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Jethro Tull - This Was CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

3.33 | 673 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Jethro Tull: This Was [1968]

Rating: 7/10

Jethro Tull's criminally underrated 1968 debut is a gem from the enormous blues-rock/proto-prog scene of the period. This is a unique entry in Tull's discography. Unlike any other of the band's releases, This Was is primarily a blues album; blues progressions and Claptonesque guitar soloing dominate much of the music here. This stylistic focus is primarily a product of guitarist Mick Abrahams, with whom Anderson shared songwriting duties on this recording. This is the only Tull album on which Abrahams appeared, as well as the only one on which Anderson lacked total creative control. These facts explain why This Was fails to completely display the signature sound that the band later developed. This doesn't stop this debut from being excellent, however. This Was is blues-rock at its finest, and the complex flute passages and jazz influences hint at the progressive giant Tull would become.

"My Sunday Feeling" is an upbeat blues-rock song with catchy flute and soulful guitar playing. Clive Bunker's drumming is impressive here, as well as on many other points on the album. "Someday the Sun Won't Shine For You" is pure blues. Harmonica, subdued guitar strumming, and vocal harmonies create a true "sitting in the dark corner of a bedraggled saloon" atmosphere. "Beggar's Farm" features one of the greatest flute riffs in any Tull song, as well as superb guitar work. The pure blues continues on "Move On Alone." Horn arrangements complement the vocals from Abrahams (this is the only Tull song to feature vocals from someone other than Anderson). "Serenade to a Cuckoo", a cover of Roland Kirk's jazz classic, is an absolutely brilliant combination of blues and traditional jazz. Anderson fully displays the creativity of his flute playing here. "Dharma For One" is an energetic instrumental that focuses primarily on the rhythm section; most of this track consists of an excellent lengthy drum solo from Bunker. Anderson opts for harmonica rather than flute on "It's Breaking Me Up", yet another excellent blues track. "Cat's Squirrel" is a traditional blues instrumental that mostly focuses on guitar soloing. This is probably the weakest of the full-length tracks here, but it is still quite strong. "A Song For Jeffery" features another killer flute riff, and "Round" is a brief piano instrumental that closes the album.

This Was may not feature the same level of progressive songwriting that Jethro Tull eventually became famous for, but there certainly are elements of sophistication present here. The use of a flute on a rock album was a quite an innovative idea in 1968, considering that auxiliary instrumentation was rather uncommon for this type of music. The songs' arrangements all feature elements of nonlinear composition, and the musicianship is generally complex. Even discounting these factors, however, This Was is a spectacular, engaging, and fun blues-rock album that should be overlooked neither by Tull aficionados nor general fans of this type of music.

Anthony H. | 4/5 |


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