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


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

4.19 | 428 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars The newly remastered two-disc reissue of Jethro Tull's popular 1978 live set is certainly a blast from the past. Before this week I hadn't heard it for at least 25 years (hard to admit, but of course I was very young then). So how well does it stand up to a quarter century of hindsight?

The original double album was released soon after the back-to-back triumphs of "Songs From the Wood" and "Heavy Horses", in the first blush of the band's transfiguration into an Old English folk rock ensemble. This was Tull at their critical and creative peak: in retrospect never the safest place to be in the music business, as anyone listening with more than half an ear can no doubt recognize from this collection.

First the good news: there's no shortage of vital and exciting music on display here. Ian Anderson was in the acrobatic prime of his life, both physically and vocally, and assembled behind him is arguably the best of many classic Tull line-ups. The highlights are concentrated on disc one, which benefits from the better sound of the more acoustic numbers (the louder the band plays, the muddier the mix), and from some priceless between-song banter by Anderson, clearly rehearsed but no less amusing for that.

There's also a brief but sizzling rendition of the old blues chestnut "A New Day Yesterday" (a showcase for veteran Tull guitarist Martin Barre), and one of Anderson's typically stunning/vulgar/virtuoso flute improvisations, incorporating samples from "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and the venerable Tull update of "Bourée". How quick is this crowd? They spot the Bach tune and begin cheering wildly within the first few teasing notes.

But the sound quality is, as mentioned, inconsistent. In particular on disc two, where the stadium echo and over-mixed audience all but smother such live rarities like "Cross- Eyed Mary", and the otherwise excellent instrumental interludes of "Quatrain" and "Conundrum" (so named because of its lukewarm "let's-give-the-lads-a-beer-break" solo by Barriemore Barlow, otherwise one of the more underrated drummers of the 1970s).

And therein lies a problem. After ten years on the road the band was showing signs of resting on its laurels, already locked into the same autopilot encores of "Aqualung" and "Locomotive Breath" that would haunt their set list for decades to come. In 1978 the songs weren't exactly being played by rote yet, but by the sound of things it won't be long. Notice how a lot of the arrangements stick uncomfortably close to the studio originals, making the concert sound at times like a package of greatest hits, with clapping (compare it to GENTLE GIANT's more imaginative live document "Playing the Fool", recorded the previous year).

It doesn't help that by then Tull was playing to enormous, undiscriminating crowds in large impersonal arenas, not exactly the best setting for fostering a healthy audience/band rapport. As if to compensate the band throws itself headlong into the performances here, on even the most perfunctory numbers (I'm thinking of the sentimental sob fest "Too Old to Rock and Roll"...and the sadly abbreviated "Minstrel in the Gallery").

In retrospect this live album is both a celebration and a summation of Jethro Tull's career to date: the capstone on a decade of music that even the most partisan Tull fanatic (you know who you are) would agree the band would never again equal. In other words a mixed blessing, because there isn't much of a difference between a capstone and a tombstone, if you think about it.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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