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Jethro Tull - Living With The Past  CD (album) cover

LIVING WITH THE PAST

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.59 | 80 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
2 stars The title of Jethro Tull's 2001 live album carries a hint of resignation, almost as if Ian Anderson was admitting defeat by embracing the horror of playing "Aqualung" and "Locomotive Breath" at every concert appearance for the rest of his life. Some fans apparently don't want or need anything else: after all, why tinker with success? But in truth that's exactly when a musician ought to change the formula, before it becomes repetitive.

There's an eclectic (and generous) selection of material here. The track list draws not only from the usual Tull standards ("Aqualung", et al) but also on some unexpected rarities ("My Sunday Feeling", off the very first Jethro Tull album) and a few Ian Anderson solo cuts, nice to hear in a full band format.

But it's an unbalanced collection, to say the least, resembling a Frankenstein hybrid of songs compiled from several unrelated and very different live projects which (sadly) aren't available separately. The first half of the CD is from a then recent '01 gig at London's Hammersmith Apollo (with an encore from Paris), all of it played with admirable but almost lifeless professionalism. Compare the running time of some of these live versions against their studio counterparts: in many cases they vary by only a few seconds, proof that not only the same notes but also the tempos of each song were being reproduced verbatim on stage.

Next is a pair of unplugged Tull classics, played alongside a string quartet in the comfort of Anderson's country estate. All very nice, but why choose to re-interpret two songs ("Wond'ring Aloud" and "Life Is a Long Song") that in their original form already featured acoustic arrangements with a string section? Why not try something a little more radical, like a completely unplugged "Minstrel in the Gallery" or "My God"? (I will say that this section works better visually: see the companion DVD)

After that are several (likewise acoustic) dressing room 'rehearsals' and a few TV performances, including the token contemporary Tull song: there's always one or two in every set, in this case the title track of the band's then-current studio album "Dot Com". Arguably these are the best selections here, being more relaxed and informal. But I think it's fair to say that "A Christmas Song" is fast becoming another of those overplayed Tull chestnuts, although in this setting it benefits from the lack of all those sappy studio strings.

And finally there's the only real surprise in the entire package: a reunion of the original 1968 Jethro Tull line-up, with Anderson joined by old stalwarts Mick Abrahams, Clive Bunker, and Glenn Cornick. The quartet was reformed to play a one-night stand for old time's sake in a small London pub, which sounds like a great idea until you realize the entire event (a total of three songs) was staged for the camera, with a small audience of extras pretending to be a background crowd of 1968 bar hoppers.

Only one excerpt (a very blue "Some Day the Sun Won't Shine For You") is included here, and once again it seems a missed opportunity. Why not stage a genuine reunion gig, and record the result? Like the rest of the album (the Hammersmith Apollo show; the Zurich dressing room stuff; the string quartet material) it could have been expanded and released on its own considerable merits, instead of having its impact diluted by cramming one sample into an already schizophrenic disc.

Maybe a better title for the CD, and its DVD cousin, would have been "Stuck in the Past". In the immortal words of George Santayana (clearly a big fan of Jethro Tull): "Those who can't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it..."

Neu!mann | 2/5 |

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