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Jethro Tull - Roots To Branches CD (album) cover

ROOTS TO BRANCHES

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.60 | 520 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

SteveG
4 stars An oasis in the Prog Folk desert.

Roots to Branches is a probably the most offbeat of later Jethro Tull albums in that Ian and the boys are not reverting back to hard rock or blues rock as was the case with albums such as Rock Island and Catfish Rising, but have jumped deeply into the world music vibe that was almost buzzing as loud as the unplugged bug in the nineties.

Instead, Mr. Anderson crafted extremely melodic tunes that were heavily influenced by Arabic scales, eastern rhythms and other eastern motifs that are supported by some of Anderson's wittiest and, at times, touching lyrics.

What makes Roots to Branches such a wonderful prog fest is the dynamic rhythm section comprised of drummer Doane Perry and bass players Dave Pegg and Steve Bailey, who covered for Pegg on most of the album's songs while Peggy was touring with his other band interest Fairport Convention. Bailey is a hypnotic player with world class chops that was allowed to fly on this album along with Perry, who is also dramatic, dynamic and technical, while somehow not stealing the show. Something that annoyed Anderson to no end with past uber drummers like Barrymore Barlow. These complex rhythmic songs are made all the more interesting by the numerous time and tempo changing turnarounds that seem to twist, entwine, coil and strike like snakes in a battle with each other. These flights of rhythmic and melodic fancy take off briefly into other areas before returning to the songs proper. Martin Barre is even allowed to flash his wares and is right in with time changing mixes as well as doffing some heavy riffs into the song structures. He has rarely sounded better.

The best songs on this album, which to me are almost all of them, are incredibly busy and reward repeated listening as they're a lot to get ones teeth into. Standout tracks, in no particular order, are the title track, Rare And Precious Chain, Out Of the Noise, This Free Will, Valley and the heart rending Beside Myself, along with the tender August Rain and At Last, Forever. Rare and Precious Chain and Valley feature keyboard strings (which I assume were played by Anderson uncredited as the album does not credit a resident keyboard player, and future Tull member Andrew Giddings who is reported to have done session work on the album) that are reminiscent of the strident strings on that dominate Kashmir by Led Zeppelin, without sounding outright derivative and add even more eastern and prog spice to the sound mix, as does some moving uncredited piano (Anderson again?) in the chorus of At Last, Forever.

These songs also suit Anderson's more subdued but cynical vocal style of the nineties to a T, and Anderson's exotic use of bamboo flutes adds more drama to the already dramatic sound mixes.

As I stated, RtB is a busy album, but what great progressive rock album isn't? Root To Branches is not another Aqualung or TAAB or Songs From The Wood. But it's one of the few later day Jethro Tull albums that can stand alongside those giants if listeners will give it a chance to. 4 out of 5 stars seems right as the only drawback with this album's music is it's constant repetition of Indian/Arabic melodies and rhythms. Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing, which is always better than too much of a bad thing. So, its 4 stars and then some.

SteveG | 4/5 |

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