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Jethro Tull - Nothing Is Easy: Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970 CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

4.16 | 155 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I'll never know quite why early Tull was always tossed in with Led Zep. If you hear the live shows, that bitchin' organ and guitar trickery will always make me think of Deep Purple with a flute. Besides, weren't the Zepsters always about creating some kind of eerie groove? Tull wasn't about that. They was about rockin'.

Case in point: we open with "My Sunday Feeling." Haven't I used that sentence somewhere else? Oh well. The live version is no different from the studio save for two things: first, it slams you WAY harder. And secondly, the guitar solo is much, uh, for lack of a better word, better. It's louder, faster, and cooler. Further proving that Martin is the superior guitarist.

The album's "surprise" number comes in the form of a pre-album, rough around the edges "My God." It still blows you away, I love it when Martin holds that single note (and Ian's remark about the intro always cracks me up), although the gothic chant mid-section has been switched out for a kind of proto-flute solo improvisation. No sin there, none at all.

"With You There to Help Me," an all time personal favorite, starts out REALLY well. They couldn't create the lush psychedelic sound of the studio, so they didn't try; instead, those crazy Tullers retooled the song, like those little piano arpeggios John plays on the pianer under the opening. Very cool that. Unfortunately, it ultimately morphs into "By Kind Permission Of!" What can I say? It's just like the Living in the Past version, just without the psycho intro. Too bad; I had high hopes for that track.

"To Cry You a Song" though comes off brilliantly. The guitar soloing is just as powerful on stage, if not more so, and Clive Bunker definitely smacks the drum kit like he never did in the studio. Also, notice how the instrumental parts are sped up for some reason. The birth of speed metal? Blackmore who?

"Bouree" is next. That song's great, of course. The bass solo is extended somewhat, but, what can you do? It's a live hard rock album! An artsy one! SOLOING! Wait, uh oh..."Dharma For One." It's...uh, well, it's "Dharma For One." Need I say more? It's padding for an extended drum solo that's not really different from the Living in the Past version.

The good material on this album is pretty even, but I'd peg the best number as "Nothing is Easy." It was good in studio, but it's brilliant on stage. The way Ian speeds up and slows down the vocals? Great. And the little solo spots everyone gets? Also great. I love John's trippy organ.

Oh, but it's not over yet. We have one final song, a medley, if you will. "We Used to Know" is given the "With You There" treatment; new, different life on stage. And it's still great. Amazing soloing from Ian and Martin (how could they keep it up?); and the instrumental midsection that conjoins the two songs is probably the best of its kind on the album. I mean, it's better than "By Kind Permission Of" or some drum solo. It's not consistently enthralling or anything, it just happens to be the most interesting; Marty really is quite good on that six string. It's still overlong; he has several places to shift into "For a Thousand Mothers," he just happens to choose the farthest off. "Mothers" goes off great, maybe more rockin' on stage than on the album, with the infamous coda still in tact.

Now, this album was always guaranteed four stars based solely on song power. First off, all my favorite songs from the first four Tull albums are here (well, "Serenade to a Cuckoo" is not, but its spiritual brother "Bouree" is, so, it all works out). In fact, barring "Dharma," no song is without its merit. Also, the Tullers play to their guts out on stage (Bunker's psycho drumming and Cornick's fat bass are better than they are in studio, all of the additions from John's keyboards feel perfectly natural ("With You There," "Cry," "Nothing is Easy," that...medley thing, even "Dharma"), and Ian and Martin are god-like geniuses. Or at least real good). In fact, this album showcases their abilities to play as coherent group, but still maintain their individual musical quirks. But there's more to the album than that.

It's also one hell of an archive document: it proves that the Tullers could really play on stage (although the Ian banter and instrumental breaks would improve over time), and they were really embracing progressive ideals. Now, Ian claims in his silly liner notes that you'll find no prog rockery here. Hmm. Then explain the screwing up of "With You There" and the interesting timing on "Cry You a Song?" I mean, the man even said that Tull could be considered a combination of the Who, the Moody Blues and Tiny Tim! If that doesn't scream "progressive," I don't know what does.

But there's really only one reason why you'd really want this album: because it rocks. Hard. HARD. Admittedly, you can overlook the little flourishes and not see the emerging prog rockers on stage. But what are they then? I dunno...folksy, bloozy, psycho proto-metal heads? Sure, that wraps it up pretty neatly.

The Whistler | 4/5 |


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