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Jethro Tull - The Broadsword And The Beast CD (album) cover

THE BROADSWORD AND THE BEAST

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.28 | 661 ratings

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thief
3 stars I've already reviewed all Jethro Tull albums from 1980s - but this one. I really like saving the good stuff for dessert and I firmly consider "The Broadsword and the Beast" the most consistent offering of the era. While "Under Wraps" utilises new, fancy keyboards as foundation of its sound, and "A" uses them to achieve more experimental, cosmic/jazzy style, "The Broadsword..." heads in a much different, catchier direction.

"Beastie" boasts heavy, recognizable guitar riffs and strong basslines. Dave Pegg isn't just another peg in the wheel (sorry for the pun) - I feel this midtempo rocker is revolving around his ballsy guitar thumping. Synthesizers are featured heavily in the intro and bring a nightmare-like ambience from outer dimensions. It's even more evident in the next track - "Clasp" intro could be the most haunting moment of the album, maybe like a darker version of Jan Hammer stuff. That buildup contrasts wildly with feel-good, almost poppy nature of the song. Somehow they managed to marry romantic vocals and Miami Vice atmosphere with folk extravaganza from previous era. Very effective combination!

"Fallen on Hard Times" follows with marching rhythm, brave vocal harmonies, inventive guitar slides and fitting synthesizer accents. At this point we all realize that Peter Vettese playing works very well IF you let him rule the background, instead of dominating all registers. He also delivers apt piano foundation, as evidenced in "Flying Colours" intro. After that first verse the track morphs into another high-powered, sexy pop-rock anthem of the 80s. I wonder if it received radio airplay - as soon as chorus arrived I wanted to buy white hi-tops and spandex apparel for my GF. It might be too progressive later on to fit the scheme though.

Side A ends with "Slow Marching Band", sentimental folky song reminiscent of "Auld Lang Syne" and times we've never seen, but remember. It would fit seamlessly on "Stormwatch" I feel. No, I'm not sad.

"Broadsword" anticipates "Braveheart" movie, at least that's the vibe I get. Slow, firm, but proudly rocking. Or maybe there is William Blake's "Jerusalem" influence in the lyrics? Not sure. This song shoots for epic feel and almost succeeds - the first time I'm a bit skeptic during this review. Still a decent one. "Pussy Willow" shakes off uncertainty - I enjoy its eerie buildup with pan flutes very much. I just wish they had taken more progressive direction later on. "Watching Me Watching You" is too close to filler quality though... There isn't much going on, other than scattered flute fills.

"Seal Driver" features more satisfying bass guitar and Hammeresque keyboards. By this point the listener knows what to expect - another cross of midtempo, heavy hitting rock and tasty synthesizers in small doses. Guitar solo at 2:20 is the strongest Barre moment of the album. Beautiful "Cheerio" leaves you longing for chilly winter or setting sails. Or both. Anyways, it's a sweet dainty melody, much like "Grace" in 1975. I wish it were longer.

"The Broadsword and the Beast" never reaches prog rock stratosphere, but what were you expecting? It's from 1982, for Christ's sake - times of Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, new wave weirdos and DMC DeLorean, six or seven years removed from golden era. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more entartaining and clever LP at the time, especially among prog rock giants (reformed King Crimson was an exception). I'm glad they cheated the world into listening to folk music with synthesizers. Even if not proggy, they are darn consistent and entertaining on this one, so I suggest you grab it and enjoy one of the last dope records of the band (not to mention an awesome album cover). Three stars easily.

PS. "The Broadsword and the Beast" tour must've been a blast, judging from live recordings on YouTube. Good material, even better form!

thief | 3/5 |

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