of the lyrics. There are certainly some powerful sections here and an immersive sound and feel throughout. One of the problems I have with it, however, is that it is a bit too much of that same brooding atmosphere throughout the entire album. And whether they are being somber and sad, rocking out, or being uplifted with a heavenly choir, the tempo barely changes, staying at the same slow mid-tempo pace. There is no question that these guys are very good at what they do, and they create lovely immersive soundscapes and emotionally charged moods. But, overall, it is just not my thing, and for me most of the songs go on a bit too long and without enough differences between the songs. However, the final epic suite, 'Care', is magnificent, and works beautifully, raising the entire album several notches. It starts with a funky beat and vibe reminiscent of Talking Heads and then proceeds through several different sections of ebbs and flows leading up to a magnificent soaring emotional finale. By far the highlight of the album, and possibly a highlight of the band’s career, as this one works on all levels. The rest of the album also has some stellar moments, but just not quite my cup of tea overall.  Still, a very good album, and I’m sure fans of this kind of sound will rate it much higher.  Best tracks: 'Care', 'Be Hard on Yourself'. Weaker tracks: 'Reprogram the Gene', 'Murder Machines'. Rating: 3.5ó

D'Virgilio, Morse, Jennings - Troika

This is a collaborative project between three illustrious veteran Prog rockers Nick D’Virgilio (Spock's Beard, Big Big Train), Neal Morse (Spock's Beard, Neal Morse band, Transatlantic, Flying Colors), and Ross Jennings (Haken), but the resulting album is not what may be expected from this union. Here, rather than creating a Prog epic, they break out their acoustic guitars, bongos, 3-part harmonies, and catchy pop-rock hooks, for a wonderfully light, breezy, and refreshing album, with many of the songs more reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, and Nash or America than anything from the Prog realm. It's a fun album, with clever arrangements, instrumentation, and vocal arrangements. The first 2/3 of the album keeps this light acoustic pop vocal feel. Later in the album they do start to rock a bit harder, especially on the much heavier 'Second Hand Sons', but these tracks are, surprisingly, less successful, and mainly serve to disrupt the flow and fun spirit of the rest of the album. Still, overall, a very good album and a nice change of pace from some of the rather downbeat and dreary music out there. Best tracks:  'Everything I Am',' Julia', 'You Set My Soul on Fire', 'Another Trip Around the Sun', 'If I Could', 'What You Leave Behind'. Weaker tracks: 'Second Hand Sons', 'My Guardian'. Rating: 3.5ó.

Pattern-Seeking Animals – Only Passing Through

This is the 3rd album from Pattern-Seeking Animals, following their self titled (2019) and Prehensile Tales (2020) albums. The band was formed in 2018 and consists of current and former members and collaborators of Prog stalwarts Spock’s Beard, including guitarist and lead vocalist Ted Leonard, Dave Meros (bass), Jimmy Keegan (drums), and John Boegehold (synthesizers, guitar, mandolin). Apparently they formed to develop songs they were writing that didn’t necessarily quite fit for Spock’s Beard, which gave them opportunities to explore various other musical directions. They incorporate a lot of pop and power pop sensibilities in establishing great hooks, melodies, and vocals, but also mix in good bits of jazz, folk, classical, and film score prowess, but also never abandon their eclectic Prog approach (with plenty of odd-time curves and proggy instrumental breakouts) . Each successive album has been better than their previous one, and here on their third they really soar. Great stuff throughout. What I am most impressed with is how imaginative and inventive the songs and arrangements are. They put in whatever extra instrumentation and arrangement flourishes that will enhance each song (horns, mandolin, sitar, bassoon, violin, cello, specialty percussion).  Even the songs that seem like they will be relatively straight-forward pop/rock songs go into very interesting and unexpected directions (such as ‘Much Ado’, which starts out as an all-out rocker, and then drops into a cool acoustic vibe for the vocals and builds back into a rockin’ anthem). From the very opening notes of ‘Everdark Mountain’, I was hooked, with its unique dark woodland prog sound, and it just takes off from there. Although the album is a bit frontloaded (The very best songs are all in the 1st 5 tracks), it is nonetheless great throughout, with the mini-epic ‘Time Has a Way’ probably the highlight. The album also includes two ‘bonus tracks’, which are also quite good, but I think it was a good call to classify these as bonus tracks and not an actual part of the album, as they are both a somewhat different style, and decidedly less ‘proggy’ than the rest of the album, with ‘I’m Not Alright’ being a straight rocker, and ‘Just Another Day at The Beach’ being a fun, lighter pop-rock ditty. Overall, this is certainly one of the best albums of the year so far, and was my fave of the year for a while, that is until I heard the next album (below). Best Tracks: 'Time Has a Way', 'Everdark Mountain', 'Much Ado', 'I Can’t Stay Here Anymore'. Weak Tracks: None. Rating 4.5ó.

Kaprekar’s Constant – The Murder Wall

Wow! What an unexpected fantastic gem of an album. This is the 3rd album from Kaprekar’s Constant, a ‘musical collective’ from the UK started by childhood friends and multi-instrumentalists Al Nicholson and Nick Jefferson in 2017 that specializes in their own brand of ‘symphonic melodic progressive rock’ that features beautiful melodies, grand themes, lush arrangements, and great vocals, in addition to a passion for history and storytelling. And the results on this album are just fabulous. In addition to all the guitars, bass, piano, and keyboards provided by Nicholson and Jefferson, the band features wind player extraordinaire David Jackson (of Van der Graaf Generator) on all sorts of saxes, flutes, whistles, recorders, and just about anything he can blow into. Also featured are the dual lead vocalists Bill Jefferson and Dorie Jackson (daughter of David), who have contrasting vocal sounds and styles but blend well whether singing together or separately. Rounding out the band are Mike Westergaard on keyboards and Mark Walker on drums and percussion. And OK, no, I had never heard of these guys prior to about a month or so ago, but so glad I found them (thanks to an enthusiastic review from Scot at The Prog Corner (Youtube channel) I just had to check them out. Thanks Scot!). This is a concept album with all the songs dealing with stories about various attempts (both successful and unsuccessful) by mountaineers to scale the North Face of The Eiger Mountain, known as the Murder Wall, due to all those that have lost their lives on it. Although this may sound like a very dark theme, the music is anything but dreary, filled with beauty from simple melodies to majestic anthems. There are 17 individual relatively short songs (a total of 74 minutes of music), but many of the songs are part of multi-song suites, as the album tells the true stories of 6 different attempts to scale the mountain (dating from 1935 to 1962). But you don't necessarily need to follow or care about the lyrical content, as the beauty of the songs and arrangements carry the show (but you probably will want to find out more about these events after hearing the album, as the stories are quite compelling). Musically, probably the closest comparison to other contemporary bands would be Big Big Train, especially their more pastoral aspects, as they share Kaprekar's Constant's feel for beautiful melodies and arrangements, grand themes, as well as their penchant for British history and storytelling. Another band with some similar aspects might be Moon Safari. As far as more classic Prog bands, I can hear some similarities to bands such as Camel, Renaissance, and such works as Anthony Phillip's The Geese and The Ghost. Although maybe a bit too laid-back for many Prog fans (and this album is even a bit less ‘proggy’ than their previous albums), I found it to be brilliant and enthralling from start to finish, filled with such beautiful and inspiring music, it is just breathtaking. If you enjoy any of the bands mentioned here, you should really like this album. The music is quite accessible, with much in common with good pop-rock and folk-rock, but just much more thoughtful, elegant, and majestic than anything you would hear on the radio. It's hard to pick out the best tracks, because they all are great, and fit together to make the whole thing flow so well. It really needs to be heard in its entirety from beginning to end. For me, this is unquestionably the best album I've heard so far this year, and will be hard to beat on a best of the year list. Fantastic from start to finish. Best Tracks:  'Tall Tales by Firelight', 'Failure Takes Care of Its Own', 'Another Man's Smile', 'Hope in Hell', 'Third Man Down', 'A Silent Drum', 'The Stormkeeper;s Daughter', 'Endeavor/Mountaineers/Hall of Mirrors'. Weak tracks: None. Rating 5ó.

What did you think about any of these albums? Or are there other recently released albums that have been especially great for you? Let me know your picks and views.

BB’s Rating scale:
1ó – Terrible, torturous to have to listen to
1.5ó - Poor, not worth your time
2 ó – Fair, maybe a couple half-way decent songs, but sub-par overall
2.5ó – Average, OK, meh, not bad but not that good either
3ó – Good, solid album, several good songs, but not spectacular. Certainly worthy, but may not be something you come back to very often
3.5ó – Very good album. Some stellar tracks, very enjoyable overall
4ó – Great album, filled with great songs, one that you will want to come back to over and over again
4.5ó – Excellent album, beyond great, superb in every way, just short of a masterpiece 
5ó – A Masterpiece, among the greatest albums of its type, and has stood the test of time