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Jethro Tull - Stand Up CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

4.05 | 1213 ratings

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5 stars Back in the blistering hot summer of '70 the garage band I played in hired a new drummer named Tommy Cline. He not only had great technique but he also had great albums from groups that I had vaguely heard of but hadn't had a chance to listen to. One of them was Jethro Tull and once Tommy turned the whole combo on to them my bandmates and I couldn't get enough. Soon I had my own vinyl copy of "Stand Up" with the trippy pop-ups of the musicians inside but at some point in my semi-nomadic years that followed I foolishly loaned it to an acquaintance and never saw hide nor hair of it again. (The thieving rat's probably living on a Caribbean beach by now, listening to it at this very moment.) Anyway, I never got around to replacing it until recently when I purchased the remastered CD and I must say that I'm discovering the genius of Ian Anderson & Co. all over again. Like all those decades ago, I can't get enough of it. I had forgotten what a masterpiece this album is. Shame on me.

Picking up where they left off on their debut, "A New Day Yesterday" is a heavy, blues-riff-based song that features guitar, harmonica and flute played in a very ominous, Cream-like vibe that was perfect for the end of the 60s. On many of the album's tunes Ian writes about how the small degree of success they'd achieved with "This Was" and the demands that came with it affected his everyday life. Here he points out the irony of finally finding his lady love but then "I had to leave today/just when I thought I'd found you/it was a new day yesterday/but it's an old day now." They perform a drastic about-face with "Jeffery Goes to Leicester Square" and therein lies the true charm of this album. It's got a little of everything and everything is superb. This short song is an intriguing mesh of electric guitar fed through a Leslie speaker cabinet accompanied by flute and some small drums. Here Anderson addresses a gorgeous but conceited lass that probably publicly looked down her nose at "his kind" at some point. "You may fool yourself but you don't fool me," he sings jauntily, "I'll see you in another place, another time/you may be someone's but you won't be mine." And, since he was about to become a rock megastar, it's her loss, not his.

If my memory serves me correctly their variation on Bach, "Bouree," was the first cut that I ever heard from Jethro Tull. It floored me because no one else that I was aware of was doing anything remotely like it at the time. Its clever fusion of classical, jazz and rock sensibilities and Glen Cornick's deft bass solo still hold up splendidly even today. "Back to the Family" is an inventive track with a very dynamic arrangement as Martin Lancelot Barre's distorted guitar in the background gives the tune a soothing, dense texture. The humorous words describe wanting to get away from the hectic madness of the city "'cause I've had about all I can take," only to find that in the peaceful countryside "doing nothing is bothering me," whereupon he returns to the stressful urban environment and soon wonders "what the hell was I thinking?" The flute and guitar jam at the end is particularly hot and spirited. "Look into the Sun" is a wonderful acoustic guitar-driven ballad that relies on its melody and mood instead of flashy lead instruments to entrance the listener. Ian's voice is processed through a tremolo effect that might have been annoying but it only enhances his somber words as he sings "I had waited for time to change her/the only change that came was over me/she pretended not to want love/I hope she was only fooling me." It's a fine, fine song.

I love keyboards as much as the next progger but there's always been something fascinating about a power trio of guitar, bass and drums working like a big machine and that's what you get on "Nothing is Easy" (along with Anderson's fiery flute, of course). It defines the meaning of "group effort" while still letting each member of the band shine brightly and it was an absolute jaw- dropper when I saw them in concert in '70. Here Ian recommends that "if you're alone and you're down to the bone/just give us a play/you'll smile in a while and discover that I'll/get you happy my way/nothing's easy." Sage advice, my friends. Heed the man. The exciting, acoustic raga-romp that is "Fat Man" follows and it's one of my all time favorites. Drummer Clive Bunker really gets to show off his versatility on this cut as he tears it up on the bongos (rather than tablas). Someone must have commented on Anderson's ultra-slim figure (in those days he was as thin as his flute and, as my friend Kenny would say, "You couldn't hit him with a handful of corn!") because this song is a sly retort to that observation. He sings that if he were fat he'd have "no chance of finding a woman/who will love you in the morning/and all the night time, too" while admitting that if you "roll us both down a mountain/I'm sure the fat man'd win."

Okay, so there are a lot of similarities to be found in The Eagles' "Hotel California" and in the chord structure of "We Used to Know," but that would also apply to the Rolling Stones' "Angie" so I can only say that imitation indicates admiration in this case. Actually, it's not that strong a tune, though, so who cares? It's not bad by any means but it tends to drag on a tad and Barre's wah-wah guitar lead gets a little too frantic for my taste. Next is the beautiful "Reasons for Waiting," an extraordinary ballad that features organ, harmony flute lines and a lush orchestral score behind Ian's honest vocal. "Came a thousand miles/just to catch you while you're smiling" he sings. Melts your heart, don't it? "For a Thousand Mothers" was the original finale on the LP and it still kicks serious ass as a rockin' ensemble piece in 6/4 time. Punctuated by Anderson's ferocious flute-playing, he seems to be addressing all those naysayers (including his ma and pa) who told him "I'll never be what I am now/telling me I'll never find/what I've already found/it was they who were wrong/and for them here's a song." It also has a sneaky false ending that leads to a brief but furious reprise. It's prog heaven.

The remastered version includes four additional cuts. "Living in the Past" was penned around that same time period due to the urging of their manager to come up with a Top 40 single for the UK while they toured the states. Ian didn't think its 5/4 time signature gave it a snowball's chance in hell but he was dead wrong, it would seem, as it has become one of their most enduring hits. I still consider it one of Anderson's most memorable flute performances and his sarcastic, tongue-firmly-in-cheek lyric about burying one's head in the sand by "walking out/while others shout/of war's disaster/oh, we won't give in/let's go living in the past" always makes me chuckle. New to me is "Driving Song," a bluesy rocker where Ian laments "they tell me I'll be home someday/well, I doubt it if I continue this way/'cause this hard life I've led/is making me dead" and "Sweet Dream," a heavy and somewhat experimental tune (for them, anyway) with horns and strings that's ambitious, to be sure, but mediocre at best. I didn't think much of "17" at first but its uncharacteristic grungy, loose rock & roll feel and snippy words like "and now here you are/you're locked in your own excuse/the circle's getting smaller every day/you're busy planning your next 50 years/so stay the way you are/and keep your head down to the same old ground" has pulled me in and now I have a real hankerin' for it.

This is a bonafide masterpiece of progressive rock and if you don't know why Jethro Tull is considered to be a giant of the genre this album will provide you with all the answers to your questions. Like Yes, King Crimson, ELP, Genesis and Pink Floyd they broke ranks with the mainstream, took the path less traveled and created unique aural art, giving birth to the stimulating branch of music this site celebrates with passion and earnestness. "Stand Up" deserves to be admired and, more importantly, enjoyed on a regular basis.

Chicapah | 5/5 |


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