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Jethro Tull - Stand Up CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

4.05 | 1213 ratings

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5 stars There are many things in this world that I do not understand, and in the field of popular music, one of my greatest puzzlements is this: how is it that this album isn't universally regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time, or even known about by a lot of music fans? Before I swore off classic rock radio, I never once heard any of this album's songs on the radio, and I know there are casual classic rock fans (and casual Tull fans) who aren't familiar with this album at all. And, heck, it doesn't seem to be rated that highly by the majority of Tull fans; at one point, the All Music Guide gave it 2.5 stars, which was less than what they gave to A (3 stars). Well, you know what? As far as I'm concerned, this is one of the greatest albums of the late 60's, and in my mind comes extremely close to such acclaimed works as Beggar's Banquet and Let it Bleed.

The first major difference between this and This is the guitarist. Due to various creative differences, Mick Abrahams left the group to bounce around various small bands for the rest of his career. After a short stint with future Black Sabbath axe-man Tony Iommi, the group picked up the terrific Martin Barre. This guy really is incredible - extremely versatile, with a full, rich tone, his very presence would bring a serious rock element to the band for the first time. Heck, he even played flute on a couple of tracks - what a cool guy.

The second difference, which is even more important, is that Ian finally discovered that he had an incredible songwriter within him. Of course, as a corollary to this, he became a complete despot from this time onward, and in later years it would've been nice to have an additional writer in the band to help out when Ian's talents began to wane, but for now it's all good. There are ten tracks on here, each one a gem, with only a small quibble here and there on my part. Furthermore, the sound of the album is just amazing, showcasing all of the best aspects of what I described in the band's introduction with none of the bad aspects.

Three of the tracks on here are complete and total classics, and are easily among the very best songs the group ever did. The first, the opening "A New Day Yesterday," is a blues song, but it's better than any blues on This Was if for no other reason than that it has a simply terrific riff accompanying it. My personal favorite part of it is the way Martin does that neat little slide at the end of each riff repetition, but it also includes a solid middle jam (featuring both great guitar and flute solos, with a badly needed sense of 'looseness' that would tend to get lost in later years), good lyrics, and a nice coda (something that a lot of songs on here have, by the way). The second, the best song on the album, is a rock, blues and classical fusion of a Bach number entitled "Bouree." Even if you've heard the original (and you probably have, even if you don't realize it), this cover version will simply blow you away (and the jazzy section in the middle will drop your jaw at how utterly wrong it is, as will the bass solo). And it's got another great coda, with Ian panting the same note on his flute over and over again until the band closes together. And finally, there's the first song of side two, "Nothing is Easy." WHY this is not playing on every classic rock station in the country every day (or at least on the ones in Chicago) simply blows my mind. The vocal melody rules, the jams between verses are great, and that coda is AWESOME. I do admit that I can see finding it a little cheezy; it's the kind of "rev up and rock it to the max" coda that has become a staple of live shows for thousands of rock bands around the world, and thus hearing it in a studio setting might seem offputting. Then again, Tull deserves a lot of credit for coming up with this kind of coda in the first place, and there is a terrific build of energy and intensity up to the very end of it, so I'll probably never get sick of it. I can say is that there is nothing in this world like banging your head to a flute and guitar jamming the same note again and again until it all stops (especially after it had been built up like this).

Don't forget the rest of the album, though. For instance, there's a couple more terrific rockers, "Back to the Family" and the closing "For A Thousand Mothers" (with a great album- ending jam following it). The former starts off alternating between a simple electric folksy- bluesy shuffle (with lyrics about being bored with family life) and a more intense bluesy section where Ian sings over loud repeated Barre power chords, with an exciting flute part in the breaks, and then accelerates into a frantic flute-and-guitar jam for a coda. Here's a tip; listen to the coda jam while crusing down the highway one day, and if you don't feel the pure creative energy and excitement that comes from this album in that moment, then you and this album just aren't compatible. And then there's the closing track, which has a GREAT riff, although the production leaves something to be desired. The lyrics are among my favorite on the album, about getting to sneer at those who tell you you can't do something when you then do it, and my favorite moment is when Ian sings, "It was they who were wrong and for them is a song," followed by a brief, aggressively sneering flute line.

Hey, there's even a couple of great ballads! Of course, "Look Into the Sun" and "Reasons For Waiting" do sound a bunch alike, but they're still simply gorgeous, and they're easily the best slow ballads that Ian would ever write (though a small number come close). The latter is also the first instance of David Palmer's association with the band, as he arranged strings for it in a wonderful way. Keywords for these are: rich vocals, crisp tender vocal melodies, logical chord progressions, gorgeous fluting. There's also a nice introspective quiet number called "We Used to Know," which has the chord progression the Eagles would use on "Hotel California." The best part of it, though, is that Barre does his best Clapton imitation, turning on the wah-wah and pulling off a simply wonderful solo. I've seen it accused of being the first power ballad, which I guess isn't something to be proud of, but it's an amazing song nonetheless, so whatever.

Finally, there's also a couple of 'grooves', and while they're weaker than the other songs of the album, they're still fairly well-written, and don't lower the album's rating. The first is a bizarre balalaika-driven number called "Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square," and while it's amusing, I'm glad that it's only two minutes long. The other is an Indian-tinged song called "Fat Man," where Ian laments about being, well, fat. The lyrics are hilarious, though, no matter which way you look at it.

So there you are. In my esteemed opinion, no decent rock collection is complete without this. And since it (like the rest of Tull's discography, which fully came back into print in the late 90's) is easy to find at basically any store, you have no excuse for not going out and buying it asap.

tarkus1980 | 5/5 |


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