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Jethro Tull - War Child CD (album) cover

WAR CHILD

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.27 | 547 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Review 23, War Child, Jethro Tull

StarStarStar An album with more merit than I perhaps originally gave it credit for, and plenty of high moments. However, there are some recurring problems. The band do not seem to be very good at ending the songs very well, the concept has clearly been mutilated quite a lot, and yet retained on some of the pieces, leaving the album with a somewhat half-baked feel, and also there are a lot of pretty generic song structures that could have been spiced up a little. Lastly, I'm not a big fan of the string arrangements that pervade the album. On the plus side, all the tracks have at least some merit, the lyrics are occasionally entertaining, and the band is usually doing something interesting, even if it doesn't quite work. The saxophones and accordions incorporated frequently sometimes pay off nicely and sometimes fall flat. Not a true disaster, but not the resounding success that it could have been made into.

Warchild begins with siren-howling, and bursts into centre stage with a surprisingly musical soundscape and a nostalgic 1930s-feeling sax part. The verses are amusing enough, with some highlights in John Evan's piano-playing, but the chorus simply sounds like it's trying too hard, with ineffectual, spineless sax and pop strings. There is a good sax solo at one point, but that's cut short for more chorus repeats.

Queen And Country is a pop song, basically, with a couple of additions on accordion and some vocal stops and strings. However, it's a good pop song. The chorus is catchy, the verses are fairly memorable, while the lyrics aren't very sophisticated, it's fun to sing along to. The strings fit very neatly, and Barriemore Barlowe manages to stand out with his percussion performance, which seems to place emphasis by sudden stops.

Ladies has a distinctly medieval feel, but the folky. For the opening part, the acoustics are fine, the basic vocals/lyrics are rather mindless and unexceptional, and the chorus part with its tame sax is just irritating. However, it springs off into a section with a rather cha-cha-cha feel that is a delight to hear every time, with a much better incorporated sax.

Back-Door Angels is the closest thing to a Tull classic song on this album, with heavy guitar, bass and organ parts, as well as the surreal, atmospheric lyrics and attacks on religion that characterise Ian Anderson's best lyrics. The small sax and flute additions are very conducive to the atmosphere, accompanied by a very interesting drum part. All the players somewhat stand-out and the acoustic-primed ending actually works pretty well, which is unusual for the album.

Sealion enters in a pretty standard way for a heavier Tull song, with kicking flute and electrics, and continues in the same vein. The unfortunate problem of this song is that it's simply not memorable, with the same basic riff repeated a lot, fairly undistinctive vocals and it fails to evoke any atmosphere or interest for me.

The humming at the start of skating away reminds me somewhat of that on Supertramp's 'easy does it' and provides a slightly neat atmospheric effect, even if it seems out of place in a collection of mostly unrelated songs. Skating Away begins with a pretty standard positive Tull fairly sophisticated acoustic piece, which is gradually added to with cheerful accordion and glockenspiel, and eventually thick chords from Martin Barre. It develops into something with a bass and flute part and a slightly Latin feel. For no apparent reason, it shifts very abruptly out with a keyboard part. Great song, terrible ending.

The album's hit song, Bungle In The Jungle, isn't really that bad. Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond provides a great bass line, which is accented by John Evan's piano. The verses are good, with strong additions from the Barre-Anderson duo, good, distinctive vocals and amusing, whimsical lyrics. The instrumental sections are excellent, with the strings being more effectively added than they are on the rest of the album. The choruses, even if the average progger will hate it, are varied upon enough for my liking. The fade, even if I don't love them, doesn't hurt it. A great pop song.

Only Solitaire is Ian Anderson's first brilliant riposte at the critics, mocking their attitudes with a delicious acoustic piece, harmonised vocals and classic lyrics. A short gem, but a gem nonetheless.

The Third Hoorah seems a little unneeded for me. Despite the quality organ and bass, it feels bland and repetitive, with the flute, accordion and electric additions seeming more like gimmicks to disguise the song's essential weakness than clever variations.

I don't particularly dislike the variation on Lick Your Fingers Clean. While the original was a hard-rocker, this is a slightly more unusual version, with admittedly rather ineffectual sax and accordion additions, even if everything else works pretty well. The biggest plus is that the vocals are slightly easier to hear and enjoy, and the 'When you slip on the greasy platform...' section sounds slightly more interesting. It's not exactly ruined the song, but it's not as consistently strong as the original.

Onto the bonus material, Warchild Waltz and Quartet are both is great, though the first is a classical waltz (surprise!) with a couple of themes from the album, and the second is a cross between a standard old American song, an organ solo showcase and random noise. John Evan provides some exceptional organ and bass pedals for our delectation, and I feel this track was stronger than many that made the cut. The Paradise Steakhouse isn't at the same level, I think, and it feels a little too sludgy and messy, despite some great moments from the piano, vocals and drums. The ending, however random, is hilarious. Sea Lion 2 is truly random. Just so random. I can't describe it. I really can't. Some twists on the earlier Sea Lion, but that's about all I can say.

Rainbow Blues is a great catchy song, with a very nicely incorporated string section, some good guitar and bass work, and a very warm feel. The drumming ain't bad, either. Glory Row feels like an unfulfilled song, with very weak choruses bringing down mediocre verses. The saxophone just feels sterile or even redundant, and the song's short highlight comes from the standard instrumentation of Tull. Saturation has a little of the sort of shiny Hammond playing that I love to pieces and is highlighted by a menacing bass throb from Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond and bizarre, haunting verses with shifts from whimsical to remotely serious to whimsical again. Martin Barre provides a great solo for the fade. I don't think it quite fits for the end of the album, and might have been better suited to a different position.

Overall, not a bad set of bonuses, even if they drag out the album longer than most of us would like.

War Child is an unusual album, and perhaps requires (despite the cheerful pop songs) a little time to get into properly. It's not a true classic, but it has enough gems to be worthwhile for anyone who doesn't mind decent pop songs or particularly loves Jethro Tull.

Rating: Three Stars

Favourite Track: Back Door Angels

Edit: I felt maybe a 2 was more reflective of how I really feel about this one and how often I feel compelled to throw it in the CD player... relatively even weak track: good track ratios should probably be in the 2-zone. Maybe better than it's verbally given credit for, but perhaps the rating is pretty fair.

TGM: Orb | 2/5 |

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