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Jethro Tull - A CD (album) cover

A

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.20 | 403 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Conceived by Ian Anderson as a concept around the turmoils and tensions of modern society with an aim to make it a solo album, the fact that it turned out to be a Jethro Tull album doomed "A" to be highly controversial among fans and critics -well, I see how and why it is controversial, but mostly I find it lovely and refreshing. Being signalled as a Jethro Tull album after all, "A" should be approached and appreciated as a thorough labor of evolution for the JT sound into the early 80s. It comes in the wake of the final folkish trilogy achievement, "Stormwatch": this one managed to complete a varied array of musical ideas that combined folk-rock, prog and hard rock, but it also brought out the dangers of self- repetition that emerged after the fabulous preceding studio gems "Songs from the Wood" and "Heavy Horses". For "A", Ian Anderson plus the perpetually loyal Martin Barre and the distinguished newcomers Jobson, Pegg and Craney avoided the afroemtnioned trap and went for a refurbishment of the band's living legacy. Of course, with that comes the danger of "treason", but in my humble opinion, such thing doesn't come out. Instead, the abundant synth work delivered by Jobson and Pegg's punchy bass work manage to instill a sense of modern energy to the band's overall sound in a solid rock context - no techno, no new-wave and no post-punk here. Craney's percussive work is stunning, providing a sensitive refreshness among the colorfulness and density provided by the guitar solos, keyboard domination and ever soaring flute solos by Anderson. This is no treason, but a creative reconstruction organized by a host of musicians who preserved their love for art intact while keeping themselves busy within the new airs of rock and art-rock. So... let's go for the album itself. 'Crossfire' is half-inspired by the crisis generated around the Iranian Embassy in London when beseiged by a host or Arab separatists: the song is a sweetly flowing rocker stated on a funky-friendly rhythm pattern - not special, but catchy enough as to bring the mood of excitedness and restlessness intended by the lyrics. 'Fylingdale Flyer' is a very effective progressive rocker that incarnates a perfect mixture of the kind of "modernized Jethro Tull" that Ian Anderson had in mind and the sort of dynamics that UK created for its trio-phase. The set of unusual tempos and mood variations feels perfect to portray the habitual tension in a world full of nuclear weapons. 'Working John. Working Joe' sounds like a leftover from the "Stormwatch" days repackaged under the new guise, and it certainly serves well as an anticipation for the style and dynamics of the album's mini-epic 'Black Sunday'. I agree with everyona else on that 'Black Sunday' is the most accomplished composition in the album - again, it has a very Tull-meets-UK feel to it, with monster guitar and piano solos arriving in proper places, as well as a wisely architectural provision of the rhythmic developments that take place. At this point, one has to wonder seriously if thsi album can be regarded as one of decay and mediocrity. The first four tracks of side 2 aim more closely at the usual pop-song pattern, but not totally: sure there are some Devo-esque mannerisms in the utterly sarcastic 'Batteries Not Included', but I personally cannot and must not overlook the attractive playfulness of 'Protect and Survive', the driving exotic appeal of 'Uniforms' and the blues-rock infections of '4 W.D.' The first two feature tremendous violin input by the virtuosic Jobson; the latter one brings old bluesy musos into the modernized JT typology. But if you want more violin in a perfect marriage with Anderson's flute flourishes and you really miss the pre-80s Jethro Tull to tears, then 'The Pine marten's Jig' is the sort of track that you had been waiting for so eagerly. This instrumental is another reminder of the "Stormwatch" days with a gentle touch of "Songs from the Wood": only the inventively distorted vibrations of the electric violin and the fuzzed pounding of the bass guitar keep you reminding you that this is not the already gone 76-79 line-up. And so, all things must end and this album ends with 'And Further On', a prog rock ballad that is delicate as it is powerful, an elegy to mankind in a context of constant fear for nuclear destruction and political mayhem. The lyrics of this song (as well as of 'Black Sunday') are among the best ever written by Anderson, and in terms of melodic depth, this is the vulnerable side of JT at its best. So, as a final proof that "A" is not a mediocre album, it ends with such flying colors. An 'A minus' for "A"!
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |

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