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Jethro Tull - Minstrel in the Gallery CD (album) cover

MINSTREL IN THE GALLERY

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

4.04 | 1297 ratings

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mr.cub
4 stars The only deficiency in this album is its verbosity. Aside from 'Cold Wind to Valhalla', 'Requiem' and 'One White Duck', the music seems to meander on just a little bit too long. This is even the case with the two hallmarks of the album: the title track and 'Baker Street Muse. If only Ian had produced two or three more quality songs and trimmed down the other songs in a few places. However, despite the extended workouts, the album contains some excellent acoustic Tull and some of their finest melodies and compositions.

On that note, I will attempt to keep my own review from falling into the fault of the album. Minstrel certainly contains some of Tull's most lush and gorgeous melodies; and unlike Thick as a Brick or A Passion Play, this album is dominated by acoustic arrangements. That is not to say this album lacks the classic hard hitting guitar passages of Martin Barre: the title track, 'Cold Wind to Valhalla', 'Black Satin Dancer', and 'Baker St. Muse' all feature sections where Martin's guitar reigns supreme in the world of Jethro Tull.

But, for the most part, it's the subtle and delicate acoustic guitar of Ian Anderson that makes this album work. Jeffrey Hammond's bass is impressive throughout the album and fans of Jon Evan will not be disappointed with the tasteful touches from his Hammond organ and his beautiful piano parts. Ian and company brought in four violins and a cellist for the recording; the arrangements by David Palmer are remarkable and coexist within the pieces quite well. 'Cold Wind to Valhalla' is probably the best illustration of the successful integration of electrical instrumentation with the orchestral sounds of Ian's flute and strings.

'Black Satin Dancer' develops gradually, the strings and Evan's piano moving the piece along in the first section. And then it is the guitar of Martin Barre set alongside the apocalyptic organ work of Evan; Barre's solo really takes off until he returns more subdued pickings whereupon Ian begins a solo and the tempo accelerates to a demonic pace. Then the band begins to go through a number of other transitions and it is here that the piece somewhat drags along, the playing is quite excellent but the abrupt changes may not endear themselves to certain listeners.

'Requiem' ends Side One and preludes the music to come: delicate acoustic guitar, beautiful orchestral arrangements and classical tendencies. Side Two features 'Baker St. Muse' and two other acoustic numbers. The first, 'One White Duck', follows in line with 'Requiem' timbre-wise; another gorgeous melody delivered sincerely and wonderfully by Ian. 'Grace' ends the album on a subtle and sublime note.

'Baker St. Muse' takes the sonic mood and feel of the album, incorporates the multi-part progressive nature of Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play, and presents the opus of the album. Delicate piano, acoustic guitar and strings are again the instruments of choice. This piece demonstrates the marvelous compositional skill of Ian Anderson and the uncanny interaction between the musicians. There is no question that this piece is a hallmark of the classic early 70's lineup, and an excellent note on which Jeffrey Hammond to depart. A must have for any prog listener.

mr.cub | 4/5 |

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