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


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

4.12 | 318 ratings

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Any album by Jethro Tull is worth looking at, listening to. The invention in the playing and imaginative use of riffs makes anything they do at least interesting. However, there's also a case for saying that without all that, plus the emblematic flute, folksy guitars, and the warm very English blues quality of the singer, the substance would be much more suspect.

A Song for Jeffrey is immediately flute-defined, with what would be a rather routine blues outing, were it not for that flute and that clear vocal. A blueprint for what was to come.

Love Story, with pretty mandolin and flute (of course), somewhat reinforces the last comments, riffing its way along a predictable path, albeit with pretty flowers by the roadside. Christmas Song is much too forced and clumsy, but a valiant attempt to do something different.

Living in the Past was perhaps a defining Jethro moment, a hit song from a Rock group led by a flute. The song itself is determined by its determination to follow a 5/4 beat, making it rather pedantic, but the very fine flute playing and singing go a long way towards making up for this flaw. According to Terry Ellis, the Tull manager, the idea for the track came from a line in a song by stable-mates Clouds.

Driving Song contains imaginative use of riffs, and often Jethro's material contains a form of invention that converts riffing jams into organised sense, but here, rarely, this doesn't work, and neither does the tempo change convince, though the idea is brave enough. Sweet Dream begins with a welcome change, an almost Kashmir-like riff. This is Ian's real talent in such matters, but we still wait in vain to hear a song bursting through. I'd rather here the intro developed better.

Singing all Day brings a fresh and pleasant harmony, both in voice and flute, intelligent simplicity defines much of the track, though again, the variation isn't convincing when it comes.

In Witches Promise, the flutes yet again elevate proceedings in what is a better song than usual.

Inside is a clever idea for a song, and a nice dry vocal, and though the tune disappoints, the familiar emblems of flute and guitar win through.

Just Trying to Be, with typical acoustic guitar and folksy and charming vocal is very likeable, though the glockenspiel, though well-intentioned, is annoying and gets in the way.

By Kind Permission is a live track, and one wonders why this was included, when the piano is rather amateurish and camp, complete with passing fluffs, almost as if the player was trying too hard to impress.

Dharma for One continues in this vein, then bounces into a mock-urgency, like little-boy blues before bizarrely breaking into a sequence that sounds as if it could be a James Bond theme. Interesting harmonies on the Dharma section at the end though ? I wonder if Kasabian listened to this?

Wondering Again is a folksy return, but very routine. It would be a real plodder if it wasn't for that clear bright voice transforming it from a kind of prog muzak. Locomotive Breath is yet another piano opening, and clumsy phrases abound. But as always, the riffs are cunningly constructed and save the day.

Life is a long Song, with its pretty guitar and nice chorus line is about as close to a piece of song as we ever get from Jethro Tull. But it's only that opening choruse line. The deliberate pause in the verse, though clever, sounds too contrived.

Up the Pool is somewhat jarring with its jam sarnies lyrics and chord changes that are neither sensible or flowing.

Dr Bogenbroom is a song scratching its head to make sense of itself. For Later ? When this began, I thought I was listening to the Nice playing America. At the same time, the jazziness is a breath of fresh air, even though at times the riffs seem to be searching for a meaningful structure.

Nursie is more typical Tull, with acoustic guitar in the 'other' Jethro mode of folk, as opposed to blues. It's the mixture of folk and blues that ultimately gives the band an extra third dimension.

Jethro Tull's career is something of a miracle for a band that would be ordinary was it not for the brilliance of being the first lead flute Rock group. Then again, Ian Anderson's visions and inventions are not ordinary at all. He has a gift of taking the everyday blues band, and transforming it into a tangle of clever riffs and musical organisation that is second to none. But it is rather a sleight of hand, a plain cardboard placard covered in roses and photographs. If you strip away the magnificently-organised riffs, the voice, the flute, you may be surprised by how little is left. Ian's other habit of choosing sidemen as artisans strengthens his hand, and could be said to weaken the musical possibilities. But on the other hand, given the limitations of the vehicle itself, such a strategy may be necessary, and the only way to cover the cracks in the musical legacy the band has delivered over these many years.

But whatever the band is, it is not boring, and commendably, it never sits on its success. Living in the past is good value for its 4 stars.

resurrection | 4/5 |


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