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Jethro Tull - Under Wraps CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

2.23 | 494 ratings

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3 stars Tull challenges their fans. Fans fail.

Jethro Tull's best album of the 1980s (and their best album ever according to Martin Lancelot Barre....not sure what he's smokin') was a huge improvement over the phoned-in disaster that was "Broadsword and the Beast." "Under Wraps" came out in the fall of 1984 as I was starting my senior year in high school, and was merely tolerated by the group of us who went to see their concert eight weeks later in Saint Paul. We were there to see the classics of course but had to endure "the new stuff" which was merely the time for many guys to find an out of the way place to smoke as much pot as possible before the good stuff was performed. Looking back I'm glad I abstained that night as it gave me the opportunity to take in the unique stage show, though at the time I was guilty of being one of those "failed" fans who resented this material. I realize now the music on "Under Wraps" is pretty good on its own terms, despite its creator's attempt to kill it with production overdose. Anderson also likes the album very much now and would like to re-record it with more warmth and a human drummer, but I'm sure such a project will be unlikely to see light of day. Either way, I'm happy that time and a little patience allow me to find the qualities in certain albums that were lost on me in my more musically reactionary teen years.

Ian describes this classy work as "a largely electronic album of songs mostly devoted to spies, secrecy and subterfuge." And the stylish approach and album cover work beautifully to support the feel of the lyrical themes. Even the sound would have been fine had they just softened it a little bit, it is so harshly synth-tronic in a cold way. But the reason the album succeeds is that unlike Broadsword, these songs have some life, and Anderson believes in them---you can hear the difference in his demeanor toward the music. The more in-depth collaboration with PJ Vettese yielded quality songs with diverse arrangements and plenty of neat little quirks going on in the background....sound samples, violins, ambitious vocal dubs, etc. Side one is particularly strong with the driving single "Lap of Luxury" and the steamy, violin laced "Later that same evening." The title track and "European Legacy" are as fresh and interesting as they were live that night. Side two has a few duds but the original vinyl track list is much preferable to the expanded CD version, which adds in the cassette leftover tracks that should have stayed off the remastered edition, or at the least been put at the end as bonus tracks. This recording works better at 45 mins than 60, to me. While I can't agree with Barre that this is the best Tull album, it is one I enjoy very much and it is sadly under-appreciated by too many Tull fans who can't accept the production. I think it sounds vibrant and unique and I much prefer it to other period material like 90125. Give it a chance. Try to listen past the production and hear what's going on underneath. I know it isn't always easy but you might just fall for the lady under the sheet.

Finnforest | 3/5 |


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