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Jethro Tull - The Zealot Gene CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

3.34 | 190 ratings

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4 stars Review Nš 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*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |


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