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

MINSTREL IN THE GALLERY

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.98 | 805 ratings

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daveconn
Prog Reviewer
5 stars My favorite album of all time. Oh... and I listen to it backwards (side two first, side one second). It's a habit I picked up years ago, seizing on the inverted back cover as an invitation to experiment, the story smelling sweeter that way. (It also allows "Minstrel" to end with the logical "Requiem", and my madness for order demands that it does.) In such a topsy-turvy state, "Minstrel" becomes the story of a struggling minstrel who sets out from the comfortable life ("One White Duck") to wallow in the darkest alleys of inspiration ("Baker St. Muse"), his genius in full flower even as his faith in mankind shrinks. By twisting the two halves, "Grace" now serves as a sort of "Lola", the minstrel's entrée into the public discourse of would-be benefactors. "Minstrel In The Gallery" then marks the introduction for the band (no misconstruing that), "Cold Wind Valhalla" represents their ascent to stardom, "Black Satin Dancer" an example of the minstrel feeding the same dark appetites in the gilded setting of the courts (alley or palace, the vices are the same). "Requiem" is the sobering conclusion to so much excess, though I've never speculated on who the deceased might be in relation to the minstrel. And that, in a nutshell, is what idle minds do to perfectly good albums. Of course, most people (I would think) listen to this in the order that TULL arranged them, and glean from Minstrel a loose concept album that casts Ian and company as minstrels in a modern-day gallery of wine, women, and "newspaper warriors". Really, the music is so unerringly brilliant, the lyrics so evocative and incisive, that there is no wrong way to hear this album. Critics usually cite the overt Elizabethan touches (often before rambling on about some imagined Atlantis, but then I'm really a terrible critic), which is more of a visual judgment than anything. "Minstrel In The Gallery" evokes the world of Shakespeare in its literate lyrics, Elizabethan imagery, and the mixture of rustic folk music and refined classical airs into their rock. The precedent in TULL's work would be "Queen And Country", though Minstrel's folk fancies likely stemmed from a shared appreciation for the music of Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention.

Whatever the impetus, TULL has never mastered their muse so well. The arrangements are a bouquet of sound to be savored through the years, evergreen and unerring in their aim, depicted with flourishes from each member (a table thump here, a delicious touch of strings or biting guitar part there) that arrive like old friends at an appointed hour. Again, individual beauty is a subjective beast, and my appreciation for this music might be your befuddling (nonsensical as a noun, I know). So in every sense (of our own senses), the best album in the world is whatever you think it is. And never let anyone (myself included) judge in your stead.

daveconn | 5/5 |

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