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Jethro Tull - Live - Bursting Out CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

4.18 | 425 ratings

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4 stars I've had a love/hate relationship with Jethro Tull since my friend Tommy Cline turned me on to the curious aura that inhabited their debut album, 'This Was,' early in 1970. Some of their records make me happy as a turkey the day after Thanksgiving and some of them infuriate me no end. Rarely is there anything in the middle. This live double disc LP that featured performances culled from the European leg of their tour in support of their remarkable 'Heavy Horses' album in '78 is par for the course. The first half of the recording shows conclusively why this band is a genuine and very deserving titan in Progland while the second half only confirms to me how they can be frustratingly patronizing when it comes to exploiting the hard rock side of their collective personality. Having said that, I must admit 'Bursting Out' is what I expected considering my rocky relationship with this eclectic group. Frontman Ian Anderson's snarky but inoffensive you-bought-the-ticket-so-take-it-or-leave-it attitude speaks directly to the prog snob me and I accept his grinning ain't-life-a-surreal-trip countenance willingly. I'm a fan because the upside of Jethro Tull trumps the downside every time. I had the privilege of seeing them live sometime later the same year I discovered them whilst they were on their 'Stand Up' tour so I already knew how incredible they could be when they were feeling their oats. It was really just a matter of finding out how well their onstage presence and musical acumen was captured on tape.

They opened the show the way I would've anticipated them to with something extremely progressive. These guys had no intention of taking the formulaic route by starting things off with one of their familiar hits. On the contrary, they came out and smacked the audience upside the head with a song that was foreign to at least ninety percent of those in attendance. 'No Lullaby' is a highly complex number off of 'Heavy Horses' that emphasizes their uniqueness rather than their accessibility. The band is incredibly tight and precise in every area, fostering a satisfied smile that creases my aging mug. One of my all-time favorite JT tunes, 'Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day,' is next and they don't disappoint. They have an uncanny ability to make difficult songs like this one sound like child's play. The sound quality is impeccable in that every delicate nuance from the glockenspiel to the accordion comes through clear as a bell. 'Jack in the Green' follows and I get the feeling that their set list was developed with the material they preferred in mind and not in an effort to kowtow to those who came to hear 'Bungle in the Jungle.' Because of that emphasis their delivery is spirited and energetic throughout, especially in the early stages of the program. On 'One Brown Mouse' I'm reminded that no one, and I mean no one sounds like Jethro Tull. They're totally off the reservation most of the time and usually creative and progressive-minded without apology. Kudos to the keyboard duo of John Evan and David Palmer for their tactful work on this particular selection. 'A New Day Yesterday' (from the masterpiece that is 'Stand Up') gets an updated treatment that takes advantage of the tune's inherent dynamics. Guitarist Martin Barre slays his solo and the unison riffs at the end are very cool. I prefer their addicting studio version but this ain't anything to sneer at. After that they jump right into an extended flute flurry wherein showman Ian gets his prancing ya-yas out while putting on a clinic of how to astound a crowd with his slender instrument of choice. The group playfully joins in when he veers into a verse of 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' and again later on when he takes a too-short detour into the brilliant 'Bouree' that's a treat to my ears every time I hear it.

For 'Songs from the Wood' their boys club chorale vocalizing impresses before they slip right into the number as effortlessly as putting on a pair of warm, fuzzy slippers. Next they present their gift to the prog world known as 'Thick as a Brick.' To say they do this icon of our esteemed and honorable genre full justice is an understatement. Hearing it performed in a live setting gives the listener a fresh perspective on how great this piece of music is. Yes, it's been trimmed down considerably for time's sake but, all in all, it's a stellar rendition of a multi-faceted treasure that never fails to fascinate. It would be hard for any of their compositions to match that gem so they ease their enraptured multitude down a bit with 'Hunting Girl,' one of their intricately-arranged electrically-charged prog folk ditties that sets them apart from all others who dare to enter their end of the prog field. While 'Too Old to Rock 'n Roll, Too Young to Die' is far from being the best track from that surprisingly fine album of the same name, it's the most identifiable to the folks out front and they do it well. However, it also marks a turning point in this particular extravaganza as they go in a direction I wish they wouldn't go in. Their overrated disc, 'Minstrel in the Gallery,' has never done much for me and their presentation of the title cut here doesn't change my opinion although I do admire Barre's enthusiasm as he punches it hard with his edgy guitar attack.

At this juncture the band descends into outright pandering to the throng by playing three numbers in a row from their popular sellout album, 'Aqualung.' Thankfully, 'Cross-Eyed Mary' comes off less shrilly than the original but I can't say the same for the overexposed tune that bears that dubious record's moniker. That lumbering number always conjures up bad memories for me because it was that LP that figuratively threw a bucket of water on my white-hot obsession with the band when it came out in late '71 and estranged me from their work for a very long time. I understand that it's a bonafide crowd-pleaser (the gathered mass of humanity croons like they're at a soccer match when it's over) but I don't have to like it. It's much too plodding and coarse for my taste. 'Locomotive Breath' follows and I'm tempted to simply say 'ditto' but I'll try to be unbiased as I assess it. At least the piano intro is engaging but once they jump into the 'rawkin'' meat of the song they ham it up for all it's worth and milk this stale staple of classic rock radio dry. The ending is purposely pompous and noisy and it leads to something labeled 'The Dambusters March' which is some kind of raucous, intense instrumental sequence that suddenly ebbs down to a cheeky acoustic guitar and vocal as Anderson reprises the famous line from 'Aqualung' before the lights go out.

The US release left off three obscure tracks ('Quatrain,' 'Sweet Dreams' and 'Conundrum') probably for cost-effective reasons and perhaps someday I'll get a chance to hear them because they're most likely unorthodox. After reading my therapeutic get-it-off-my-chest rant concerning the inclusion of what I call the dregs of their catalog one might think I didn't care for this concert album but you'd be wrong. I deem it excellent because it's a fair representation of the band's approach to entertaining and I certainly can't cast dispersions on the engineering involved. It's top shelf on the technical side from start to finish. Special mention must go out to the rhythm section of Barriemore Barlow on drums and John Glascock on bass because they do a superb job of holding it all together while establishing a solid groove under every selection. A dedicated follower probably has this album already. If you're a Jethro Tull novice you'll get a good dose of the twisted genius that makes this group so special. But be forewarned. They just might drive you nuts, too. 3.6 stars.

Chicapah | 4/5 |


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