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Jethro Tull - Minstrel In The Gallery CD (album) cover

MINSTREL IN THE GALLERY

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

4.03 | 1119 ratings

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VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Review Nš 53

The title of the album refers to a minstrel performing in a gallery. A minstrel was a medieval troubadour who performed songs whose lyrics told stories about distant places and about real or imaginary historical events. They created their own tales or memorized and embellished the tales of others. A minstrel's gallery is a great hall of the castles or manor houses where the minstrels sung. So, the dominant theme on this Jethro Tull's album was an Elizabethan minstrel piece of music with electric and acoustic sounds in a rock and a folk musical context.

Relatively to the line up of the band it's the same of their last albums. After the end of this Jethro Tull's musical period, the bassist Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond will quit the band and be replaced by John Glascock. As Ian Anderson wrote, he returned to his first love, the painting. On the other hand, for the 1975 live tour, David Palmer, who had long been the band's orchestra arranger and, in my humble opinion, he did a great job on this album, officially will join the group on keyboards and synthesizers. So, the line up on the album is Ian Anderson (vocals, flute and acoustic guitar), Martin Barre (electric guitars), John Evan (piano and organ), Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond (bass guitar and string bass) and Barriemore Barlow (drums and percussion).

After a failed attempt to pander to the critics, Jethro Tull returns doing what they know to do better, which is playing progressive rock music. The Anderson's lyrics show an introspective and cynical air, possibly due to the Anderson's recent divorce from his first wife and the pressures of touring, joined with the frustrations of writing for this new work and recording the album in Monte Carlo.

'Minstrel In The Gallery' is their eighth studio album and was released in 1975. It has seven tracks. The first track is the title track song 'Minstrel In The Gallery'. It's a very beautiful musical composition which combines acoustic and hard rock music in a very balanced way. It's one of the two stronger and most energetic songs on the album. The second track 'Cold Wind To Valhalla' is a song that transports us to the Viking medieval imaginary. It's a more acoustic song that combines the acoustic and the electric parts very well. It's one of my favourite songs from the album. The third track 'Black Satin Dancer' is a very romantic song with a very original tune. It's, in my humble opinion, one of the most beautiful songs on the album and represents one of the best examples of the superior Palmer's musical orchestrations. The fourth track 'Requiem' is a slow acoustic ballad, featuring only Anderson's singing and playing acoustic guitar, Hammond's bass and a small string orchestra backing them. 'Requiem' is an emotional song, beautiful and sad at the same time, which doesn't surprise, due to its name. The fifth track 'One White Duck/Nothing At All' has some similarity with the previous theme 'Requiem'. It's a very beautiful and light acoustic piece of music, very well orchestrated and with great acoustic guitar working. Both are really two great songs. The sixth track 'Backer St. Muse' is the epic song on the album and is divided in four parts: 'Pig Me And The Whore', 'Nice Little Tune', 'Crash Barrier Waltzer' and 'Mother England Reverie'. It's the second stronger and most energetic song on the album, after 'Minstrel In The Gallery'. 'Backer St. Muse' reminds me very much 'Thick As A Brick' and 'A Passion Play', not only in its musical structure and in some of their musical passages, but also because it's quite extensive with slightly less than 17 minutes. Probably, this is one of my three favourite songs of Jethro Tull. Only 'Thick As A Brick' and 'A Passion Play' are better than this one. The seventh track 'Grace' is the shortest song on the album. It's a very pleasant and short acoustic song, which despite be short, ends the album with a great style.

So, we may consider this album divided in two distinct parts. The first and the sixth tracks, which correspond to the lengthiest tracks, are more electric and heavy than the rest of the album. They definitely can be considered the two best tracks on the album. The remaining five themes are more acoustic but they maintain also a very high quality level.

Conclusion: 'Minstrel In The Gallery' has all the classic elements of a great Jethro Tull's album. It has good lyrics, the inimitable Anderson's voice, wonderful acoustic and electric parts and finally the sophistication and the lush orchestration of Palmer. 'Minstrel In The Gallery' isn't for sure the best Jethro Tull's album but is undoubtedly one of their best and the most peaceful too. For me, it's also without any doubt, the most beautiful piece of music released by them. 'Minstrel In The Gallery' is the most acoustic Jethro Tull's album and is also, in my humble opinion, one of their most progressive albums too, into all their musical career. So, we are again in the presence of another masterpiece of the group. If you don't have this album yet you're missing out one of the cornerstones of the progressive rock music.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 5/5 |

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