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Family - Family - Masters From The Vaults CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.08 | 6 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Now, a quick word of commentary (myself being Family's, apparently, last commentator. Sniff. Well, whatever gets you up in the morning) before we continue: the track listing on this thing is SCREWY, with a capital Z.

Okay, so then this is Family's Slipstream. And, what do you know? It's a lot worse. Just as much fun though, although I wonder if that was the point. Heh. See, just like Slipstream, this is a collection of conceptual videos and live, concert footage. The difference is, of course, that Jethro Tull is a professional powerhouse, and Family is, well, Family. Which means that these films are energetic and roughly played, but sloppy as hell. Oh, and, there's this annoying habit of starting the songs in the middle and cutting out before the end...

"Strange Family" is, for whatever reason, considered a bonus track. Oh well, ignore that. It's right at the start (although first we see Poli Palmer screwing up on a vibraphone. Don't worry though, he gets it later on). Anyway, nothing too special about it. Chappo does a good job screaming though (and nice violin lines). "Part of the Load" is good from an audio point of view, but that's because it seems to be dubbed in from somewhere (unless, you know, Chappo honestly CAN make a dual-vibrato on his lonesome, and I'm not exactly ruling that out). But, say, the video is actually kinda cool.

And then it fades out, and "Good News Bad News" comes outta nowhere! I love Chappo's little introduction, and it's certainly a good workout for him both vocally and visually (watch the tambourine!). Other than that, the (attempted) vocal harmonies are kinda cool, and it's certainly energetic and visceral enough, but I detect a couple of missed notes in the somewhat messy jam. "Holding the Compass" starts out as kind of a dorky live number, but turns into this real cool video of the band just sort of dicking around! It's too bad that, once again and as usual, it seems to end before it's really had a chance to start.

Since "Music in a Doll's House" isn't represented my hope is, naturally, mostly with the Family Entertainment material, and "Processions" goes off beautifully (yeah, you heard me, "Processions"). If you thought it was nice before, listen to it now. For one thing, they've slowed it down, allowing the tune to stretch out and breathe. In fact, it's slightly augmented with some lyrical allusions to "No Mule's Fool" (hence the mislabeling), but trust me, more "Processions" than "Fool" 'bout this'n. The soloing has also been extended to allow for the guitar and violin. I miss the piano, but that gorgeous violin really makes up for it. Best song on the video, although I'd rather have something less offensive than Chappo's head obscuring the screen half the time...

I hate to say it, but "The Weaver's Answer" lets me down. It is, like all their live versions, extended, and features Chappo taking things a little less...subtly. But that's not the issue; I'm more concerned about the energy. Where is it? The rhythm section is great (Townshead is awesome, as usual), but where's the manic soloing? The instrument noises popping in everywhere? Admittedly, the flute is used creatively, but it's still an average live performance. Which IS good...but I expected great! Oh well, still worth it for Chappo, especially at the end.

By the way, "Weaver" has one of the more interesting videos, although a close call is the ending credits (over which "Dim" plays, but it's just the album version). The chubby girl in the bad wig runs around in fast motion and dances with the band (?). Yeah, it's THAT good.

I know this gets a pure three star rating; that's because, as far as video goes, it's pretty crumby. The special features are all ads, and the main attraction is a mixed bag that largely depends on your love of the band. Me? I adore Family, so I'd set a high mark in my personal book. And so should all Family fans. The lads aren't touring anymore, right? This is the only place you're gonna see your heroes!

And, if I might extend that, I think that's it's almost essential for any (fellow) diehard Tullers to see this video. Family's influence on Tull is evident in the music, to be sure, but you really have to SEE Family to see how Mr. Chapman influenced Ian's stage persona. Chappo certainly embodies the figure of the totally controlled, perfectly restrained psychopath, always ready to go nuts.

Still, I guess what I mean to say is that is not bound to make any converts. It was the first Family product I owned, but I was already predisposed towards Family (having already mentally prepared myself with samples of the band. OoOo, "Weaver"). And, from that point of view, it could work...if it weren't so damn laughable half the time. Unless that's the point. But everyone else? Seeing Chappo go into an epileptic fit on stage while "butchering" the classic might just not do it.

But you know what? Screw 'em! Let the rest of the world go "What the CRAP was that?" You and me, we're Family fans! We can just smile, shake our heads, and say, "That's our Chappo!"

By the way, I really wasn't kidding when I said that all the extras on this thing were ads. I won't really bother going into them, suffice to say that they're all prog (and prog-related) DVDs in their collection; you just have to choose your other favorites. You should watch 'em once, just to see the clueless fanboys being interviewed by the Norwegian chick. As for me, I recommend the Uriah Heep one, if only for the appearance of a certain special guest...while everyone else is worried about their super important "project," he's talking about the menu!

The Whistler | 3/5 |


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