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Jethro Tull - Roots To Branches  CD (album) cover

ROOTS TO BRANCHES

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.64 | 345 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I lost track of Jethro Tull after the so-so 1979 album "Stormwatch", when it started to look like the band was fast becoming a corporate institution more than an innovative rock group. Did they actually win a Grammy Award (for cryin' out loud) at some point during the 1980s? It doesn't take a snob like me to realize that's the ultimate insult to good musical taste, like earning an OBE or becoming another fossil at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But this 1995 release caught my ear, sounding stronger and (more to the point) different than anything else I'd heard from Tull in the previous 15 years. Gone are the Celtic and English Folk influences that had defined them for so long. Here the band was looking East for inspiration, to golden Araby and the jasmine courts of India, adopting an exotic sound I don't recall ever hearing from Jethro Tull before.

Not that the album didn't still sound like the Tull we all know and love. It wasn't so much a radical difference in style as it was a rewarding detour in musical direction, and the change of scenery seemed to have galvanized Ian Anderson's songwriting. There's a few tracks that might be considered filler, here to pad an old-style LPs worth of music to compact disc length (like the nondescript "Out of the Noise" and "Wounded, Old and Treacherous"); omit these and what's left is a bona fide Tull classic, equal to anything the group (a different group then, admittedly) produced in the glory days of the 1970.

Anderson's voice is nowhere near as strong as it once was, but his flute playing is sharper than ever, particularly on the bamboo flute: the virtuoso arabesques and sharp percussive staccatos all shining (like the Parsee-man's hat) "in more-than-oriental splendour". It's a pity he didn't stick with the Asian motifs long or develop them any deeper than this one album, although the echoes lingered (in a lighter and brighter frequency) all through his year 2000 solo album "The Secret Language of Birds", a matching bookend to this release and equally worthwhile in its own way.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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