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Jethro Tull - A CD (album) cover

A

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.21 | 572 ratings

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SteveG
4 stars My first taste of the "A" album by Jethro Tull came via listening to "Working John, Working Joe" on one of NYC's FM stations sometime in 1980. It sounded solid and refreshing, especially after the staid "Stormwatch" and the lackluster "Heavy Horses". Don't get me wrong, as both albums were chock full of quality songs but they just seemed to lack the fire and inspiration of the stellar hit album "Songs From The Wood" released previously to both album by Tull in 1977.

I believe that the backstory of "A" is pretty well known. A proposed solo album by Anderson with backing from prog alumni Eddie Jobson (ex UK and Roxy Music) and ex Fairport Convention bassist Dave Pegg with drums handled by an American mate of Jobson named Mark Carney. The only other current Tull member, aside from Anderson, to participate was the erstwhile Martin Barre. And supposedly, that's were the all drama originates from, as Tull's record label Chrysalis wanted the album put out as a Jethro Tull release as it at least featured both Anderson and Barre from the former incarnation of Tull. Tull bassist Dave Glascock had sadly passed away just after Stormwatch was recorded and super drummer Barry Barlow no longer wanted to play. So, dual keyboardists John Evan and David Palmer were excised from Jethro Tull for the sake of good business sense. At least that's, more or less the official version from Ian.

On to the music on "A". Without doubt, Jobson could almost be the co creator of "A's" magnificent sound. A combination of his unique sythn tones and playing style is perfectly and sympathetically meshed with Anderson's harmonic and melodic genius. Using near Styx styled synth melodies matched up with quirky but subtle synthesized atmospheric embellishments, Jobson lives a modern (for Tull!) sounding sonic template that's mated perfectly with Barre's own atmospheric and slightly quirky guitar playing. Jobson also adds his electric violin to two songs with all manner phasing, delay and echo while still remaining absolutely grounded in the song's folk based melodies and stance.

Drummer Carney, while being no match for the proceeding prog fueled drumming of Barlow, still holds his own with a more rock orientated sound and playing style that's greatly enhanced by being loudly recorded with tons of reverb applied by studio means. His exhausting playing is a major feature of every song on the album and does make "A" sound somewhat one dimensional. Ah, but what a dimension to be stuck in! With Pegg's rubbery bass playing and many stop-start rhythm passages and breaks, trying to remember any one song absolutely is nearly impossible. And that says quite a lot for an album that's made up of ten 4-6 minute songs!

Standouts include "Flyingdale Flyer", "Working John, Working Joe (in which Anderson resurrects his multi tracked chorus vocals from "Songs From The Wood)", "Black Sunday (in which Anderson tempts his abilty to breath while singing run on song verses ad infintium)", "Black Sunday", "Protect And Serve (featuring a tour deforce of synths and piano from Jobson)", "Uniform" and the truly prog folk of "Pine Martin's Jig", in which Jobson smokes his electric fiddle. Only "Batteries Not Included" , which is too cute for it's own good, and the workman like "4 W.D. (low ratio)" seem week to me, but quite tolerable.

If I have a criticism of "A", it's only that the lack of a break in the music's non stop rapid fire delivery for something acousticly soothing as a palette cleanser seems remise. After all, "A" is a creation of the acoustic based Anderson, be it a veiled Anderson solo album or a true Jethro Tull project. Regardless, the music is killer. So, damn it, I like it. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.

SteveG | 4/5 |

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