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Jethro Tull - Aqualung Live CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

3.46 | 101 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I'm still not sure if I'm one hundred percent qualified to review Aqualung Live. After all, I've only owned it a day...and I've never heard the original...but still, that should not be the point of this album! If it were ONLY about comparison with Aqualung Studio, then it would deserve no more or less than some form of a three star rating: as good as it was, as enjoyable as the material could be, it'd still just be a copy.

But that's not so with Live, and anyone would be a fool to think so. After all, if Tull was capable of one thing, it was kicking ass live. Period. Ian, as he said in the cleverly crafted liner notes, viewed this recording as less a retread and a rethinking of the album at large (Whistler! You're fan-boying again!).

Sorry. Anyway, the final product that is Aqualung Live is, when taken as a live album instead of a re-recorded studio album, pretty damn good. Of course, there are certain limitations with our musicians (more on that later), and, regardless of my haughty opinions, comparison with the original IS inevitable; and of course it can't quite measure up. Not that it exactly tries...

Alright, enough of that. I'll try to be brief, since you (think you) have heard all this before. "Aqualung" is our opener; shortened a little lyrically, but the live version has always been essentially a yummy casing for a delicious Martin Barre solo. He doesn't disappoint; a little more metallic, but that's fine with me.

"Cross-Eyed Mary" is sufficiently angry. Maybe 'cause it's so metal. "Cheap Day Return" is still beautiful, perhaps more so with Ian's breaking voice, even if it stays on a little too long. Never thought I'd say that about "Cheap."

The number I want to talk about is "Mother Goose." Might be my favorite number on the album. It's played essentially by the book (Giddings even comes out with some accordion...unless it's a synth. Sounds tasty either way), until the midsection, when it turns into a folksy instrumental showdown between, well, everyone. Ian puffs out some truly gorgeous flute, and Doane even has a little drum solo, but it's cool! Real cool in fact. It's rhythmic rather than showoffy, the bass is backing him up (unless he's backing up a bass solo?), and it's kept short. Very "Inna Gadda da Vida" that. Er, except the length...

"Wond'ring Aloud" is essentially what it always was: short, dry, pretty. "Up To Me" is colder than before, turned over mostly to Barre's acoustic, except the odd flute/keyboard duel. "My God" is kind of fun, since they actually recreate the gothic flute 'n chant midsection. I guess it's a keyboard of some sort...unless Marty was high or something. Anyway, it works. Fantastic ending too (turn your speakers to you haven't already).

The second number to undergo a huge facelift is "Hymn 43." Arguably the hardest bit on the original, now it's a Celtic jig! A headbangin' one at that. And, what's more, it totally works! They have me sold on "Hymn 43" being a Celtic jig! I guess if anyone could, it'd be Ian...great flute of course. And in the end, it creeps back into the violent rocker, no sin in that.

"Slipstream" might be better with the end chopped off, but was that synth really necessary? Oh well. "Locomotive Breath" seems a little hurried compared to the great stagey lengths it used to take. But, it ain't the last number no more, is it? It's extra bloozy this time, and real good. As usual. Our new finisher "Wind Up" is either more or less energetic; I mean, Ian and Martin rip it up, but Doane and Noyce can't compare with, uh, you-know-who.

Now wait, you say, where's my Ian banter? Well, all those cleverly named tracks stockpile at the end are just that! You can look at 'em yourself. They're at the end so that you don't HAVE to listen to 'em if you don't want, but they are kind of cute (or whacky or wryly humorous); "Riffs: Another Monkey" and "Hummmm 43" are probably my favorites. And, some more Zep Leppelin trivia. Oh, what the hell, they're all great! From a diehard point of view, of course...

So, here we are at the end of yet another live Tuller album. And, how's it stack up? Not so bad. Just like any of the others, there's some surprises, some stage retools, some witticisms, some breathtakingly beautiful flute riffage, some blisteringly heavy Barre-tar. A drum solo...

One thing I'm happy with is that this sounds like a live album; remember, it's Aqualung LIVE. If I just wanted the Aqualung part, well, I've already got a warehouse full of that what with all the compilations. But on this sucker we also get the all the stage trips and rebounds, the audience sounds and gentle mix of musicians.

And, what about those musicians? Well, Ian and Martin are in top form. As usual. Marty jumps back and forth between his patented heavy blues and classical folk. Ian does likewise, just on a flute this time. And it's really his show, of course; and his voice is actually not bad, all things considered. I mean, it's not like the great old days, but still, I think I mentioned somewhere up there that the breaking vocals sometimes add to the acoustic numbers.

The new guys? Well, I always said that Andy Giddings was the best guy they had on the 'boards since John Evan, he's great. This Jonathon Noyce fella doesn't do anything offensive. Or spectacular. And what of Doane Perry, my ancient nemesis? Well, he's...okay. Maybe even better. A little. At least, when he sticks to (how can I say this politely) dumbed down drum riffs...excuse me, SUBTLE drum riffs, he churns 'em out pretty good. A little class with the acoustic percussion even.

From the diehard point of view, this is essential. ESSENTIAL. I mean, how many other versions of "Hymn 43" as an Irish dance are you gonna get? many other versions of "Hymn 43" ARE you gonna get? Legally, of course. But, even from the point of view of a standard issue Tull fan, I think it's a little better than the standard issue "good, but not essential."

Especially if you liked that Aqualung thing. In fact, it's a lot like that, only different!

The Whistler | 4/5 |


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