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Jethro Tull - This Was CD (album) cover

THIS WAS

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.32 | 553 ratings

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Jim Garten
Special Collaborator
Retired Admin & Razor Guru
3 stars Firstly, I'd like to extend my thanks to the Senior Press Officer at EMI for providing a promotional copy of the 40th anniversary re-issue of 'This Was' ahead if its official release date on 28th April 2008 - many thanks, Sarah!

In early 1968, at the tail end of the British blues boom, the John Evan band imploded & Jethro Tull, as they became known started to make a name for themselves in the blues clubs of London and the south of England (John Evan would later return to the fold & make a huge contribution during Tull's 1970s progressive rock heyday); ostensibly guitarist Mick Abraham's band, they became known more for their charismatic front man (vocalist & flautist Ian Anderson) and their sometimes curious mix of blues, jazz and folk influences.

Recorded between June and August 1968 (during which period they opened for The Pink Floyd at Hyde Park in London) 'This Was' is not what you would call your typical Jethro Tull album; centred around Abraham's playing, this was a straight blues album with an occasional twist. Most tracks on the album follow a fairly well travelled road for the late 60's, being standard, albeit well played, 12 bar blues, but there are distinct exceptions, which showed occasional flashes of what was in store for later years - 'Beggars Farm' 'A Song For Jeffrey' and 'Serenade To A Cuckoo' particularly breaking away from the standard blues format, as does 'Move On Alone' with its brass arrangements by David Palmer - another name to feature large in later lineups of the band (which makes you wonder if the Anderson-less instrumental 'Cats Squirrel' is Abraham trying to bring the band back into a more traditional furrow), and 'Dharma For One' being an instantly recogniseable (even 40 years later) Tull classic: Bunkers solo a distinct precursor to the percussion section of the later 'Thick As A Brick'.

2008's re-issue includes recordings taken from the late lamented John Peel's 'Top Gear' radio programme (Peel had long supported the band) & it's these which show the 1968 Tull Model at their best; a blistering 'My Sunday Feeling' and a version of 'Cats Squirrel' (which you could be forgiven in thinking was an early Led Zeppelin out-take...) showing the blues boom was far from over, but brought back into line by Anderson on 'Song For Jeffrey' & 'Beggars Farm', between which there's a wonderful version of the Delta blues classic 'Stormy Monday', given a completely new twist by a moody flute solo & finishing on 'Dharma For One' with Bunker in fine form.

The re-issue also includes a new stereo re-master of the original album; although the original was only recorded on 4 track, the sound was remarkably good for its time - the stereo version brings little to the table in its own right, but I'll leave it to the audiophiles to argue ad infinitum as to whether the original was a 'warmer' sound or if the stereo version is too 'clinical' - it's certainly a 'clearer' sound, but I'm unsure whether this is relevant in the context of a 40 year old album.

With the different directions the band was pulling in from its inception, this lineup was never going to be stable, and the remastered singles at the end of the second disc of this collection includes 'Love Story', the final recorded contribution by Mick Abrahams, who was to leave less than a month later to be replaced by one Martin Lancelot Barre...

There's no doubt this is a good British blues album with a twist, but it's not a Jethro Tull album to compare with the later greats of their catalogue; having said that, given the creative tensions within the band & its low budget (£1000 borrowed by Manager Terry Ellis's father), it's a bloody good first effort.

Jim Garten | 3/5 |

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