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Jethro Tull - A Classic Case CD (album) cover

A CLASSIC CASE

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.02 | 77 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
4 stars What's that you say? You like the comedy stylings of Jethro Ian, but think that classical music is for chumps? Well then, fear not!

...besides, what's your problem? Ian's always had a classical bent. Remember "Bouree" maybe...?

But still, this often overlooked album is a tiny bit of a treat. On the surface, it's nothing too special. An orchestra playing a rock band's songs. Big deal. That's unoriginal, and tacky, right? Well, except for three things. First off, it's an excellent, intelligent song selection. Secondly, the actual band plays on (almost) all the songs. And finally, the orchestration was orchestrated and conducted by ex-Tuller David Palmer. In short, a perfect setup.

And the setup don't get much more perfect than the opening number, a somewhat shorter, but no worse for wear, "Locomotive Breath." The opening is wonderfully redesigned as some kind of a Beethoven rip-off orchestra sting, evolving into the main riff. The melody is very cleverly handed back and forth between Ian and the orchestra, and when the orchestra drops away, and it's just Ian and the band pounding out the solo. Brilliantly produced, best song easy.

But it don't get much worse! Next up is "Thick as a Brick," which sounds so utterly...NATURAL when played by an orchestra, you'd have sworn Ian wrote it as a symphonic piece. In fact, I think I mentioned that in my Thick review. Anyways, the opening is played perfectly, and there are snatches from the "Come Down From the Upper Class" and "Curl Your Toes in Fun" bits, all of which flow beautifully. In fact, the only crime is that it's too short! I could have easily listened to more than four minutes of it.

Next up is a gorgeous version of "Elegy," which actually trumps the version off Stormwatch in my book. I mean, that was a good version, but the orchestra always seemed...a little forced. Now, the orchestra IS the main event, and it sounds wonderful. "Bouree" is a bit of a cheat, since it's already "classical." Okay, that's unfair. It's baroque, and it wasn't meant to be played by an orchestra, but how will the unwashed masses tell the difference? Also, who cares; this version cooks, just like any decent version should (I love how the speedy, symphonic intro spills into the laid back band version).

The only sort of misfire on the first side is "Fly By Night," which is actually off the Ian Anderson solo albume Walk Into Light. I...haven't heard the album, but I have heard the song, and an orchestra playing it is definitely less irritating than Peter-John Vettese. Still, the song is no great shake, as it's all based on a pleasant, but far too repetitive, riff.

"Aqualung" isn't a great shake ala "Locomotive," but it's fun nonetheless to hear an orchestra play the riff and everything (stirring, one might say); and although kinda thin and "eighties" in the production values section, Martin Barre's solo is still pretty solid. "Too Old to Rock 'n Roll, Too Young to Die" honestly IS a bit of a cheat, what with an orchestra being in the original song. But, hey, it's an nice song regardless, and the orchestra does a bang up job with the vocal melody.

I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I'm rather fond of "Medley: Teacher/Bungle in the Jungle/Rainbow Blues/Locomotive Breath." I KNOW that it's basically a high school marching band playing it at this point, but c'mon! Those are all tunes that I loved before. Well, not "Teacher" so much, but here, that riff sounds pretty good played by an orchestra. "Bungle" and "Rainbow" were, of course, designed for an orchestra, and I ain't got no problem with "Locomotive Breath," we know that.

"Living in the Past" runs a bit like "Too Old;" the orchestration gives it a nice, sweeping quality, but overall, not THAT impressive. Still, it's sad that we have to end on "War Child." It was never a favorite of mine on the album, but at least there it was kind of interesting and unusual. Here's, it's just a deadly dull, and doesn't sound a lick like the "War Child" I remember. Too much symphony orchestra, not enough Jethro Tull.

Well, despite all that, I'm glad to say that this is a thoroughly enjoyable album...for a Tull fan. I do think that a lot of my enjoyment comes from the fact that I love these songs. A-duh. But I do believe that any of the various diehard Tullers out there will be more than pleased by this odd little album; as I said, the orchestration is always good, the songs are choice, and the band spits out some decent performances. Not to mention that nearly flawless first side...

Non-fans might pick up some of the smaller things; like how the table seems oddly turned in the orchestra's direction from time to time, or that the second side starts to resemble less the London Symphony Orchestra and more the London High School Marching Band, and drummer starts to sound suspiciously like a drum machine.

Still, even casual fans won't find too much to complain about. If nothing else, it can make pleasant background music; hey, just like REAL classical music, even if it's boring, it's not offensive, so just play along! Besides, to his credit, Ian is NEVER lost in the orchestra arrangement. Testament to the man's lungs it is.

The Whistler | 4/5 |

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