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

TOO OLD TO ROCK 'N' ROLL: TOO YOUNG TO DIE!

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.09 | 745 ratings

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TCat
3 stars Originally conceived as another rock opera from Jethro Tull, "Too Old to Rock n Roll, Too Young to Die" fell between the albums "Minstrel in the Gallery" and "Songs of the Wood". It was the 9th album for the band and was released in 1976. It also featured a new bassist in John Glascock, who previously had played for the band "Carmen". Glascock would remain with the band until the recording of "Stormwatch" when Ian Anderson laid him off with pay because of his concerns about Glascock's health and wild lifestyle. Glascock died soon after this.

The main character in this concept album is Ray Lomas, who falls victim to the cyclical nature of rock n roll. He begins as a successful singer, then falls out of favor with the public when their tastes change. But he decides to stick with his sound because he figures it will become popular again. This was Anderson's true feelings about music, and it also reflected his fear that it would happen to Jethro Tull's music. He was right, but he also tried to adjust JT to sound more current by later adding more keyboards, which is apparent in the albums "A" and "Under Wraps". It did almost result in the end of the band, but they persisted and the band was all the better for it. Now they are a classic band loved by old and young proggers everywhere. Yay! Anyway . . .

In "Quizz Kid" the protagonist wins money in a TV game show. The song starts out with subdued theme of the title track, which introduces the character. From here it builds to it's own main theme, which is more complicated featuring all the usual traits of JT's music, guitar both electric and acoustic, flute, and the baroquish lilt they are famous for, along with the complex and ever changing melody. "Crazed Institution" has a more folk style to it being more acoustic. The song describes the bad side of the music business and the usual propaganda that has to come with it. While artists have to deal with popularity and the press, at least there is always music where they can escape to when they need to. But the popularity always wears on an artist as they become more important than their music.

"Salamander" is a short acoustic piece with a few lyrics. The acoustic work by Barre here is quite impressive and the addition of the flute at the end is perfect. Next is "Taxi Grab". This one is more of a heavy rocker as it starts and adds in a harmonic on the chorus. The guitar solo on the break is pretty good too.

"From a Dead Beat, To an Old Greaser", he reminisces. The song is very heartfelt, with a lovely melody and string arrangements. This is one of JT's most heartfelt songs and features some emotional lyrics and thoughtful singing by Anderson. The pensive, thoughtful style continues on to the next track "Bad Eyed and Loveless", but the track is much less interesting. This flows into "Big Dipper" which starts to pick up some steam at this point. By the time you get to the chorus, the track has become more of a solid rocker with progressive sensibilities.

The title track comes next with it's returning theme starting the track and moving into the folk style of the verses and the build to the chorus. This is one of my favorite JT songs in that it also seems heartfelt. The orchestral strings and brass also make this an attention getter on the album. Definitely a highlight here with a very memorable melody. The protagonist has awoken from his coma 20 years later after trying to commit suicide to find that he is older, but that his music is back in style and he has become popular once again. I love the change to the greaser rock style at the end of the track to coincide with the story. "Pied Piper" becomes more acoustic as it tells about Ray's new found youth as the young people accept him because of society's return to his style. Now he fits in again.

The last track on the original album is "Checkered Flag (Dead or Alive)". It has a more cinematic feel to it, especially with the addition of the orchestra. The verses start off mellow, but build as they continue to the sweeping climax each time, and Anderson's vocals are expressive. Even so, it doesn't give you the pay off that you expect of the last track. It is a decent attempt, but doesn't quite get there, probably because the actual band doesn't really get the last word on the album.

The 2002 remaster of this album has 2 more tracks: the outtake "A Small Cigar" is a verbose and acoustic track with a decent melody, almost sounding like a song from a stage production. I would say this is more what the album would have sounded like if it really was a rock opera as originally planned, and the flamboyant piano at the end pretty much clinches that theory. The 2nd bonus track is the B-side to the single "The Whistler" from what would be the next album. The track is called "Strip Cartoon". This one is also mostly acoustic, and also a pretty standard JT track.

Many fans don't like this album as much as the others released during this time in JT's discography. Granted, the albums that came before and after were definitely much better than this one, however, this album is not a complete waste either. At least it's better than some that would come later. Part of the problem is that there isn't as much room for the instrumental interplay that is apparent on other albums. There are some classic and excellent tracks here nonetheless, but it is lacking in some respects also. At this point, I think there may have been more emphasis on the story and not so much on the music. I still find myself returning to this album anyway for the high points, but I also know I don't love it as much as some of the band's other albums from around the same time. I feel it reaches at least a 3.5, but tends to round down to 3 stars. But, I still don't think it's one that should be passed by.

TCat | 3/5 |

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