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Jethro Tull - This Was CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

3.32 | 858 ratings

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3 stars 'This Was' was the debut album in 1968 for an up and coming band called Jethro Tull. Back then, the line-up consisted of Ian Anderson, Glenn Cornick on bass, Clive Bunker on drums, and the only album by Jethro Tull that would feature original guitarist Mick Abrahams, who would leave the band because he wanted the band to go in a blues direction while Anderson wanted to take it in a more folk and jazz direction. Of course, we all know who won out here, but at least for this album, we get a mostly blues-rock fusion under the direction of Abrahams. Abrahams and Anderson shared songwriting credits on this album.

The first three tracks on this album were based on blues progressions, namely 'My Sunday Feeling', 'Some Day the Sun Won't Shine For You' and 'Beggar's Farm'. There were some nods to jazz in 'My Sunday Feeling' however with the bass line from Henry Mancini's Pink Panther and the song called 'Work Song' by Nat Adderley and Oscar Brown, Jr. In 'My Sunday Feeling', Anderson introduces us to his flute playing and features the full band, but on 'Some Day'' he plays the harmonica along with only a guitar accompaniment (based on the arrangement of the blues standard 'Key to the Highway), and harmonized vocals from both Anderson and Abrahams, while the entire band joins again for 'Beggar's Farm'. The blues and jazz combo featured on the instrumental break is a great mix of styles, and the fact that a heavy guitar and flute can work together beautifully.

'Move on Alone' is a short track written and sung by Abrahams and is the only song by Jethro Tull sung by someone other than Anderson. It also features French horn and orchestral arrangement provided by David Palmer, who would go on to be a regular in Jethro Tull until 1980, and has a slight swing feel to it. 'Serenade to a Cuckoo' is an instrumental cover by the band. The original was a jazz standard written by Roland Kirk and it was one of the first songs that Anderson learned to play on flute. The main themes are played and improvised on by Anderson and then a nice jazz style guitar solo is performed by Abrahams in the middle section.

On side 2 of the LP, we start off with 'Dharma for One', which is another instrumental. This song usually incorporated a drum solo when performed in concert. The middle instrumental break has a strange sounding instrument that takes the lead, called a claghorn, which is a combination of a recorder, toy trumpet and a saxophone's mouthpiece. The studio version does have a drum solo section also, but shorter than the concert version. Next is another blues inspired track called 'It's Breaking Me Up' where we hear the return of Anderson's harmonica and Abrahams use of blues progression again.

The third instrumental from this album is 'Cat's Squirrel', which is based on a traditional theme. The band claimed this track was included because 'people liked it'. Again, it is a strong blues number with Abrahams improvisation. 'A Song for Jeffrey' was the only single released from any songs on this album. It was only released in the UK as an A-side. It was written for Anderson's friend (who would later become Tull's bassist), Jeffrey Hammond and again features the blues harmonica played by Anderson. The last track is the fourth instrumental, a short, jazzy track called 'Round'.

The 2001 remaster features 3 bonus tracks. The first one is the b-side to the 'Song for Jeffrey' single called 'One for John Gee' which was written by Abrahams. This is an upbeat jazz inspired instrumental with some killer flute work and nice bass breaks. 'Love Story' is an A-side for a non-album single that was released in the US. This one is more of a straightforward rocker mostly led by the guitar, but includes some flute and mandolin segments that harkens to the folk sound that would come later. The last bonus track is 'Christmas Song' which is the b-side to 'Love Song'. This is based on an old carol and later adds more updated lyrics and sounds more like the Jethro Tull that we all know, with a strong folk sound.

The original album has points where things are a big muddled and rough. The remasters get rid of a lot of this, but you can also tell that the band isn't as tight as it would become. The album 'Stand Up' would prove to be an improvement on this album and would feature the long-time guitarist Martin Barre who would replace Abrahams. The rest of the band would remain the same and the music would still remain mostly a blues-rock hybrid, but there would also be more foreshadowing of where the band would eventually end up. As far as 'This Was', however, you can easily tell that this was definitely JT in their early years, and there are hardly any progressive elements to this album. However, the talent is there, and the album works as a foreshadowing of a major progressive rock act to come. Even though this album is a bit shakey, it is still fun to listen to and remains and important progressive document of a major band in it's infancy.

TCat | 3/5 |


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