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Jethro Tull - Minstrel In The Gallery CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

4.03 | 1103 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars Though not an unadulterated masterpiece like "Aqualung" or the mighty "Thick As a Brick", "Minstrel in the Gallery" can easily be included among Jethro Tull's best-ever releases - a mature, accomplished, musically sophisticated album that shows the band at the top of their game, just before their creative energies took a momentary turn for the worse with its weak follow-up, "Too Old To R'n'R, Too Young to Die".

Possibly JT's most acoustically-inclined album, MitG sees Ian Anderson's highly expressive, idiosyncratic vocals pushed to the fore to the best effect, while being further enriched by David Palmer's sweeping, elegant orchestral arrangements. Though obviously present, the folk component is not as evident as in "Songs from the Wood" and "Heavy Horses". Here, the strong acoustic nature of most of the songs gives a sense of intimacy and deep personal involvement, more than the slightly ridiculous, hey-nonny-nonny feel that many have come to associate (rather wrongly, in my humble opinion) with the band's output. This distinctive aspect is compounded by Anderson's witty, articulate lyrics, which he delivers with his usual aplomb.

The title-track, definitely one of Jethro Tull's classics, opens the album in style, with an initial acoustic section that stops almost abruptly to introduce Martin Barre's searing electric guitar and the flawless, intricate drumming of one of the most underrated skin-bashers of all, the great Barriemore Barlow. JT's signature blending of folky strains and all-out hard rock is carried out almost to perfection both here and in the following track (possibly my favourite), "Cold Wind to Walhalla", which can boast of the presence of a small string section adding further interest and texture to the song . Mellow, sensual ballad "Black Satin Dancer" shifts moods and time signatures in a very effective way, proving once again that romantic does not automatically have to mean sappy.

A trio of wistful, acoustic songs. "Requiem", "One White Duck" and "O10-Nothing At All", introduces what is the album's real tour de force, the 16-minute-plus, four-part suite "Baker Street Muse". Quirky and understated in true JT style, this is a successful blend of irony, sadness and intelligent composition, miles away from the bombastic self-indulgence of too many of their contemporaries (and also of JT themselves when they got a bit too carried away with "A Passion Play"). The album proper ends with a very short acoustic song called "Grace", though the excellent remastered edition includes three additional studio tracks (of which the lovely instrumental "Pan Dance" is the best by far) and live versions of both the title-track and "Cold Wind to Walhalla" (the latter abruptly cut off, which is a pity).

Unlike, for instance, "Aqualung", MitG is not an extremely easy album to get into, due especially to the prevalence of the acoustic component that may at first cause the songs to sound a bit too samey. However, the patient listener will be rewarded by discovering the diverse facets of this album, which is as stylish and well-crafted as its beautiful, quintessentially English cover. Four solid stars, perhaps something more as well, for a really excellent effort from one of prog's defining bands.

Raff | 4/5 |


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