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Jethro Tull - The Zealot Gene CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull

Prog Folk

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4 stars This is an edited version of my review which appears on DPRP net


The Zealot Gene contains an interesting amalgam of styles that will probably please and frustrate Tull fans in equal measures. Any Tull aficionado expecting a consistent, hard rock experience will be somewhat disappointed. Any Tull fans who want a re-tread of the progressive complexity of a Passion Play might feel a bit underwhelmed.

However, Tull fans who enjoyed the light and shade of albums such as Minstrel In the Gallery, or the melodic beauty of Secret Language of Birds, might appreciate the way in which some of The Zealot Gene explores the gentler side of Anderson's compositions. If you like prog that is full of melody, but on occasions also mixes that approach with the bite and gusto of a rock act, you will probably enjoy much here.

In this respect, whilst never achieving the peaks of the best-regarded Tull albums, The Zealot Gene offers something appealing, that fans from a wide variety of Tull eras might value and enjoy. It is by turns quirky, charming, and endearingly idiosyncratic.

Anderson's vocals are surprisingly strong, although some listeners might find that his now-limited range ensures that the vocal parts have a similar tonal quality. Several techniques are used to good effect to give the vocals an extra dimension.

Anderson's flute flurries are superlative. Whilst numerous flute passages have the pureness of tone associated with players such as Bjorn Json Lindh, there are many occasions where Anderson blows his flute with snorting aggression. Some of the most exciting flute-trilling occurs during the interchange between Opahle and Anderson in the unusually structured and enigmatic Barren Beth, Wild Desert John.

Mine is the Mountain contains some of the best instrumental sections of the album. John O' Hara's measured piano introduction provides a perfect entry point for Anderson's haunting flute line. At the mid-point of the tune, the group have an opportunity to stretch out. This exciting passage ends all too soon, but the band interplay is quite brilliant.

The Zealot Gene is a fine album and is a welcome addition to Jethro Tull's catalogue.

Report this review (#2672453)
Posted Saturday, January 15, 2022 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album could have been written in the 70s. Is that good, and the style brings back the effective and catchy prog folk of their first works, especially Stand up, Benefit or Aqualung. My favourite songs are the title track, Shoshana sleeping, Sad city sisters, The Betrayal of Joshua Kynde, Where did saturday go? and the wonderful In brief visitation, that would have fitted perfectly on any of those albums.

Overall, It is a very consistent work with no weak songs, all filled with references, sounds, stylistic resources and progressions of that era, wich makes listening from the beginning to the end a very rewarding experience.

3.5 stars

Report this review (#2677263)
Posted Friday, January 28, 2022 | Review Permalink
3 stars ...and here is it at last, 'the first new album in two decades', so long and impatiently awaited, so loudly advertised by the label and the distributors... Has it deceived my expectations? (I'm responsible for myself only, not for other listeners.) Well, I'd say it would be better if yes. In that case, the things would be clear: another old band has grown literally old and exhausted itself...

But no, the things are more complicated. I won't speak of Anderson's vocals, not surprisingly it's not as powerful as back in 1972 or 1982, tempus fugit, and there's nothing to be done. And I don't mean his flute performance, it's still brilliant like half a century ago (by golly, in the day when Anderson starts to play flute poorly, our world will turn upside down!). The lyrics are also clever and well done poetically. But the music...

The album splits into two almost equal (by playing time) parts. One of them begins with Mrs Tibbets (nothing extraordinary but nice, somewhat reminding The Ice Bridge from The Quest by Yes in some respects), continues with Jacob's Tales and Mine Is the Mountain, and closes with musically joint Three Loves, Three + In Brief Visitation. All the four are top, perhaps the latter even slightly beyond top IMHO. Genuine Jethro Tull's magic at its very best. Something classic with something innovative elaborately implicated. Pure melodicism and lyricism - and instant complexity and ingenuity at the same time.

Well, in brief, Ian Anderson is still very far from becoming a washed-up has-been as a composer. So, why the remaining part of the album is so trifling? One folky/bluesy track full of generalities/platitudes (Where Did Saturday Go?) and as many as six marching-type songs of the same sort that sounded boring since the moment it was born, i.e. on TAAB-2 and especially on Homo Erraticus. I find really awful that those tracks follow one by one: The Zealot Gene; Shoshana Sleeping; Sad City Sisters; Barren Beth, Wild Desert John; The Betrayal of Joshua Kynde. Insufferably! After this tedious parade of (my apologies but) musical dullness, 7 minutes of musical ecstasy follow (the previously mentioned tandem of Three Loves, Three & In Brief Visitation)... and the album ends with another marching-type rattle, The Fisherman of Ephesus, by the way, with faulty coda.

What's in the solid residue?

I hear no holistic album but two virtual EPs chaotically joint under the title The Zealot Gene. One EP is among the band's greatest masterpieces in their 55 years of activity. The other one is perhaps even worse than Under Wraps. That shameful bunch of tawdry synth-pop songs from 1984 had at least some impertinence, insolence on the border of charming impudence if you like. While the 'marching-type' part of The Zealot Gene has nothing notable and is made out of thin air ('sucked up from a finger' as we say in Russia). I give the album three stars as an arithmetic mean of 5 and 1. But in fact, the album deserves two separate ratings, one highest possible and one lowest possible, for the two musically unequal virtual EPs it's built of.

Report this review (#2677561)
Posted Saturday, January 29, 2022 | Review Permalink
4 stars "The populist with dark appeal. The pandering to hate.

Which xenophobic scaremongers deliver on a plate.

To tame the pangs of hunger. And satisfy the lust.

Slave to ideology. Moderation bites the dust." - The Zealot Gene

Ian Anderson comes up with a damn good Jethro Tull album, and it's about time. First off, there is no overt prog here ala TAAB, or a rehash of Aqualung. But at 74 years old, and with blown out vocal pipes, this is exactly the quality album that Ian should have been making, either under the Tull moniker or solo, since Roots To Branches in 1995, or even since Crest Of A Knave in 1987! The song writing is stellar. All have that mysterious Tull vibe that's imbued in earlier, and in some cases, classic Tull albums. But The Zealot Gene is no rehash of old notes, riffs or ideas, as the lyrics for the title track above plainly show. Ian may not do Twitter, but he's aware of the times and who's been driving it along.

Musically, the album is broken up with hard flute driven rockers, with subtly intriguing melodies and hooks that seem to sneak up on you, and acoustic based numbers. There's wonderful interplay between Ian's flute, John O'Hara's keyboards, and Florian Opahle's guitar (sounding more like his own man this time around as opposed to a Martin Barre imitator, but a bit generic at times) on these tracks. The bevy of acoustic guitar based tracks take up the other half of the songs and the verity is quite impressive, From the upbeat Celtic tinged "Sad City Sisters", driven along by mandolin and tin whistle, to the gentle pining of the dual guitar strumming of "In Brief Visitation", the album's penultimate track. The standout rockers are the title track "The Zealot Gene", "Shoshana Sleeping", "Barren Beth, Wild Desert John" and "The Betrayal Of Joshua Kinde", a song that rings mightily of the jazzy "Poseidon/Lizard" era King Crimson, both lyrically and musically and is a real treat. Somewhere in the middle of soft and heavy is the eerie piano led "Mine Is The Mountain", a stark comment on the grumbling god of the Old Testament. The song evokes "My God" from Aqualung without any mimicry, and features a wonderful flute, drums and keyboard mid section, another album highlight.

The mixing and production is impeccable. The sound quality is first rate. The playing is great, the arrangements are very good, and Ian's vocals sound very good on these songs, which obviously don't stretch his vocal limitations. Great songs with great lyrics. What more can you ask for? 4 stars. Nice going Ian, but what kept you?

Caveat: If you're looking for complaints about Martin Barre no longer being in the band, you've come to the wrong review, as it's the music that's important.

Report this review (#2688143)
Posted Monday, January 31, 2022 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal / JRFC / PSIKE Teams
3 stars Can The Zealot Gene be called a proper Jethro Tull album? It's the first effort under their name in almost 19 years, but it definitely comes off as more of an Ian Anderson solo record than a full-band effort. After all, five of its songs were recorded solely by Anderson because of - as you may have already guessed - COVID reasons. However, when looking at his rationale behind billing The Zealot Gene a full band project, the situation starts becoming more understandable. The lineup behind the album is the longest in the group's history, and yet they never recorded a full-length record up until now; thus, Anderson wanted to give them a chance to be on a proper Tull release. Plus? well, let's be real here: the Jethro Tull name was always going to drum up more interest and revenue than an Anderson solo record.

However, name conflicts aside, how does Zealot Gene fare against the rest of Jethro Tull's lengthy catalog? Well, the best word I can use from a musical perspective is "agreeable". It's very agreeable, from the pleasant-enough rock tunes to the tried-and-true folk leanings. This is immediately apparent from the opening track "Mrs. Tibbets", which sets Anderson's aging voice to a backdrop of midtempo drums and power chords; other than a flashy and virtuosic solo section, there really aren't many surprises here. If anything, though, the song does set the stage for the The Zealot Gene's stylistic duality: midtempo rockers with folk elements sprinkled in. None of the wild prog experimentation of Thick as a Brick or A Passion Play makes its way onto the record, though to be fair, that hasn't been a factor in Tull's music for quite some time. If there's any album whose well this release draws from the most, it's definitely Aqualung; it's all there, from the hard rock/folk contrasts to Anderson's musings on religion and faith. However, The Zealot Gene proves to be much looser conceptually, expressing a wide range of religious themes without stringing them together in any cohesive way.

As for the other band members, they do a decent job of carrying out these tunes; however, The Zealot Gene happens to be the first Tull album without longtime guitarist Martin Barre since 1969, and his absence is felt greatly. This is not as noticeable on the record's folkier songs such as "Jacob's Tales" and "Sad City Sisters", which fare quite well with the stripped down acoustic guitar/flute setup. But on more electric guitar-driven tunes such as the aforementioned "Mrs. Tibbets" or the title track, one wishes that Barre lent his creative take on blues and hard rock riffing to the songs to spice them up a bit. But that does provide some insight into what works about The Zealot Gene vs. what doesn't; the rockers are usually the blandest and most middle-of-the-road tracks here, and the folk numbers - while safe by the standards of classic 70s Tull - are much more enjoyable and creative. As always, Anderson's acoustic guitar and flute performances are absolutely stellar; "Sad City Sisters", "Where Did Saturday Go", and "Three Loves, Three" are certainly highlights in this regard, utilizing sparser arrangements and letting the whimsical flute melodies do the talking.

The Zealot Gene definitely plays out like a tale of two styles, one being executed much more strongly than the other. But it's nice to finally have a new Jethro Tull record, even if its status as a band effort is a bit questionable. There's nothing truly bad here, but most of the record doesn't elevate itself above simply being passable either; there's way too much "been there, done that" for it to match up with the band's classic releases. However, if you absolutely need more Tull in your life and are willing to put up with some boring middle-of-the-road material to get to the good stuff, you could do much worse than The Zealot Gene.

Report this review (#2690291)
Posted Sunday, February 6, 2022 | Review Permalink
A Crimson Mellotron
2 stars To much surprise Jethro Tull are back in 2022 with their 22nd studio album; Of course, we could say that this is more like Ian Anderson & Co. as the J-Tull main man decided to use the band from his last couple of solo albums to produce the much anticipated 'The Zealot Gene', released on Inside Out Music. Approximately some five years in production, one would easily expect this record to sound much better than it does, but it unfortunately fails in one thing mainly - it is exquisitely tedious.

Very little energy can be felt, none of the signature electrifying tension that characterized so well the beloved 70s Tull albums (even some of the 80s ones) is present, just some old-man folk rock that sounds uninspired (and the pretty well-sounding flute does not save the day), lacking pace and above all, not as charismatic as one might expect from the Ian Anderson-led band; Normally, after his recent problems with his vocal chords, expectations have been that no new Jethro Tull music would ever see the light of day, but the Scottish man never gives up. However, his singing does not really sound all too convincing, as the frailness prevails and the good old powerful voice is nowhere to be heard.

The songs themselves are not that interesting either, a lot of them sound like re-hashes of older leftovers, some sound like unfinished jams, with brief moments of brilliance spread around in certain parts, but the overall listening experience is more painful and indulging rather than necessarily enjoyable - often borderline ridiculous and strikingly cringeworthy, most of the compositions on 'The Zealot Gene' just do not work. Exceptions could be made for songs like 'Shoshanna Sleeping', 'Three Loves, Three' and 'Brief Visitations', with some of the other numbers displaying decent moments as well. But unfortunately, the mediocrity prevails.

Already receiving some mixed reactions, I believe that some would love the new Jethro Tull album, and some would eternally despise it. From my point of view, comparing this to any of their greats, 'The Zealot Gene' seems like a big disappointment, especially given the time spent working on it and all the advertising and promotion. It is not as engaging as something like 'Aqualung', it is not as mysterious as 'This Was' or 'A Passion Play', it is certainly not as proggy and gorgeous as 'TAAB', and it even lacks the swagger of 'Crest of a Knave' and 'Benefit', so we could only conclude that it is easily avoidable and should circulate around fans of the band.

Report this review (#2690778)
Posted Tuesday, February 8, 2022 | Review Permalink
4 stars Pure JETHRO TULL! Well written songs with complexity and intelligence - Songs from the Wood meets The Secret Language of Birds.

Standout tracks include: Mrs. Tibbets; Mine is the Mountain; Barren Beth, Wild Desert John; and the title track, a wild and melodious ride through the great political divide.

Not to say that the remaining tracks don't shine. I love the entire record and as with most Tull recordings, it takes several listens to appreciate the depth and quality of the music. In particular, the primarily acoustic In Brief Visitation harkens back to some of Anderson's best solo acoustic pieces from the 70s. Wonderful!

As much as I love Martin Barre, I can't say that I miss him as Florian Ophale and Joe Parrish-James are both excellent throughout. Don't be sucked into the no-Martin, no-Tull nonsense or that Ian Anderson has a bunch of new musicians posing as Tull. Each member of the band that appears with Anderson on the Zealot Gene has been with him for over 15 years, with the exception of Parrish-James, a youthful and highly creative addition to the Tull fold. This is easily the longest duration of any lineup in the history of Jethro Tull.

A four-star effort, it ranks on par or better than some very good albums like Crest of a Knave, Roots to Branches and Dot Com. This is a memorable Jethro Tull album.

Report this review (#2691750)
Posted Saturday, February 12, 2022 | Review Permalink
4 stars Review Nº 511

As we know, almost 20 years have passed since the last Jethro Tull's studio album release, "The Jethro Tull Christmas Album". So, it was with some surprise that I knew that a new studio album of the band has been released. It's true that Ian Anderson, didn't stay inactive and had released several solo studio albums during those years, including the sequel of "Thick As A Brick". But precisely because "Thick as a Brick 2: Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock ?" was released inside Anderson's solo catalog, it was really a big surprise for me that Jethro Tull's name has been dusted off.

But anyway and above all, we mustn't forget that Jethro Tull, as happened with many other contemporaries of them, like Van Der Graaf Generator, Camel and King Crimson was essentially a one man's band. So, in reality and in a way, this wasn't a completely surprise, even if there's still no room for Anderson's long time sparring partner, guitarist of Jethro Tull, Martin Barre. But, that said, there's quite a lot of continuity in the line up of Anderson, with Florian Opahle (guitars- but only listed as an "album only" member of them), John O'Hara (orchestral conductor/piano/keyboards/accordion), Scott Hammond (drums/percussion) and David Goodier (bass/double bass) all retained from the "Thick as a Brick 2: Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock ?" band, while guitarist Joe Parrish- James also appears to be part of the team. All do that the Jethro Tull's name proud and there's not a hole to be picked performance wise anywhere you care look.

The album itself, while not a conceptual album, does follow the Jethro Tull's ethos of finding a theme and, then, basing all of the songs around that central idea. Donald Trump and the Bible are just some of the ingredients that make up "The Zealot Gene". Here we have the modern world view, with each of the songs having chapter and verse references in the accompanying lyrics. However, these songs aren't Christian, or even overtly religious, but instead, this idea is used to open debate as to what modern society has become. The theme is constantly running through all of the songs, with questions of what is right or wrong, moral or immoral. Anderson, as ever, is inviting us to draw our own conclusions. Still, the connection isn't always easy to make, and sometimes you're better off just going with his words, although they can take some unraveling at times. But that's all part of the plan and makes of all Jethro Tull's album a must to hear.

Musically, we are in a wonderfully familiar territory, a feeling of being welcomed home into the Jethro Tull's household unavoidable as flute swirls against a mix of folk infused the progressive rock music. In reality, "The Zealot Gene" contains an interesting amalgam of styles that will probably please and frustrate Jethro Tull's fans in equal measures. Any Jethro Tul's aficionado expecting a consistent, plate shattering of a true hard rock experience in the style of "Aqualung" will be somewhat disappointed. Any Jethro Tull's fans who want a re-tread of the progressive complexity of "Thick As A Brick", "A Passion Play" or even "Minstrel In The Gallery", probably might feel a bit underwhelmed, as well.

The album is made up of twelve compositions. Five of the pieces have an earthy, acoustic feel and were recorded by Anderson in his home studio, after the pandemic made further group recordings impossible. These tracks were completed by the band's members sending in their parts. In addition to these pieces this new release contains several inventive compositions. However, the progressive approach in the Jethro Tull's music is only marginal. The songs are compact and have mostly between three and four minutes long. Nevertheless, the individual tracks are convincing and, in the case of the folksy numbers, are reminiscent of their albums "Songs From The Wood", "Stormwatch" and "Heavy Horses" from the late 70's, the albums that belong to their most folk phase. With the more rocking titles, associations with the 1974 album "War Child" and the 1976 album "Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young To Die!" can arise as well.

"The Zealot Gene" also shows some parallels with "Aqualung". Both albums deal with the subject of religion and what zealots and overly fanatical ideologies mean misfortune and suffering brought to this world. According to the origin of that word from the ancient Greek, the name of the zealots who lived in the 6th century AD means literally the fanatics.

Conclusion: Ian Anderson doesn't do really any experiments on "The Zealot Gene" and Jethro Tull sounds like Jethro Tull. The songs aren't copies of the long released songs, but expand Jethro Tull's repertoire. The album is very fun to hear. Jethro Tull doesn't any deliver hardcore prog in their current incarnation, but the compositional qualities of the material on "The Zealot Gene" are to be found primarily in some fairly wide angling melodies and contrasts of straight, luxuriant and dancing rhythms and, of course, is instrumentally well paced with many varied instrumental passages. There's a playful well considered folk rock with intelligent lyrics. Anderson's age isn't noticeable either in his voice or the flute and the compositional level of almost Jethro Tull's albums is effortlessly maintained. So, "The Zealot Gene" does fit seamlessly into the discography, and that's probably the biggest surprise of this album, which is a compliment.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#2696754)
Posted Friday, March 4, 2022 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars I first saw Jethro Tull on the 'Under Wraps' tour, spent thousands of pounds on collecting rare releases, and my first ever piece of published writing was in the 'A New Day' fanzine some time in another life. The last time I saw them play was back in 2004, but even though I then left the country not long after and there has been no opportunity to see them play in NZ, I vowed never to go and see them again as it no longer felt like Tull and Ian had lost his voice. Tull kept going until 2012, and then went on hiatus, reforming in 2017. The current line-up features John O'Hara (keyboards, backing vocals) and David Goodier (bass, double bass) who both joined the band in 2007, plus new boys Scott Hammond (drums, percussion, joined 2017) and Joe Parrish (lead guitar, who joined in 2020).

Tull have always had an issue with retaining members, but at one point Ian said that he could not imagine there being a Tull without Martin and Peggy, but here we are. Martin is away touring with his own band playing Jethro Tull music while Peggy is of course folking around as always. That being said, Ian has written all the material and controlled the band ever since he and Mick Abrahams had a falling out more than half a century ago. Is it a surprise then to see a new Tull album? Well, the band have been touring and apart from Ian no-one has actually played on any releases as the last album was all the way back in 1999 (no, I am not including 'The Christmas Album'), so perhaps it is fair. Also, a Tull album is way more commercially acceptable than a solo album, and that is exactly how 'A' came about along with the sacking of John Evan, Dee (David) Palmer and Barriemore Barlow.

It would be wrong to compare Jethro Tull of 2022 to the band of 50 years ago as we are not in the same world whatsoever, but how does it compare to 'Rock Island' or 'Catfish Rising'? Surprisingly well it must be said. Actually, I found that as a complete album this had more in common with 'Crest of a Knave' than either of them, perhaps down to Ian recording much of it in his own studio with everyone else also working that way due to COVID. Opener "Mrs. Tibbets" could well have come from that album and would sit well alongside the likes of "Mountain Men". While his vocals are noticeably not as strong as they used to be, particularly in the upper registers, overall his singing was far better than I expected it to be given his issues in the past while his flute playing is still as sharp and dynamic as it has ever been.

We get a mix of rockers and acoustic numbers, with some nice harmonica on "Jacob's Tales" which takes us back in time, and while they are longer than the mouthwash material Ian was keen on in the early days to provide quick breaks, it has the same impact in providing strong contrast and dynamics. This was an album I approached with dread, as I was convinced it just was not going to be as good as I could ever hope, yet it exceeded all my expectations and reminded me why I used to spend silly amounts of money on the band. It has also made me want to go back and revisit my rather extensive collection, something I have not done in quite some time. I have even revisited my previous promise of never seeing them again. They may not be the Tull I grew up with, but this is a thoroughly enjoyable release which deserves to be viewed well within the overall canon.

Report this review (#2711498)
Posted Saturday, March 19, 2022 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars As a mad Jethro Tull addict I had to eventually succumb my ears to the latest Tull album and number 23 is a sheer delight. Ian Anderson has quoted in Prog mag,  "you have a box that says Ian Anderson and another box that says Jethro Tull but inside both boxes it's the same old corn flakes.... my whole belief is that as a musician there's always something you can learn every time you pick up your instruments". On this latest album I would have to agree as I had no expectations whatsoever with The Zealot Gene so this won't be a harsh comparison to Thick as a brick or Aqualung as that would be pointless,  that ship has sailed and a new ship has come in.  This latest release is definitely a great Jethro Tull sound and is the perfect album for me to fill in my days of isolation from this dreaded Covid desolation.

Track 1 is Mrs Tibbets and begins the album with a flourish. I was pleasantly surprised to know that Ian Andersons trilling merrily away on his flute and his dry vocals have returned with his musing on the weird and wonderful. The time sig changes are evident and the  prancing flute is music to my ears. The lead Breaks are  heavenly and add so much power to the sound and there is a wintery Christmas theme, though this is streets ahead of  the disappointing Christmas album.

There have been five decades, 36 band members and more than 20 albums but Jethro Tull are definitely not ready to pack up the cod piece and flute yet. The album shines on every track telling tales of intriguing characters  such as Jacob's Tales powered by harmonica embellishments with Andersons vocals in the foreground. There is another Christmas theme with a strange Melody that tells a Jagged tale of drudgery during Winter preparing for the big day.

Mine is the Mountain has the return of the Glorious flute trills, telling of a tramp in the cold who may or may not have an aqualung. I like the sound of the piano counterbalanced by Andersons raspy dry vocals. The flute is absolutely mesmerising throughout making this the best track so far.

The Zealot Gene does has a great metal riff and  rocks heavy for Tull. I really like the tune and how the music changes and keeps developing. Yes, the album really delivers.

Shoshana Sleeping is a fun romp with heavy drums and a very cool guitar riff and a ton of flute.  The lyrics  are relentless and as oddball as Tull can be. The flute is in full flight here.

Sad City Sisters has an Elizabethan mediaeval feel with bouzouki and upbeat sound augmented by accordion. Andersons Goggling word play us a joy and the flutists Pied Piper is swinging merrily throughout.

Barren Beth, Wild Desert John has a proggy feel and  flute takes Centre Stage before a great guitar lick crunches in. Anderson rants with energy about fanciful characters such as cousin Mary who may be cross-eyed Mary's long lost cousin.

Theme Betrayal of Joshua Kynde continues the album with swathes of flute and piano over a layer of guitar distortion. It locks into a nice melody with Anderson singing softer with melancholy reflection.

Where did Saturday go? The lyrics try to answer it but there is none as Anderson is regretting where his day's have gone. It's a nice detour from the heavy sounds and I love the guitar Acoustics.

Three loves, Three has more flute and another sparse arrangement with guitars and soft vocals. The tambourine helps as the drummer is absent for these next tracks, this being the case because Anderson was in isolation suffering from Covid. I know how he feels.

This Segues directly into In Brief Visitation with seamless clarity. Anderson still needs someone to love, he sings, with dangerous affections sublime. There are allegories to a boat on the rough Waters making this a sad reflective song.

The final piece is The Fisherman of Ephesus which sounds Biblical and is, closing the album with the welcome return of drums. It is a tale of fisherman looking for an answer not just fish. Jethro Tull are wonderful when everything gels as it does here with flying flutes, odd time signatures, fanciful lyrics and guitars.

This album is absolutely wonderful. I believe it's a definitive pleasure to listen to Tull who have had their ups and downs in their lengthy career, but you can count this as a highlight right at the end of their career. It is a pure delight from the masters of Prog Folk

Report this review (#2755180)
Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2022 | Review Permalink
3 stars As long as it takes. Jethro Tull - The Zealot Gene (2022)

A fine record,. a continuaton of Ian Anderson´s carreer. enjoyable but he sticks to his J.T. rules.

Explosive yet controlled, kind of what was left.............A good output but don´t expect anything new. Iti´s great to hear his music, but that´s coming from a fan, but a big but.. I did somewhat expected something more... Good record but not even close as to be essential. He still holds on to his flute, but he is kind of missing an extra more powerful environment to force him out of his nutshell! Anyway he is still there.

Report this review (#2774105)
Posted Saturday, July 2, 2022 | Review Permalink
3 stars Ian Anderson is back with a new incarnation of Jethro Tull, and the first new Tull album in nearly 20 years. And Ian harkens back to sounds and styles reminiscent of some of their earlier albums. Overall, it's great to hear Ian's flute as a major component as well as some of Tull's characteristic styles and strong songwriting throughout. Although it is clear that Ian's voice is not what it used to be, his talk-singing style works well enough here. Where the album falls flat, unfortunately, is with the backing band, which is just completely generic and lackluster. The album does seem to really be an Ian Anderson solo album, as the backing band contribute virtually nothing here (and the backing arrangements are also frustratingly repetitive), and weaken what could have been several very strong tracks. It just doesn't sound like a band at all, just Ian with some generic backing musicians. Certainly not like Jethro Tull of the glory days, where stellar guitar work from Martin Barre, bassist Jeffrey Hammond, John Evans keyboards, and the dynamic drumming of Barriemore Barlow provided scintillating contributions to the Tull sound. I can understand why they wanted to call this a Jethro Tull album, due to the stylistic aspects being very much in line with what we know as Jethro Tull, but realistically, this is still an Ian Anderson solo album. Here, the musicians other than Anderson just don't provide any spark at all. For this reason, the more acoustic tracks work the best here, highlighting Ian's acoustic guitar, flute, harmonica, mandolin, vocals, and lyrics. Still, there are some very good tracks here, and the album is definitely worth checking out, just be aware that it is not classic Tull. Best Tracks: 'Mrs. Tibbets', 'Sad City Sisters', 'Where Did Saturday Go?', 'Three Love Three'. rating 3.0
Report this review (#2872996)
Posted Wednesday, January 4, 2023 | Review Permalink
2 stars After the better part of two months of writing nothing, I'm back! The first half of January was all my best-of-2021 stuff, after which things got really busy at work, and then Pokémon Legends: Arceus came out (that took up and continues to take up a lot of my free time). But anyway, you don't come here for my personal goings-on; you come here for reviews of albums that came out several months ago in an unpopular music genre!

For the record, I was actually pretty quick with covering this one. Jethro Tull has put out their first album since 2003! (Though their Bandcamp seems to ignore their 2003 release, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album, as it states this is their first album in "over two decades," which signals that Ian Anderson considers 1999's Dot Com to be the last proper Tull album.) 

Except, is this really a Jethro Tull album? It has the same lineup of musicians as Ian Anderson's most recent solo work, and guitarist Martin Barre is absent from a Tull release for the first time since 1968. This sounds like an Ian Anderson solo record. There's usually a certain vibe to a Tull release, and this release is clearly lacking that spark.

My first reaction to The Zealot Gene was intensely negative. I really disliked it. The production is thin and lifeless; the songs hit me as uninspired; and the whole experience struck me as an unnecessary, unforced error. Who was clamoring for a new JT album at this point? On subsequent listens, my opinion on it has softened, and there are some decent moments here, but it's still not a great record. 

This is also probably the worst, ugliest album cover in the band's long history. (War Child is a close second.) Ian Anderson has a long history on Jethro Tull album covers, but they've usually been visually striking. This album cover is harsh and austere, and the music does not match the visual at all. I could see this monochrome image working well for something in post-rock or minimal electronica, but not retro hard rock.

As I stated in my Jethro Tull Deep Dive, Tull at their worst has always been competent?if dull and generic?hard rock. They've never plumbed depths of the mind-numbing inanity of Yes's Open Your Eyes or the grueling anemia of Pink Floyd's The Final Cut. The Zealot Gene firmly stays in Jethro Tull's particular lane of bad music. It's comparable to something like Rock Island, Catfish Rising, or Dot Com (though I have a weird personal soft spot for the latter).

The best songs on The Zealot Gene are where the band most eagerly leans into folk rock, and I often get flashes of Roots to Branches in these moments. "Mrs. Tibbets" is one such example. Even this song has issues, though (as do similar tracks). For all the nice flute and acoustic guitar parts, the synth tones sound weirdly dated, and everything else generally sounds passionless. Anderson's voice has been rather weak ever since his throat surgery in the mid-1980s, but he had learned to work with it. On this album, it's a significant step backward, though much can probably be chalked up to age.

"Jacob's Tale" is a decent acoustic track with some unexpected but nice harmonica, and "Mine Is the Mountain" has some great interplay between the flute and piano. There are a few other alright songs on the album, but none of them are without major issues.

Most of the album is simply unremarkable. It's bland hard rock with weak vocals. The guitar is especially unimpressive. Martin Barre has a unique playing style which I've never heard properly imitated, and he often utilized an inventive array of unusual tones. The guitarist here sounds like generic hard rock guitarist #12,841. There's no soul to it, and there's nothing which will grab your attention. 

Despite my overall warming to this album over repeated listens, I still do not like the production. It is passable during quieter acoustic passages, but harder-rocking moments fall catastrophically flat.

I'm sticking with my initial assessment of The Zealot Gene being an unnecessary, unforced error. Tull had not released any new studio material since 2003, and they ended on a decent string of records: Roots to Branches (1995) is genuinely quite good, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album (2003) is pleasant, and Dot Com (1999) isn't a bad bit of hard rock. There's nothing noteworthy here, and even for a diehard Tull fan like myself, I can't give it any sort of positive endorsement.

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Posted Tuesday, April 4, 2023 | Review Permalink

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