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Jethro Tull - Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young To Die! CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

3.09 | 743 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
3 stars (Too Old for a 3.5)

So...what was the greatest joint project of misters I. Anderson and D. Palmer? Was it "Sweet Dream?" "Rainbow Blues?" That awkward moment they shared in the men's bathroom of the Marquee Club? Nope, it was "Elegy." But a close second is probably Too Old to Rock 'n Roll, Too Young to Die. This is the album where most diehard Tullers say words to the effect of, "It's a weak effort," or, "It's really not that good." Well, I have something to say too.

First off, it's not fair to take a little album that's maybe not as directly strong as some other albums, and label it the weakest album of the decade. And secondly, IT'S WARCHILD! WARCHILD IS THE WEAKEST ALBUM OF THE 70'S! IT'S WAR-GAH! (sounds of a struggle)

Sorry about that. Honestly though, I don't see why the album takes the beating it does. Some say that it's not as artsy as previous efforts. Uh, okay, but you do realize that it's a rock OPERA, right? At least, it's a play or something. It seems to be about some old rocker who wore his hair too long. He also looks a lot like Ian (or maybe Aqualung!). Just read the title to get some idea of the social commentary; and that name alone should earn some respect for the album. Who else would be gutsy enough to make an album called that? Not even Emerson, Lake and Palmer, I tells ya! Only the Who would have had such a self-destructive sense of fun.

Others say it's too rock 'n rolly, not enough of that sweet, sweet Tull sound. I dunno. There's plenty of flute in it, right? We diehards are supposed to love that. Okay, there's a fair dose of straight rock, but there's also blues rock, jazz ballads and medieval acoustics. And of course, everything has an orchestral backing; not just tasteful string arrangements, but a full blown orchestra. Horns 'n crap (making this the truest "symphonic rock" record since Days of Future Passed). Why does that sound familiar? Oh yeah, it's the old familiar "Tull sound."

Now, the one thing that really does drag down the rating is the feel. This album lacks energy (it always seemed to me). Why? I can't say. Maybe it's because it's not a REAL Tull album per se, since it's more like a soundtrack to the stage play. But I suspect that it's more due to the recent departure of one Jeffery Hammond-Hammond, whose stunning basslines are forever missed. So is his out of control humor, and I think the band suffers.

Anyway, the songs. We start out strong with the goofy rocker "Quizz Kid." As well as not being spelled correctly, it has a great little opening, with foreshadowing of the title tune and medieval percussion (later used on "Weathercock").

"Crazed Institution" is an equally goofy rocker, which nevertheless has a stately sounding chorus (dig the organ). Both tracks happen to be fairly lush. "Salamander," on the other hand, is a fast, all acoustic number, equally good. Sounds a bit like the opening to "Cold Wind to Valhalla," played for speed rather than atmosphere. It has a great flute driven instrumental ending.

But my two favorite songs are the next pair. "Taxi Grab," which used to be my absolute favorite, digs all the way back to the psycho-blooz of This Was. It's loud (best guitar on the album), it's good fun, and the orchestra meshes with the band perfectly. But the crown jewel is "From a Dead Beat to an Old Greaser." It's a slow, quiet ballad with beautiful undertones, mostly via the violin (not to mention the late nite sax via the David Palmer). It's not quite as good as "Skating Away," but it's that same simple, sad vibe.

Now, it's a bad sign when the second side opens with "Bad-Eyed and Loveless," a dull ballad foreshadowing things like "White Innocence" in more than name. Oh well, at least it's short.

Still, nothing on the second side quite lives up to the first. "Big Dipper" is a kinda filler rock number, the only song that really deserves any of the ire flung at the album (in the conceptually sense, it's not particularly annoying or anything. In fact, I rather like the vocals on that one). The title tune, which I won't bother to keep spelling out, is a little overlong for me. Time has brought out the upsides to it though. It's got a fairly pained, depressing riff that's kinda cool. It's a little over the top what with the orchestration, but that saves the song from being really sad (particularly the boogie- woogie bit, that reverts back to that bombastic riff). And I just used "kinda" twice in a paragraph.

Anyway, the last two songs provide a pleasant exit from the album. "Pied Piper" is an acoustic flavored rocker with a great opening and eerie chorus. As for the orchestral ballad "The Chequered Flag (Dead or Alive)," the presentation is, once again, a little too over the top for my tastes, but the tune itself is gorgeous.

So, the album flows well. The musicianship is tight and professional, if not outstanding. Almost everything on it is good, if not "jump outta yer seat rock-a-tude" good. And it's not as samey as it seems. It's just that the band is missing something (Uh...Jeffrey? I'm just sayin'!), so you have to dig a little to get the meat inside it. But, come on! This is progressive music! If you didn't have to dig a little, you'd be insulted!

(Now, as is often with the case of albums I like a lot but can't quite give the higher rating to, I make it up with the remaster! Surely Too Olde will be no different, right? Uh, not quite. The acoustic "A Small Cigar" is amusing lyrically (actually, quite amusing), but a little lackluster in its delivery, perhaps because it's a little longer than your standard "Cheap Day Return" fair. But the, utterly charming rocker "Strip Cartoon" is toe tappin' fun, in a blatting organ/string quartet sorta way. Unfortunately, I can't raise the rating for one song. Sorry Too Olde diehard fans...oh, wait, you don't exist...)

The Whistler | 3/5 |


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