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Jethro Tull - The Broadsword And The Beast CD (album) cover

THE BROADSWORD AND THE BEAST

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.26 | 441 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars So I’ll admit to this being one of those albums I bought mostly because I thought it had a cool cover. I never was much of a Tull fan, although at the time this released ‘Aqualung’ and ‘Heavy Horses’ were still in pretty heavy rotation on my turntable. Ian Anderson is such an imposing character in all things Tull that one really has to be a fanboy or a hardcore audiophile to notice significant distinctions in many of their albums.

The thing I like about ‘Broadsword’ is that this isn’t one of those albums. Anderson is clearly bent on putting out something that is commercially palatable, and it shows from start to finish. In this case I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, as the songs here are all very engaging. I hadn’t played this album in over twenty years until a few weeks ago. I’ve replaced a few long-lost 8-tracks with CD versions of several Tull albums lately, but still have this one in the original vinyl and decided to give it a few spins. I’m kind of sorry I let it gather dust for so many years.

“Beastie” is a bit of a departure from the Tull I remember as a child, with its very eighties-sounding synthesizers and Barre’s excellent but rather basic guitar work. The drums are nothing to write home about either, but put together the parts work well and this is a pleasant if rather average number for the band.

I can’t remember if “Clasp” was a single, but I think it might have been. Got radio play back in the day anyway. This is a bit closer to traditional Tull, with plenty of Anderson’s flute and a more complex tempo. Anderson also abandons the singing style on “Beastie” in favor of his more bard-like singer-storyteller voice. I guess the piano here is electric, or sounds like it is anyway. “Fallen on Hard Times” was the best-known song off the album in the eighties, a short and tightly arranged flute number with those oddly harmonized refrains that sounded quite a bit like Mark Knopfler and company’s numerous Dire Straits albums from around the same time.

“Flying Colours” reminds me of Elton John’s ‘Honky Château’ for some reason. Maybe it’s the piano – it’s not the vocals for sure; but “Slow Marching Band” is pure Anderson folk-song stuff. “Broadsword” is another Dire Straits-sounding track for me, which probably has something to do with the production. I’m guessing some studio rat would know why. Then “Pussy Willow” for another more traditional-sounding Tull number.

“Seal Driver” doesn’t do much for me even now except for Barre’s guitar, which is crisp and makes up for the extended and rather boring instrumental fills that make this sound longer than it really is. The keyboards on “Watching Me Watching You” are actually kind of annoying, and frankly I don’t really like this track much. The back side of this album is clearly inferior to the front. I wonder if the band was a bit desperate for material, which may be the case considering they only put out a few albums in the eighties and the follow-up to this one (‘Under Wraps’) also sounds rather uninspired.

The album doesn’t have all the bonus tracks that the CD reissue does, so the end for me is the farewell “Cheerio”, which fades out much as the band would for the next few years.

This wouldn’t be at the top of the list of my favorite Jethro Tull albums, but then again I’m not a huge fan anyway. It’s a decent album, but the cover art belies the uneven contents, and overall this is probably a three star effort at best. Oh well, it’s been nice to listen to it again for a few spins after all these years, and I imagine it’ll work its way back into my turntable’s rotation for frequently now that I’ve ‘rediscovered’ it. Worth picking up if you’re a Tull fan, but not essential by any means.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |

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