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Jethro Tull - The Very Best Of Jethro Tull CD (album) cover

THE VERY BEST OF JETHRO TULL

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

2.96 | 57 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
3 stars In the accompanying liner notes to this CD compilation of Tull tunes, Uncle Ian says, "I found myself mostly buying other artists' best-of albums to get the cream of the crop on one disc or, perhaps, to get a flavor of a band with whom I was only partially familiar." And therein these notes (some of Ian's funniest junk, and arguably the "best track" on this album), lies the nature of this album.

Not the first part; despite the name, Jethro Tull the Very Best is not quite what I'd call the "best of" Jethro Tull. The track listing is largely immaculate, but most of the tracks are obvious, and I would have preferred to have a little mixing up of tunes (I can hear "Aqualung" anywhere; where's "From a Deadbeat?" Where's "With You There to Help Me?" ...Where's "Dogs in the Midwinter?!?"). And did we really need to be told that I. Anderson wrote all this crap? Except "Bouree," of course...

I won't even bother to list the tracks, it should be easy enough to find 'em out yourself. Suffice to say that out of the honest to God TRACKS, liner notes aside, I reckon "The Whistler" is the most interesting choice of personal faves. But you should have seen that coming. Heh. Ahem.

There are some interesting holes in the list though. Like, "Broadsword." It was a cool enough song in its natural habitat, but in these surroundings, it seems a bit...weak. And "Steel Monkey?" Was that honestly the best track from the heavy met-Tull period we could come up with? What about anything off of Catfish Rising? Well, not ANYTHING, but you get the idea. I think it's only here so that you can go "Oh yeah, 'Locomotive Breath,' can Tull get any better? Wait, what the crap?!? 'Steel Monkey?' Oh, 'Thick as a Brick,' here we go." Faith restorer, ya know?

Alright, I admit that the flow of tracks is downright flawless. Weirdly so in fact. Who knew "Song For Jeffrey" went so well with "Minstrel?" And I really mean that; until I became very familiar with all the songs here on all the studio albums there, when I would hear them in their proper places, I'd always expect to here the next song off this album; I expect "Sweet Dream" after "Aqualung," "Too Old to Rock 'n Roll" after "Bouree," etc.

So on the plus side, you've got immaculate flow, and actually, a fair amount of diversity. Not flawless diversity though; pretty much all genres are represented (again, liner notes), but some albums are totally left in the dust. Of course, I'm not sure a retread of stuff like A or Under Wraps or (God forbid) Rock Island would have been necessary, but did we really have to overlook Benefit? Stormwatch even? And what about one live track?

One more problem with the thing is some edited versions of a couple of old favorites. I mean, in the case of "Thick as a Brick" we get the state authorized first movement, but no mention is made of this. We just know it's "Thick as a Brick."

"Too Old," "Heavy Horses" and "Minstrel" are all hacked up though. In the case of "Too Old" it's "okay;" it's done in a tasteful enough manner (like on stage). "Minstrel" is reduced to the third movement, and "Horses" is...butchered. The jigsy midsection is killed, and the introduction is gone.

I guess they figured no one would notice "Too Old," and most people who are into Tull enough to buy this would be aware of "Thick" (although I wasn't! Bastards...), but "Horses" is unforgivable. Either fix it like they did on Slipstream, or, if you can't, put on something else; that album's brilliant anyways, just choose another song! "Mouse Police" or something... If there's anything positive about these "edits," I guess it's that, when I actually heard the real "Minstrel" and "Horses," I was blown away by how totally different (and BETTER) the experience was.

So, in the end, what do we have? A bunch of good songs, some crumby ones, and some butchered ones, all set into a great flow. But, in the end, the hate I bear this album is dominated by one thing: superfluous-ness. Do you realize that almost half these things can be found on Living in the Past anyway (and, once again, all the most obvious choices)? In short, you probably don't need this. Probably. It is a pleasant listen from time to time for sure. But I just think there's so much better out there.

However, I can see what Ian's saying about the noble art of the best-of. This album is, in a perverse way, the best introduction to Tull (and I am THOROUGHLY ashamed to say that, yes, it was my first prog purchase...for "Bungle in the Jungle" even); if you can stand "Steel Monkey" and "Heavy Horses (edited version)," then welcome to the world of Anderson, Barre and interchangeable keyboardist! Drum machines on Tuesdays.

And did I say that "Whistler" was the best track? Excuse me, I meant "Cheerio!" I mean, after the power of "Song For Jeffrey" AND "Minstrel," what's left? What a clever use of such a charming little song.

The Whistler | 3/5 |

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