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

THE BROADSWORD AND THE BEAST

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.27 | 429 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Broadsword And The Beast, Jethro Tull, 1982

1982's decidedly commercial Tull album is a minor enigma; most of the songs are decent enough, with special attention to keeping them well-spaced and internally diverse. What starts off as an admirably neat style of writing becomes obsessively restrictive by the end of the record. Every track is given a small, low-volume, usually calm, instrumental intro, when Anderson's vocals appear tamely, following which most of them turn into sort-of rockers with either a fade or a jab at the end. The sound is very shiny, and Anderson's synths leave a lot to be desired. Despite impressive pedigrees, I can't think off-hand of a moment when either Gerry Conway or Dave Pegg stand out (looking really hard, the bass at the end of Seal Driver is nice). But still, the songs are decent enough.

Three more or less solid starting tracks; Beastie is at heart a fairly plaintive foreboding rocker buffed up with novelty vocal effects and cool synth manipulation. Insertion of the guitar solo somewhat hamfisted but the riff is good enough in a dim way. The Clasp has rather more atmosphere in its two folksy bookends (with a bit of fretless bass?) and a general folk rhythm; social critic lyric one solid enough. Intentionally vague protest song Fallen On Hard Times points the finger non-specifically at unpopular politicians (at least it's not the music business), lots of fun as a song but seems remarkably disingenuous. Anderson's husky voice and the delicious twang on the acoustic which translates to a bend on Martin Barre's lead work very well.

Flying Colours is more personal and even borders on genuine, despite the rather dry cliché as metaphor. All band members flourish unimpressively on a single theme in the middle. Barre, as usual on this album, picks a rather conservative classic rock tone which, like Anderson's lyrics, voice and writing is distinctly safe.

Two central songs are the two most individual; Slow Marching Band is a bit of a power ballad, but the use of some decisively fortissimo piano notes and the switch of the softer bookend to the conclusion offers it a sort of differentiation from the rest here. Lyrics vague but moving. Broadsword is a piece of atmospheric rock with a Nordic mood and lyrics refreshingly in the honest realm of absolute fantasy rather than the real world viewed through all-softening lenses. Barre's solo here easily the best of his contributions to the album.

Thereafter, quality is rather less assured; Pussy Willow is a moderately catchy little piece with an overly bright little instrumental bit in the middle not deserved by this surprisingly misty and subtle example of commercial 80s pop/rock. Watching Me Watching You is hilarious. Approach to something like disco rather novel and entirely mismatched; reckon Anderson's probably aware of this, which makes it even funnier. Seal Driver is as flavourless as the rest of the album with a rather lightweight faux-jam in the middle but also lacks any particular decent melody (unless you think that awfully gaudy guitar line counts?), so is more or less obviously the runt of the litter.

Cheerio. One of the band's less involved folksy buh-byes. Hardly leaving with Grace (genetic predisposition to cheap puns... sorry, folks).

Remaster comes with more bonus tracks than you can shake a stick at and slightly more boldness and personality than the album itself; Jack Frost And The Hooded Crow and Jack-A-Lynn decidedly good and none of the others are particularly feeble. Perhaps the sheer volume of material you'll get makes this one of the more necessary remasters for hardcore fans.

Basically noodle-free, yet still somewhat flavourless collection of finely arranged and well-written 80s rock songs. At worst, this shows the reduction of a previously poly-faceted and deliciously subtle if occasionally misdirected Tull to one rather calculating and carefully concealed personality; at best, it's a collection of good songs which are more-or-less nice to listen to. Far too carefully cut to be either a classic or a train-wreck.

Rating: 8/15, Two Stars... could well be a 10/3 stars effort with the choice cuts of the bonuses. Favourite Track: pfeh... um... pick one of the folkier bonuses or maybe Fallen On Hard Times

TGM: Orb | 2/5 |

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