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Jethro Tull - Stormwatch CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

3.49 | 771 ratings

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4 stars Being absolutely honest I must say that 1979 was not the best year for Progressive Rock; the former big bands were taking giant steps towards mainstream, flirting without embarrassment with easy POP and trying to be a lucrative alternative to Disco and Punk that had taken the musical scenario by assault.

But even in the worst storm there's a rock or a lighthouse that can guide the musical ship to the safety of the harbor, and this rock was Jethro Tull.

Many people say they had changed, of course they did, change is the motor of progress, but they managed to recreate themselves without taking a suicidal leap into plain and boring pop.

While Songs from the Wood and Heavy Horses were heavily influenced by folk creating a pleasant bucolic atmosphere where the sweet sound of the flute was basic for the melodic sound; Stormwatch is heavier and more oriented towards Rock and Roll. Even when the classical flute doesn't disappear is more aggressive and less frequent, heavy guitar riffs by Martin Barre take the lead, of course with the well known and powerful vocals of Ian Anderson.

The time changes and so the lyrics, somehow the first track "North Sea Oil" shows the band worries for the environment with some of Ian's usual sarcastic style. The music gently flows in a rhythmic and constant way, with a couple of expected changes but no big surprises. The clear vocals, aggressive flute and guitar riffs make of this song one of my favorites from Stormwatch

"Orion" is totally different, mainly vocal but dark and aggressive in some moments, acoustic in others, the problem is that seems they never developed the idea completely, because when the song seems to be reaching a climatic peak, they suddenly change and return to the acoustic mood, not a convincing track.

"Home" sounds at the beginning like a step back towards a more folk oriented sound, but as the seconds pass is evident that we're before something different a new form of folksy power ballad, a bit softer than the usual but with an incredibly beautiful melody enhanced by the strings conducted by David Palmer.

"Dark Ages" is one of the few songs that keep the classical structure of a progressive track, first because of it's length (9:13) could be considered a short epic. The song starts soft but at the same time creating expectation because it's obvious by the powerful guitar riffs and incomplete piano chords that something is going to explode in any moment.

At a first moment that doesn't happens a passage based in Ian's vocals and Barriemore Barlow makes the listener think the song will never reach the climax, but when less expected a guitar section shows the path for the development of the song, all the band plays a fast passage interrupted by a complex vocal section only to return to the frantic moments.

The lyrics show the social awareness of Ian, again in a sarcastic but acid way. A great track, among the best of the album.

"Warm Sporran" is a different kind of song, good chorus perfect keyboards, guitar and drumming, somehow a marching or military hymn, simple but excellent lets the listener hoping the song was a bit longer.

"Something's On The Movie" is a rock oriented track, fast almost frantic but softened by Ian's vocals, a perfect contradiction created by the band using Ian's semi country voice in a clear hard rock atmosphere, provided in this case not only by the aggressive guitar but also by a harder and fast flute.

An uncommon Tull song followed by another strange track "Old Ghost" a supposedly frightening song that flows gently producing a nostalgic feeling instead of fear. Don't know if the band pretended this, but the effect enhanced by a small orchestra mainly of strings is very pleasant.

If I had to choose my favorite tracks from the album "Dun Ringill" would be one of my selections, despite the short length that leaves me unsatisfied, this little song shows in 2:45 minutes everything that Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson are capable to do when they leave away the electric for the acoustic guitar adding Ian's excellent vocals.

"The Flying Dutchman" is another longer track (7:45), my first impression was produced by only two notes of the piano that reminded me of the intro from Locomotive Breath, but it's obvious after a couple of seconds that we're before a very different track, the mandolin and flute create the atmosphere of a story narrated by an old sailor while drinking a couple of beers in a harbor's bar. Some good changes add a special mood to the track with heavier (but short) electric guitar passages, a beautiful and very well elaborated track.

The album ends with "Elegy", another short but extremely beautiful instrumental based in a spectacular classic guitar interpretation by Martin Barre with a few and short electric passages, this track gives the perfect final to an album obscure as a stormy sky but at the same time soft and even sweet.

IMO there's no Jethro Tull album that should receive less than three stars because of their amazing regularity and even when Stormwatch is not in the level of Thick as a Brick, well deserves 4 strong stars being one of the best balanced and sober albums I ever heard, no big hits or evident masterpieces (more than one is close to that status), but neither a single filler or bad track, except maybe for the slightly weaker Orion.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 4/5 |


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