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


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

4.19 | 416 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
4 stars (For the hat, a 4.5)

How are a King Crimson concert and a Jethro Tull concert alike? Singing bass players? Silly hats? No! (Besides, Fripp's hats were far sillier.) It's kick ass live production.

While some live prog acts (coughcouhgYesandGenesiscough) were content to try and recreate the studio material, Sir Bobbit Fripp and Lord Ian felt it necessary to take the studio tunes and give them unthinkable power on stage.

Need proof? Check the opening number on Bursting Out, "No Lullaby" from Heavy Horses. It wasn't exactly a sleepy little tune to begin with, right? After the quick, fun "all the band members start playing" intro, the live "No Lullaby" is shorter, faster and harder than the studio version could ever be. This trend continues with "Sweet Dream." The original version was a scary symphonic experience, the live version slams you on your head in terror (don't think about that sentence too much). Ian's vocals take on this evil edge, and the guitar is far more prominent. Neat lil' organ bits towards the end too (from I guess John; damn those twin keyboardists!).

The softer numbers are just as good. Ian puts the flute down for a second and introduces the band (note: Ian banter is always, always good. I won't give any of it away, but trust me, the cover price is worth it), and they play "Skating Away." God I love that song. It's pretty good here; the band switches instruments as is customary (possibly again during the song). It's not quite as good as the version on the A tour, but still, how can you not love that song? "Jack in the Green," the infamous all-Ian number, takes on new power in a live setting. Likewise, "One Brown Mouse" is totally improved on stage, with a great solo courtesy David Palmer (I'm guessing he does the synthy/pipey stuff, John the organy/pianoy junk).

"Alright," sez the Ian. Enough is enough with the acoustic stuff. And the band goes on to raise "A New Day Yesterday" from the dead. Like "No Lullaby," a song that was hard before becomes even harder, with a rapid fire machine gun solo from Mr. Barre. But it quickly turns into the "Flute Solo Improvisation." If you can only hear one Tull tune, it should be "Thick as a Brick." However, "Flute Solo Improv" is not a bad compromise. It contains traces from all across the band's past (and would continue to grow in later versions); bits of the "Bouree," "My God," and many more find their way in there. I love how each time he comes to a new bit of music, it sounds like he's trying to sound it out for the first time. Also, what's up with that flute? Some of the noises Ian makes that thing produce aren't natural.

"Songs From the Wood" is...well, it's not fantastic I hate to say. The band tries to recreate the studio version's lush sound. Later versions (that A tour again) correct this by stripping it down more, but, oh well. "Thick as a Brick" is brilliant. Not as good as the Madison Square version, but pretty damn good. Naturally, they couldn't play quite all of it, but they are able to play several movements, arguably some of the highlights, focusing less on the vocals and stretching out the instrumental sections. And, considering they cut out about seventy-five percent of the song, it doesn't come off too bad for an "epic." In fact, orchestration was wisely retooled for John's organ, and Martin's soloing is given the Tull-stage treatment. Result? Nothing is lost.

Disc two is the "hard" disc. We open with "Hunting Girl," which meshes just as well on stage as it did in studio, although Martin really stands head and shoulders above everyone else. A speedy version of "Too Old to Rock 'n Roll" is next, although we still have enough time for a sax solo from Mr. Palmer. Crap, how many instruments were there on stage at a given time? Also, just wanted to add that Ian's introduction to the song is my favorite bit of stage banter from the minstrel.

Anyways, I know it's hard to imagine with just the audio, but Ian's been guitaring, flauting and leaping around stage for about an hour now. He's tired. He takes a break. And so we reach "Conundrum." What's the "Conundrum" you ask? Why it's, "what do we do when Ian's gone?" The answer is play this instrumental that's based on a couple of decent riffs. Yeah. Ian's not here, so turn it over to Martin. Yeah! Turn it over to John, yeah! Turn it over to Barrie! Yeah! Yeah...okay, Barrie, you can stop now. Yes, sadly, this neat little tune is merely casing for a technically great, but endless and draining drum solo. I mean, hearing Barrie flaunt his technique is nice and all, but it's too long, and energy-less.

But next comes the song I've been waiting for, "Minstrel in the Gallery." The opening is surprisingly pretty on stage. The instrumental midsection is pretty much removed, but it's the third movement that really counts, and it's...good. It's sped up and harder, like everything else on the album, but it's also been plumped up a bit with additional keyboard parts. Part of what I loved about the song was its dryness. Oh well, it still kicks ass.

But wait, we haven't heard really anything from Aqualung! Right, here's "Cross-eyed Mary." We don't get the creepy mellotron opening, but Ian's flute intro is just as good, and the song itself is great, of course. Ian bids us all good night. But wait, we haven't heard AQUALUNG yet! What kind of a Tull album would be complete without that anthem to homelessness? But first we're hit with "Quatrain," a short, goofy instrumental bit that reintroduces us to everyone in the band. It's also kinda cool, and a perfect springboard to "Aqualung." The 'Lung is fantastic. Barrie changes the drums parts, but it's actually pretty cool. Martin's solo is absolutely killer, as usual.

Bursting Out is very hard to choose a favorite track from, but I choose "Locomotive Breath," especially when coupled with "The Dambuster's March." You see, I had forgotten what made that song so great, having heard it on the radio (which IS known to happen, amazingly) and a billion compilation albums. But Bursting Out reminded me that the point of "Locomotive Breath" is one thing: to rock. Hard. The live version makes the studio version seem like a soppy bit of fluff, as it runs down the tracks on renewed evil. Renewed evil with whistles. Ahem. Ignore that.

So, after you've taken one of the hardest songs in your catalogue and made it even harder, how can you close the show? Why, with "The Dambuster's March," a serious piece of music played for comic effect (with sound effects)! Tack onto that some amazing soloing from Mr. Barre that leave you wondering why his fingers haven't fallen off at some point during the concert. Ian (I assume) tosses some balloons into the crowd, and comes back for a final go at the audience.

So, in the long run, Busting Out is amazing. It's not flawless, no. And that's not just because a couple of the songs let me down. It's also my rhythm section. Barrie makes a couple of little mistakes here and there (er, aside from a certain drum solo, of course). John Glascock tries his best, but he occasionally lets me down on certain Jeffrey numbers ("Minstrel in the Gallery," "Thick as a Brick"). Oh well. Otherwise, everyone plays well. Yeah, even Glascock and friend, even the twin keyboardists, who actually gel pretty well. And besides, Ian and Martin are brilliant within and throughout, and we all know that they're the only ones who matter (wink).

I know! Busting Out will make a nice introduction to the band if you're just not up for Living in the Past. Think about the song list: it's got fan favorites, personal favorites, and some obligatory Aqualung numbers (not to mention a couple of surprises along the way). Better than any compilation I can think of. Besides, do compilations have neat pictures of Ian's hat in the liner notes? Nope. Plus, the two discs are arranged so that you don't have to take the case apart to reach them. How great is that?

(No special mention about the remaster down here; all that's up there. You see, the remaster is what gives us the great lil' "Quatrain," that spooky rendition of "Sweet Dream," and the glorified drum solo "Conundrum." So you're probably thinking it's not worth it, right? Why bother? Well, I tell ya. I'd rate both versions, original and remaster, the same. Although you don't miss out on much, the flow of the album is made by those numbers, particularly on the second disc (in fact, the course from "Conundrum" on is seamless). So it's really up to you: miss out on Barrie, or miss out the flawless flow of the show.)

The Whistler | 4/5 |


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