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Jethro Tull - Stormwatch CD (album) cover

STORMWATCH

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.46 | 495 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars Well this album will signal the end of an era (as well as the turn of the decade), but to call this album a cornerstone would be a compliment it does not deserve. If I talk of the end of an era, it is because for diverse reasons this album will be the last under the Tull banner for four of six members. But somehow, this line-up was clearly nearing a "passage vide" and after two good (but not excellent albums: ASFTW and HH), this came to be a small letdown. Retrospectively, this album has not lived-up as well as its two predecessor, but comparatively to its successors (more on those at the end of the review), it is a fine album. Yes, John Glascock had health problems causing his departure (and ultimately his death a few months later), forcing the Mad Flauter Anderson to pick up and play the bass. This meaning he (Anderson, on his own admission) started getting on Barlow's nerves, more or less causing him to quit and as a domino theory Evan and Palmer soon followed.

The album starts strongly enough on the North Sea Oil (the album although not wholly conceptual is strongly thematic, focussing on the energy crisis), but right from the second track Orion announces the weaknesses from the album: big riffy guitars and all too present string arrangements (courtesy of Palmer), and (dare I say it?) a clear lack of ideas or inspiration. Most of the first side follows suit, and when the tracks are slow, they are almost insufferably syrupy (all things in due context, of course since we speak of Tull) as in Home or the later Elegy. The disillusionment continues on the lengthy Dark Ages, which has a few things for itself to get your excitement going, but ultimately does not live to its own promise. Barre's riffs are heavy but not very effective of particularly inventive, while Anderson's bass playing is surprisingly good. The folky instrumental Warm Sporran with its semi-baroque feel and its bagpipes in the background is another interesting point, but no more.

The second side starts with On The Move and its crunching, crushing, crashy, trashy guitars, while Old Ghosts (one of the better known tracks on the album) is off to a good start, but after the first instrumental break, the song starts stagnating and again unneeded strings appear although here they are particularly successful. Maybe the highlight of the album. Dun Ringhill has moments and might be the track where Tull put in the most effort

The other "epic" of the album Flying Dutchman is a rather slow starting affair, with a banjo crescendo, and a few interesting evolutions, but overall, there is not enough enthusiasm present to arise yours: close, but no cigar, something is missing (I never figured what outside those needless strings which could've easily been replaced by a good synth), but do not let it spoil the track for you. The closing Elegy is definitely a bit of a filler with its overly present strings and syrupy melody >> irksome even if in some ways, this is beautiful.

As usual the remastered version comes with four real bonus tracks (meaning no alternate takes or live version of tracks already available on the album) all of them well in the line of the album, sort of prolonging it for further enjoyment (problem is that the prolongation of an average album can only be ..average. Stitch In Time and Crossword are based on hard guitar riffs, while Kelpie is slightly more folky and King Henry has a definite medieval touch, but none of them really stand out, but all are worthy of the album.

Still a classic Tull album, maybe their last (only 98's Roots To Branches will be better, IMHO) but also sadly the end of the second classic Tull era. With only Anderson and Barre remaining, the next line-ups will only pale in comparison, never managing stability and it will unfortunately be plainly apparent in studio albums. From the next album onwards, Tull will search for itself in a sound-modernization effort, which will simply never work, badly at times (A), sometimes being catastrophic (Under Wraps).

Sean Trane | 3/5 |

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