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Jethro Tull - Living With the Past CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

3.48 | 91 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars Excellent concert DVD? Sorry folks, I simply can't agree.

I've been a Tull fan for decades but I first saw them live a couple of years ago (in the same incarnation that appears here) and I thoroughly enjoyed the concert. It's true that Ian Anderson didn't have much of a voice, but the band played well, the jokes were good, and most of all I was amazed how beautiful and pure Ian's flute sounded live. Any defects in the performance were outweighed by the fact that I finally got my chance to see Jethro Tull.

But to see the same band perform, time after time, on my little screen at home, with a lead vocalist who hardly reaches any high notes? No, that's just too painful. I love the songs in their original incarnation too much. Would YOU go and listen to Cecilia Bartoli or Placido Domingo if they'd lost the power to use their main instrument?

Well, rock fans apparently think differently from classical music buffs. They just want to be with their favourite stars, no matter what condition those stars happen to be in. Just look at the many thousands who stream to Bob Dylan concerts each year, even though Dylan now produces little more than a croak. What do his fans care? Just to be with the great man is a kind of blessing. The sound engineer will turn up the volume and give the remnants of that voice some echo...

LIVING WITH THE PAST mainly consists of JT classics from the 1960s and 1970s, and if such is the case, surely the home listener expects ALL of these to be performed in the best possible way. But in fact the singing is below par throughout, and whenever Ian FAILS to reach a high note, he pulls a face, as if in apology... I find it grotesque. Saddest of all are the performances of two of the most beautiful acoustic tunes in the JT canon, which have been recorded in a country house with Ian and pianist Andrew Giddings being accompanied by a string quartet. Even though these performances are completely spoiled by the vocals (for me, at least), Ian still sees the need to conduct the chamber musicians with a few proprietary and totally superfluous gestures, as if he wants to emphasize, yet again, that he's the one in control.

On the positive side, let me stress that Martin Barre and keyboardist Andrew Giddings sound superb throughout. Prog enthusiasts will undoubtedly enjoy the extended tracks, particularly 'Thick as a Brick' (in an excellent 'condensed' version) and 'Budapest', both of which contain delightful contributions from the entire band. I don't know the studio recording of the ominous-sounding 'Roots to Branches', so its performance sounds excellent to me. I'm not particularly fond of Doane Perry's drumming (which sounds rather 'boxy' and always seems to be behind the rest of the band) and I certainly don't enjoy staring at a bassist who insists on wearing shades.

The two performances by the original 1968 line-up are one of the highlights of the DVD. Guitarist Mick Abrahams is not given much of a chance to shine, but it's fun to see Clive Bunker on drums and especially Glenn Cornick on bass: the latter plays with exactly the same abandon, and the same happy smile on his face, as on the Isle of Wight concert of 1970. That, at least, really made my day.

Two and half stars, I guess...

fuxi | 2/5 |


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