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Jethro Tull - A CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull

Prog Folk

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1 stars There are only two good songs on this one - Black Sunday (the best tune), and Flyingdale Flyer, (Pine Marten's Jig is also bearable but not memorable), the rest is terrible, painful, crap formula, bad music.
Report this review (#16678)
Posted Wednesday, February 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
1 stars OK, give it another halftstar!!!

Same remark as the previous one . I don't know who highly recommends this but there are about 90% of the J T albums to discover before this one - one might even say it is worth investigating rap and boys band before attacking this dud. All kidding aside , this album is clearly not one of their best , but during the early 80's Tull was going through changes ( this clearly started with the sub-standard Stormwatch ) and most of the second or third line-up of the band (Glascock, Barlow, etc..) were leaving one after the other and being replaced by veterans of other bands ( Jobson, Mattacks, etc..) with only Martin Barre hanging on.

Yes , Tull was modernizing its sound and this was a rather painfull process (especially for our ears - jesssss kiddddiiiinnnnn), and this album reminds me of Yes's Drama or Genesis's Duke albums. The unfortunately awful synths sound brought in by Jobson for this modernization are partly the culprit for this album sounding awkward , but also the songwriting is rather uninventive and Tull simply sound a a loss for real project.

Report this review (#16679)
Posted Thursday, February 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars ok this is maybe their weakest but it's still good, we have great songs like Crossfire, Flyingdale Flyer, Black Sunday or Protect And Survive, well actually most of this album is on the good level, maybe sound should be better but I likie it anyway...
Report this review (#16680)
Posted Thursday, February 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars I like this album so much. My favourite is maybe 4WD. Very interesting music, with lots of new ideas and it is made with new musicians in 1980. I cannot understand the others, who just did not understand this music.
Report this review (#16681)
Posted Monday, March 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars "A" marked an obvious change in Tulls music as they attempted to fit in, or somehow were influenced with the technology driven 80's. This and "Crest of a Knave" I consider the bands two best 80's albums. There are some very strong songs on "A" some of them being "Flyingdale Flyer" and "Working John, working Joe" as well as "Black Sunday" and "Pine Martins Jig". The band is in fine form with new bassist Dave Pegg as well as Mark Craney taking the drum throne and the two make a nice rythm section. Excellent keyboards by Eddie Jobson over from Roxy Music. Marin Barre sounds very strong on this release even though with the bands change in direction. Ian still has his voice and the flute parts sound great with this newer musical direction they were taking. I will always be surprised that they chose to open this album with "Crossfire" which while a good song does not seem like an opening number at all. Go out and buy this album as it is worth owning.

Rock Madanoff

Report this review (#16683)
Posted Sunday, April 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This JETHRO TULL album is really unique! This is because of the presence of the keyboardist and violinist Eddie Jobson. The king of the modern keyboards gives us here an overview of how interesting his variety of sounds are. Sometimes very clinical, sometimes floating, those keyboards never leave the listener indifferent and there are even excellent piano parts. He also masters his electric violin: this give a pleasant complementarity to the electric guitar of Martin Barre. The compositions are not extremely progressive, but the complexity and depth is really impressive. Drums are outstanding: Mark Craney made couples of albums with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty; that's why it gives a fusion influence to the album. Each time Eddie Jobson is on an album, you can be sure to find very attractive and addictive musical elements.
Report this review (#16685)
Posted Sunday, April 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Hate it, don't you? Rumour has it Jethro Tull produced another bad album, and one of the worst - well, that's not true. Listen to these tracks! Eddie Jobson (Roxy Music, UK, Zappa) is not a silly guest, and his technological influence on this album (a great number of keyboards, that's true) have not to be considered as bad: DO YOU HATE KEYBOARDS? Do you really dislike a folk rock band because approaching progressive lands? I'm sure that the low rating usually accorded to 'A' is a habit - most pseudo-progster haven't listened WELL.
Report this review (#16686)
Posted Monday, May 31, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Not as bad as some reviewers make out and it was a bold step for JT to move away from a stagnant formula which had reared it's ugly head on Stormwatch. The keyboard work is not at all bad and some of the songs like ' Flyingdale Flyer', ' Black Sunday' and ' The Pine Marten's Jig' are great.
Report this review (#16688)
Posted Thursday, August 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Certanly a not essential album, but interesting...The first side is really good, the second it's not so...Eddie Jobson's hand is very noticeable, great keyboards and violin work... As one of you said, this work is unique, that's because Ian Anderson was planning to release this album as a solo project and wanted to experiment with the new sounds of the era (Eddie Jobson was only an invited member), but it ended as a Tull album, well probably with or without "A" in his/their catalogue, the direction of JT was already planned...The essence of Anderson and Tull are there, though the spacey sound of the album...What a strange album, but what a great musicians!
Report this review (#16689)
Posted Wednesday, September 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars I've never agreed with the concensus that this is one of Tull's worse - in my opinion this is in their top ten. The pervious year's "Stormwatch", whilst containing some good tunes is probably one of their most boring LPs, whilst 1982's "Broadsword and the Beast" has to be their most over-rated. This, on the other hand, is innovative, original and slightly bonkers - everything you need from Tull. The music is wonderfully driven and very intricate, whilst the lyics concentrate on nuclear war, terrorism, consumerism - fantastically bleak, late 70s paranoia stuff. It loses marks for the admittedly terrible "Batteries Not Included" - one of their top five horrors to this day - but the rest is pretty darned good, whilst "Black Sunday" and "Fylingdale Flyer" deserve to be ranked amongst their very finest songs.
Report this review (#16690)
Posted Monday, September 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars In late1980 I read in a Rock magazine that the band called "U.K." had split recently, and that their former keyboard player, Eddie Jobson, was a new member of Jethro Tull. As I liked the band "U.K.", I had curiosity to listen to this Jethro Tull album called "A", which I bought some days later after John Lennon died, in December 1980. As someone mentioned in a previous review, Ian Anderson started this album as a solo project. Before this album was recorded, Jethro Tull lost/fired three of their members:John Evan, David Palmer and Barrimore Barlow. I don`t know the exact details, but it seems that the record label didn`t like Anderson`s solo album to be a solo album, so this "A" album became a Jethro Tull album (I don`t know if it was before or after it was recorded), with Martin Barre, and new members Mark Craney and Dave Pegg, and Eddie Jobson as "special guest". It is interesting to hear Jobson`s keyboards and electric violin in this album, particularly the keyboards in "Fylingdale Flyer", "Black Sunday" and in "And Furhter On" (my favourite songs in this album). In "The Pine Marten`s Jig" Jobson mainly plays the violin, in this "English Folk" song. Eddie Jobson is also credited in the back cover with "additional music material" under the "Songs: Ian Anderson" credit, but in the label only Anderson`s name appears as composer (as maybe he wanted all the royalties as composer for himself, as usual!).This is a good album which is interesting for me mainly for the contributions made by Jobson and the rest of the members of the band, which are very good. It seems that this album was out of print for several years and it was re-issued on CD one or two years ago. Like Ray Davies of The Kinks, Ian Anderson has more success releasing albums under the name of a band (Jethro Tull) than releasing albums under his own name. I don`t know why this happens, but maybe Jethro Tull fans prefer Anderson with the contributions of good musicians like Martin Barre who has been in the band since 1969 and also has released several solo albums which maybe are not very known.
Report this review (#16691)
Posted Tuesday, November 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars A started out as an Ian ANDERSON solo album and turned into a full-blown JETHRO TULL project. Despite a mixed reception when it first came out in 1980, it stands up as a solid JT album today. With some remastering, tweaking, and a DVD with early videos and concert footage, you get the best of both worlds. One can appreciate the care that went into this presentation. Adding a DVD that is a greatest hits compilation (to that point) was a smart way to approach this sleeper. I refer to it in this light because I think it is indeed a good album and it deserves more credit for its worthiness as another prog-rock dandy that should find a place in your collection even if it has not been one of the critics' darlings.

Martin Barre's guitar work is superb per usual and Anderson is in fine voice on this album. Dave Pegg (bass) and Mark Craney (drums) form a great rhythm section for the ever- changing JWTHROI TULL lineup. Considering how quickly they had to make the transition into the band, they need a strong acknowledgement for their efforts, even if it is 24 years later. What made this album different from any other release was Eddie Jobson and his contributions with the keyboards and violin, giving the band a new refreshing sound. Rather than ANDERSON dominating the tracks, this sounds like a more balanced band. Barre's guitar playing is restrained rather than bursting with the explosive energy found on previous albums. I found this ironic in that it started out as an ANDERSON solo project, then how his role changed as it developed and matured into a full album. ANDERSON stepped back and let everyone else flex their musical muscles, which in the end, showed what a brilliant and flexible leader he could be. The results proved to be surprising. This may not be the greatest JT album but it is certainly very good.

Report this review (#16692)
Posted Wednesday, January 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Okay, I have to stand up for this album... It took me several years to "get it" despite (or because of) having about 4 different copies of it on cassette and CD. I wasn't there when it came out so I didn't have people going on about how it sucked compared to TAAB and others. So I was able to come at it with fresher ears. I tend to like their underdog work, I guess because the classics didn't get to me first, and I never heard any of it on the radio anyway.

Consider what it took to get to this record being made and released: John Glascock's death, the turnover of most of the band, a dying popularity of complex music due to punk and new wave. The bass player on A was best known for his work in folk rock music. The keyboardist was best known for his prog and fusion background. The drummer was the first American in the band. Ian was going out on a limb to do a solo album that sounded nothing like the stuff he had already proven he could do solo (Jack in the Green, among others).

When I hear A, I hear what must be the most energetic and well, active, Tull music ever. If you get off on rhythmic complexity, then this is about as rough and tumble as Tull ever got. Mark Craney is a powerhouse of chops, and he takes the whole band with him. There are lots of arrangement details in here while still coming off like an incredibly tight rock band. Eddie Jobson is nimble fingered on two instruments, weaving in and out of crazy melodies and rhythms like no one's business. Martin Barre is there digging in harder than he had in the few years prior, or is at least more prominent in the mix, and holding his own with Jobson who was by far the most advanced keyboard player in the band to that point. Dave Pegg is there contributing some classy and advanced bass lines on fretted and fretless bass (with ample midrange presence so you can hear all his notes). Ian is playing less acoustic, but his flute work is as good as anything he ever did. There isn't anyone slouching off here. This is definitely NOT music that can be played with your brain off. Some songs thunder, some are bittersweet, some are fun, some are just dizzying. Did I miss something? This is Tull on steroids here. When I think of Tull albums that sound like a bunch of guys just showed up for work and punched the clock, I think of Minstrel In The Gallery and Too Old To Rock and Roll. I think the SFTW/HH/SW cycle were also excellent albums in a lot of respects, both individually and as a group, and I think A is great in its own way. The playing is great throughout... but the thing I think that sets Tull apart from the pack is that the playing never really obscures the fact that there are lyrics, and a vocal delivery that still comes off as a song. What I hear in Tull's music is advanced SONGwriting. You could take away a lot of the extra dressing in the mix and arrangement and still be left with a song that makes some sense. Tull never let the chops eclipse the heart of the song. Ian's lyrics keep revealing more and more, as I get to know them and compare them to his other work. I think any of us could relate to the sentiments in Black Sunday or Working John Working Joe.

Sonically, the gizmos that cropped up on this album that weren't on previous albums include phaser on the electric guitar, flanger on (picked for extra harmonically rich tone) fretless bass, the rich tones of the synthesizers, the muted and funky sounding CP80 piano, electric violin with effects, vocoder... 1980 was a good year for new sonic toys, or at least the exploitation of same, and after a decade of acoustic guitars, piano, flute, and other acoustic instruments, it was time to cut loose some. The album just sounds fun, like there was some spark. It doesn't seem self conscious like some of the sleepier mid 70s stuff does. When I hear this CD, I have to remind myself that it was the same year Ian bought the fish farm and decided to get more serious about his income. This record sounds like he wanted to counterbalance his new career with the spontaneity of music. This is musically edgy. Sometimes it sounds like it's going to spin out of control.

The only long lasting slam I reserve for A is the sonic quality, or lack thereof. Apparently, according to Ian there were increasingly bad tape stocks around that time, and unfortunately this is a casualty of that period. The sound is very veiled and dark. The drums don't punch or crack like they should. Ian's voice sounded really muffled, like he had a blanket over the mic. But sonic anomalies aside, the music itself is solid. It keeps a spontaneous and active feel throughout, like people had to come in and throw down in the ring, then mix it. Rock Island sounded much better, but was more forgettable IME because the spark was missing from a lot of it.

I urge people to give this record a fair shot. Don't compare it Aqualung or TAAB and you can go a greater way toward actually liking it for what it is... a one off album while Ian was trying to reinvent himself. Getting the new package with the DVD is nice. It was nice to see Craney on bass, Jobson on mandolin, and Pegg on bouzouki for a performance of Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day. The performance of Black Sunday was good enough for me, even though most of the Slipstream video is pretty corny. Some of the corn would be better left to the ephemerality of a live performance, and not committed to permanent form. Nonetheless, with all the Tull albums being remastered and rereleased, I thing they are great things to have in your collection.

Report this review (#16693)
Posted Thursday, February 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I am one of the few people that prefers A over Stormwatch and Heavy Horses. I wasn't too impressed with either of those two, yet A caught me right away. I can't exactly explain why I like it either. I thought the Slipstream DVD was hilarious and was very glad it was included with this. I personally do not see why Heavy Horses is in the top 25, but maybe it's just me. I think A is much better and was ultimately impressed with it after being skeptical from the previous two. At this point I have only heard up through A chronologically and after having such different feelings with where Tull is now, I am extremely curious of Broadsword and the Beast. This is all thanks to the positive impact A had on me.
Report this review (#16694)
Posted Friday, March 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
2 stars In fact this is a disappointing album, too much poppy tendencies. I mainly bought it because of the contribution from Eddie Jobson but at this album it seemed that prime mover and 'leader of the gang' Ian Anderson wouldn't allow Eddie Jobson too much in the musical spotlights. Apart from some great sounds from his Yamaha CS80 synthesizer and some violin, Eddie Jobson has a minor role. Strange because during the "A" worldtour Eddie Jobson got a lot more space to show his extraordinary talents on keyboards and violin (sensational to see him with his transparent violin, I still have a picture from Eddie Jobson on this tour on my hifi-set!). You can witness some magic on the "Slipstream" video/CD which is not included in this Jehtro Tull section I discovered.
Report this review (#36332)
Posted Sunday, June 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album (along with Under Wraps and Walk Into Light) is heavy on the synthesizer. So some do not like it. I personally like this album a lot. It is definitely not in the same mode as Thick as a Brick or Aqualung....but this is still a great album. I'd take it over 'Too Old To Rock n Roll' any day. The problem I guess....with fans of this that it's not really that progressive. That doesn't mean that it's not good.
Report this review (#38407)
Posted Sunday, July 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars EXCELLENT! There is a new CD / DVD edition, which does not appear here, but believe me, it is great. The album is already reviewed here so, I will say something about the live concert. It is a kind of Video-Live Concert mix, not very long, but very well done. Specially the funny "Sweet Dreams" video where shows an Anderson vampire like. My favorite moment is within "Wild Horses", when there is an amazing violin-flute duo, playing exactly the same, Eddie Jobson and Ian Anderson making pure magic. Jobson plays a later transparent violin and a Gibson mandolin too. Well, you do not need to watch the concert, to notice it is not any keys player is actually performing on it, specially in "Black Sunday". Left handed Mark Craney does a terrific job so Martin Barre. This new edition worth every penny.
Report this review (#38855)
Posted Friday, July 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I agree with Gyurci (03 15 2004), in this album there are a lot of new ideas. New line-up, out of the prog/folk trilogy of the classic days. This one is always better when someone listen to it more times! That's because you have to discover the new tendencies of this great band! And this music is JT at their best! The same I have to say also for Brodsword And The Beast!
Report this review (#41108)
Posted Sunday, July 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Even though this album is not Jethro Tull's best, I still enjoy playing the CD. It's probably by the time the album was released the prog rock music was not famous at all and this album still had its strong root with the Jethro Tull's tradition. I would say that "A" - which supposedly be an Ian Anderson solo album - is the simpler form of Jethro Tull's "Songs From The Wood" where keyboard / organ is heavily used throughout the album. Songs like Pibroch or Hunting Girl from "Songs From The Wood" album has inspired the music style of this album. This album had been for long not available in CD format so I upgraded from cassette to CD just last year.

"Crossfire" (3:54) is a medium tempo music combining keyboard, flute and unique singing style of Ian Anderson. It continues into similar style of music with "Fylingdale Flyer" (4:36). "Working John, Working Joe" (5:04) is simple song performed in medium tempo. "Black Sunday" (6:36) is a keyboard-drone music with great combination between flute, piano and unique singing style, performed in relatively fast tempo. The piano work is really great especially during interlude or transition piece. "Protect and Survive" (3:37) starts off with wonderful flute work followed with relatively complex music in complex arrangement. "Batteries Not Included" (3:53) is a rocker that continues the spirit of previous track. Flute and electric guitar give nice sounds. "Uniform" (3:34) was once my favorite track as it has good composition and melody. "4.W.D. (Low Ratio)" (3:42) and "The Pine Marten's Jig" (3:28) are good . One best favorite track of this album is the last track "And Further On" (4:22) because it has a tight composition where the music moves through low and high points nicely, with excellent melody. It begins with a beautiful piano work followed immediately with Ian Anderson's singing in floating style. I love the electric guitar solo performed during chorus.

If you are new to Jethro Tull's music, this one is not a good one to start with. You might want to start Aqualung, Heavy Horses, etc. But if you are a die hard fan of Jethro Tull, you must have it . Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#42579)
Posted Friday, August 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars This is a pretty good album, featuring such a great musician -E. Jobson- in the role of guest star, even though you cannot find any particular hit inside neither thrilling songs. Jan Anderson tried to maintain a certain pleasant "rock and roll-mood" here, that is a classic rock with hints of the old sound (otherwise the violin by Jobson is always quite progressive oriented, also as a simple accompaniment instrument) and in a more modern vein.obviously I prefer another kind of rock genre: well I don't think that Jan Anderson & C. are perfectly involved into a mainstream style, nevertheless They developed this latter music method afterwards, in the good and controversial album entitled " Crest of a knave". Its structure is simple but always interesting and, as for this reason (by considering their efforts to change their approach in the composition) "A" is worth checking out at least, especially for whom is not in the habit to refuse a kind of music which is not strictly could change idea after a careful listening, but the true early folk progressive stuff by J.T. was another thing. interesting work but it's not so exciting after all, even though you could add another half star!!
Report this review (#46420)
Posted Monday, September 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hey if "A" wasn't released it may have been the end of Tull. This album IS the most underated in the Tull catalogue. It does not have a bad song/tune on it. If you can name one bad song on this me and tell what it is and I'll tell you that you are wrong and remind you that it is probably superb. "A" is a 180 degree turnaround from Tull's previous 3 offerings, which were all folk related. I was getting bored with the King Henry Madrigal type music and the genius of Anderson saw this and "A" is the outcome. Don't believe those that say "A" is no good. They are wrong. This was truly new wave at its best......fresh, invigorating and Eddie Jobson's input was great. Go and get is not dated. What more can I write about this album to get it on the review sheet? I've been a Tull appreciator for 33 years.................what would I know. A big 5 star from me.
Report this review (#57771)
Posted Friday, November 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Definitely my favorite Jethro Tull album, although it appears few share my enthusiasm. As far as I'm concerned, "A" is the perfect Tull progressive experiment; it has enough of the older elements which made the band great in the '70's while also introducing much of the new sounds and innovations of the '80's. Tull tries out some electronics on "A"; sure, much of it seems tentative at times, but when they went full-force on this side of their experimentation on "Under Wraps" many (not I) thought they went too far. And the interim album ("Broadsword") seemed all too much like a step backwards, so in retrospect "A" found the perfect balance between the old and new. There weren't any hits off of "A"- in fact I can't recall ever hearing a single track played on the radio, so many casual fans may not even be aware it exists, while serious prog fans may not bother due to the album's less than stellar reputation. It's a shame in both cases, for "A" is a magnificent disc, one of the '80's greatest and (in my opinion) the finest album to ever bear the Jethro Tull name.
Report this review (#60436)
Posted Thursday, December 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I never had seen a prog album so polemic. This is my personal opinion. I´m not a great fan of tull but with the presence of Jobson this album call my atention. I give 4 and a half stars to this album because: 1) The composition, perfomance and production are excellent.I get the new edition that includes a DVD with the concert of this album called slipstream where you can see these guys in action (wow!!). Sorry , but this is not an album of one star. 2) This album is unique in the history ´cause joined two dinosaurs of prog rock who came from two different styles (prog folk and symphonic prog). The fusion of these two styles are amazing. In my 30 years of hear prog rock i don´t remember songs like "Uniform" where the flute of Anderson and a the classic electric violin of Jobson are fusioned giving a extraordinary sound and melody "sui generis". 3) the music is complex and the same time very diggest, there´s not epic long songs but in general all the album is very nice. I think the problem of this album is not the quality of the music, the problem is WHAT IS THE CONCEPT of the album?. is this a Jethro tull album or an Anderson's solo album?. Originally the album was a solo project (the title "A" is for Anderson) tells Ian in the new edition. Whatever the guys of the record company (mabye for a better marketing impact) suggest launch it as the new album of Jethro Tull. Surely this was killer for the old fans (and for the rest of the band) 'cause that was understood as a break of the original band and finally the album passed to the story for some fans with this terrible fame unjustly. For this reason i recommend hear it as an Anderson´s solo album. In conclusion, if you are a fan of the classic old Jethro Tull and you wait an album as Aqualung, Thick as a Brick or Heavy Horses maybe you will be disappointed. For other hand for fans of the classic prog, Symphonic or Art Prog this masterpiece is widely recommended.
Report this review (#75551)
Posted Wednesday, April 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
Man With Hat
Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
3 stars A is a rather strange album IMO. The first one of Tull's discography to heavily use electronic sounds. This could be seen as an advantage or a disadvantage. Personally i see it a little more as a disadvantage, but more about that later. Eddie Jobson adds a nice touch to this album, filling it with violin, more so then previous Tull works. The musicans are in good form, and the instruments don't sound that bad (mosting meaning the drums not having that 80's sound. Its slightly present but doesn't really do the damage that sound does). Downsides: A few of the songs sound the same. This is most likley due to the electronic sound usage. Also, many of the songs sound like the voice is being manipulated to give it a processed effect. I'm not sure if this is the case, it just sounds like that. Either way, it also helps the songs sounding similar. A second downside: Ian's flute is not really showcased all that much. Many of the solos are handled by the guitar, keys, and violin. This is not nesacarily a bad thing, it just doesn't give it that "classic" Tull feel. But enough about the bad.

Highlights: Black Sunday. A very well done song and definitly worthy of classic Tull status. Includes a great guitar solo (especially on the DVD). Solid lyrics backup this very well written and well played number. Second, Protect And Survive. This song just has an awesome feel to it. One of the few "upbeat" numbers on the album, which is a plus IMO. Again, very well written and very well played. Finally, The Pine Marten's Jig. This one again breaks out of the overall feel of the album and is more in vein of classic Tull. Wonderful flute and guitar work, and overall a very good song.

The DVD: Not a bad little collectors item. By far not the best DVD of Tull's work, but a solid one nonetheless. My only complaint is that live footage is mixed in with video type footage (and some of it awfully stupid IMO). I guess i just miss the humor. But the live set makes up for it. Highlights: Black Sunday (with excellent guitar solo), Aqualung, and Locomotive Breath (as well as Ian's stage madness).

All in all, this is a solid Tull album. Although a bit of a letdown after the wonderful Stormwatch, it doesn't diminish the high points. The DVD is a nice bonus with the remastered edition. Definitly something for Tull fans, or for anyone who is looking for something alittle different by JT. 3 stars.

Report this review (#75927)
Posted Saturday, April 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
3 stars As others have said before me, this is by no means essential JT fare - however, this does not prevent "A" (which was originally to be a Ian Anderson solo project, hence the name) from being a rather pleasant listen. Besides,the remastered edition has the added bonus of a DVD, titled "Slipstream", which includes both videoclips and shots of the band's live performance during the tour they did to promote the album. On this DVD it is possible to witness some exciting versions of JT classics, such as "Locomotive Breath", enhanced by Eddie Jobson's peerless keyboard and violin work.

As a matter of fact, the blond, androgynous whizzkid (still very young at the time) appears as a special guest on the album, and his presence is possibly the most interesting element on "A". His synths give the band's folk-tinged sound a modern edge, although his contribution might have been given more space. The other band members include, besides stalwart guitarist Martin Barre (one of the most underrated six-stringers in rock), Fairport Convention bassist Dave Pegg and late American drummer Mark Craney, who unfortunately passed away just last year.

Standout tracks are "Flyingdale Flyer", a jagged little number with some great flute work by Mr Anderson himself, out-and-out JT-style rocker "Black Sunday", heavyweight "4WD (Low Ratio)", with its plodding yet strong rythm, and folky instrumental "The Pine Marten's Jig". The other songs, though not really anything to write home about, are certainly more than adequate and easy on the ear. As usual, Anderson's lyrics are sharp and witty, and he sings them in his inimitable, expressive style.

Though far from being an essential purchase, "A" is performed well enough to deserve to grace any good-sized prog collection, and will certainly provide an entertaining listen for those times when something more demanding won't do. Three solid stars.

Report this review (#85415)
Posted Tuesday, August 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars We have to admit that "A" can not be compared to masterpieces such are "Aqualung", "Thick As A Brick" or "Songs From The Wood" but, mind you, there are no many albums in genre that could be compared to those, so keep in mind that "Average or just good from Tull" is still far better than many other band's best efforts. And this is a very good album. Why?

Well, I'm not considering it as a start of the Tull's 80's period, it's more like end of the 70's. Their glorious era ended with "A", and not with "Stormwatch". The album shows heavy emphasis on the synthesisers (Eddie Jobson was the first proud owner of the Yamaha CS80 synth in the UK), but although heavily synth-driven, this album can not be piled with the 80's synthpop crowd. The reason is because it's particularly experimental, you can find same fine examples of complex drumming (real drums, not the programmed toys), and there are some nice tempo changes thrown in, they were experimenting with vocoders, and blending electronic, rock, folk music with some Eastern influences (in "Uniform"), violin is a nice addition, and I dare to say the lyrics are worth giving your attention. All that ingredients are spiced up with a slight touch of fine humour.

In a way, this album reminds me a lot of THE MOODY BLUES' "Long Distance Voyager", the album that I deeply respect for almost the same reasons stated above. "A" is just a slightly less mainstream and "disco-ish". What else do you want? 20-minute mellotron-based epic? In 1980?

Most of the great band from the 70's tried to find a new sound in the eighties and most of them failed. The same goes for TULL, but the very beginning of the transformation process from the 70's imaginative caterpillar to 80's mainstream butterfly is something worth having in your collection.

This is one of the finest examples of the progressive rock music evolution through the decades.

Report this review (#97080)
Posted Saturday, November 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Stormwatch was not their last prog-folk era album, so it seems.

If a Jethro Tull album has to be called their first sell-out album, this isn't it; 'tis their next album "Broadsword And The Beast", which I found quite boring and tedious. This was still darned with very cheesy production, thus one has the prejudice to call this their sell-out. But the songwritting muse was still there, providing Anderson with rich melodies and odd time signatures, but basically this was not the prog-folk JT as far as members are concerned; yet the music still has that folk drop that was omnipresent in the famous "folk trilogy".

Of course, basically the album sort of sounds different, adding electronic instrumentation (still no drum machine) and even violin is brought by the proficient Eddie Jobson, adding the fiddling to the folk. Another reason of this change came from the fact that this was not even supposed to be a JT album, but the first Anderson's solo album; but I guess some greed got the worst part of the record company to sell this as another Tull record, and in doing so, they sacked everyone who were not involved in the project (Barlow, Palmer and Evan). Probably not the best move, and who knows what might had happened if the former Tull line-up had stand all along. But this is not as bad as the next two albums.

If you're dubious about this one being forgotten prog-folk Tull album, just listen to "The Pine Marten's Jig", "Uniform" and "Working John, Working Joe", and ake a judgement off them. 3.5 stars really, but lowered.

Report this review (#99113)
Posted Thursday, November 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
1 stars A few bands had already done it : entering the synth pop world (ELO adding even disco influences). It sounds great when Tubeway Army, Human League or John Foxx does it. But, can you imagine the Tull doing so ???

This album was originally to be a solo effort from Ian featuring new members of the Tull (Dave Pegg and Eddie Jobson who will also bring his friend Mark Craney on drums). Ian will ask Martin to join for a few tracks and he will play on the whole album.

When Ian Anderson (hence the title "A") played the work to the record company executives, their suggestion was to release it as a Jethro Tull album ! Since Barrie Barlow (drums), Evans (piano, organ) were not initially involved in the project, Ian will say tat he needed to contact official Tull members to check with them. But Chrysalis's boss announced publicly in the press that the new Tull line-up will feature Jobson and that other guys had been replaced". This summary can be found in the remastered edition of the album's liner notes.

It is quite a weak album. The weakest ever so far for the Tull (more to come).

Maybe an error ? Or a joke (Ian having such a great sense of humour) ?

I really had to struggle to find a good track here : probably "Black Sunday" or "And Further On" (hey, that's two) ! "Working John...) is not too bad either. The only good news about this album is that Eddie Jobson does a pretty good job on the violin. I purchased this album in a late packaging (in 2004) that includes a DVD (Slipstream) with some good old Tull tunes (clips and live moments). Since it is separate from "A" for review, I will post mine for "Slipstream" in the appropriate section.

"A" is really useless (even if some reviews consider it as a masterpiece). So, do not bother to spend any money on this one. Only buy it with the DVD inclusion (almost the same price as the standard CD - I guess they knew what they were doing) if you are a die-hard Tull fan like I am. Otherwise, just stay away.

One star. What did you do to us Ian ?

Report this review (#108266)
Posted Sunday, January 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
The Whistler
2 stars (What the cheese, a 2.5)

No prog band entered the 80's peacefully. It's a sad fact of life; I wish it weren't true too. Pink Floyd and Yes were falling apart, Genesis were selling out, King Crimson was giving a New Wave sort of a thing a shot, and no one honestly cared where Emerson, Lake and Palmer had gotten themselves. I'm not judging, I'm just reporting the news.

Well, what about Jethro Tull? If memory serves you right, they'd actually fallen apart last year. Ian has a fancy explanation for that one (involving solo projects and newspaper clippings, which sounds suspiciously like the Passion Play incident), but facts is facts. Whether his domination started in '69 or '75, '80 is the year that "Jethro Tull" truly became "Jethro Ian." But that shouldn't matter; what matters is how well did the lad(s) enter that golden age of simplistic, sythn driven pap (er, "pop")?

Well, Jethro Ian decided to make an "electrono-folk" album called A; for Anderson, naturally, although it should be for Acceptance, because not only is the old Tull gang gone, but the old Tull sound is too (for good, in both cases). Yep. It's the electronic values of the 80's, blasted through that familiar folksy flute. Sounds doubtful, doesn't it? Well, for a while, you actually think ole Jethro Ian can pull it off. "Crossfire" is a catchy hard rocker about a shootout. It's not bad for an album opener, and it's got a surprisingly solid guitar solo.

Every album needs a "classic" song, the one that makes its way onto the latest compilation. For A, it's "Fylingdale Flyer." And for me, it's the best song on the album; it's certainly the most memorable. It's also the first experiment in that "electrono-folk" I was talking about earlier. It's got a bunch of synthesizer driven special effects, but at its heart, it's just rich vocal effects. It's also got the best subject matter on the album: a glitch at a nuclear missile launch site.

"Working John, Working Joe" is another sorta folksy shuffle. It's still fed through synths of course, and a little slow for my tastes, but it's pleasant enough. "Black Sunday" is a layered, driving, somewhat sad mini-epic about leaving home, or going home, or, wait, it's about leaving home. It might actually be more solid than "Flyer;" but it's much more laden with electronic gimmicks (particularly the intro), so I prefer "Flyer" just THAT much more. Still, it's got the best soloing on the album, in the instrumental break.

Unfortunately, it can't last. If only side two were a copy of side one, I might enjoy the album a little more. "Protect and Survive" has a folk jig for an intro, but don't be fooled! It's so drenched in electronic effects, you'll barely be able to understand it. Which is really too bad, because there's actually a good song screaming to be let out underneath it all.

Not so with "Batteries Not Included," which is just a wretched ride from point beginning to end. It's repetitive, ugly and uncharming. Want to know what it's about? It's about a kid...who dies. Oh, good one guys. Now you've offended me AND depressed me. "Uniform" is totally unmemorable, and if it has any saving graces at all, is Jobson's violin. "4.W.D. (Low Ratio)" ranks as one of Tull's worst songs ever. It's about a guy who buys a car. It's trying to be funny (I hope), but, along with "Batteries," it's so buried in its own electronic effects it's unlistenable. And, like "Batteries," it's one of the worst offenders, not to mention the fact that the drum intro us ripped out of "No Lullaby." Waste of a plinky-plink pianer, I tells ya...

Some grace is won back by "The Pine Marten's Jig," but even that has issues. It's an instrumental that's, well, a jig. More folk. Probably better than "Warm Sporran." Jobson's violin is great as it duels with the flute (particularly during the climby part). But Dave Pegg's bass, although lively, is showing signs of drifting into the "poppin'" bass sound I dislike so, and even more annoying is Barre's tin laden solo. Of course, if you're a shred head, this might be the Tull song for you.

We close with the utterly ineffective ballad "And Further On." It's soft and gentle, but it's still got those Goddamn cheeezy 80's electronics in it! Even so, it's a pretty boring song.

So there 'ya go. I mean, in spirit, the album's okay. It has a mild conceptuality to it (sort of a plight of modern society/end of the world type of thing, so it's really just picking up where everything else left off). And it's still about experimentation. It's just that the experimentation failed, and for the first time in his career, Jethro Ian let me down. There have been albums that just got past on the "okay" mark before, but this is the first Tull record that really displeases me.

Of course, I give it the extra point-five for a reason. First off, Jobson grew on me. I know he's a guest player, but his guest keyboarding is pretty good (the best keyboarding we're gonna have for a while). And his violin is really good; of the various Tuller violinists on record, he's my favorite.

The second thing is largely the electrono-folk aspect. Specifically, "Pine Marten" and "Protect" have also somewhat grown on me (as much as they're capable of respectively). But they're still somewhat lost. Which is probably how Jethro Ian was feeling as he recorded this album. Just look at 'em in their white jumpsuits; they hardly know how to get off that helicopter.

(Although A itself isn't much of an album, the remaster is pretty damn sweet. Why you ask? Because it's got the concert footage/music video collection of Slipstream on it, that's why! A definite cult highlight within the Tuller community, Slipstream contains a live show with a rendition of "Black Sunday" that's probably better than anything off the A album itself. There's some goofy music videos of "Dun Ringill" and "Fylingdale Flyer," and beyond that: a good "Songs From the Wood," a great "Heavy Horses," an amusing "Sweet Dream" and "Too Old to Rock 'n Roll," a gorgeous "Skating Away," a rockin' "Aqualung," and a messy "Locomotive Breath" (deep breaths). Screw it, just read my review of Slipstream. Now, rather than suggest that Slipstream is sullied by the A album philosophy, I prefer to think that A is benefited by the former's presence. Raise the remaster one whole star, to 3.5 (2.5+4.0=6.5, 6.5/2=3.25, round up to nearest one half, 3.5). Crap, betcha never thought you'd have to do math in a Jethro Tull review!)

Report this review (#114122)
Posted Saturday, March 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Another very underrated album and quite a strong album. The remaster has a great dvd included. A great way to start the 1980's although the band had a new look. Tull go more electronic in this album but the folk elements are still there
Report this review (#115019)
Posted Wednesday, March 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This JETHRO TULL album is really unique! This is because of the presence of the keyboardist and violinist Eddie Jobson. The modern keyboards on this album gives us here an overview of how interesting his variety of sounds are, not to mention that Eddie Jobson is an excellent violonist. This album is one of my favourite prog albums ever, and one in my top 3 of Jethro Tull after A passion play and Songs from the wood. Very fresh, a mixt between old Tull and new wave on keys make this album to me a fabulous one. Still complicated, musicaly speaking but remains in the sound of the early '80 prog, pop-prog, something like Yes on Drama or Rush on Permanent waves, but delivering good composition diversificate as structure. All the tracks are good, i will not mention one because all are super. I see that this album is not so good viewed here but to me is super. 4 stars and recommended. Great.
Report this review (#132505)
Posted Friday, August 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

Like most of the successful bands of the 70s, JETHRO TULL was at a crossroad when the new decade came.In order not to be considered as a fossil or a relic, especially from the recording companies, one had to adapt to the new ''modern'' times or else.Even Very successful mainstream rockers such as Don Henley, the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, David Bowie had to evolve and changed their sound to remain relevant in the opening 80s

As IAN ANDERSON wanted to record a ''solo'' album ,he decided to go for a different sound, not in the vein of good ol' JETHRO TULL and started to record 'A'' with the help of EDDIE JOBSON .We all know how the story ended up with the music company going public announcing a new ....JETHRO TULL album. The other permanent JT members learn that way they were not part of the new plan and felt quite betrayed. That's the original version as i can imagine the qualityof the language of the conversations when IAN called EVANS, PALMER and BARLOW on the phone to explain the misunderstanding; not vey nice, i assume!

The amazing thing is IAN ANDERSON asked MARTIN BARRE to participate on the recording of 'A'!! What kind of a solo album is it when you have Anderson teaming up with his TULL guitarist , the 2 most prominent members of the band for the songwriting and the TULL sound. I mean IAN ANDERSON is JETHRO TULL; just add MARTIN BARRE and how it can be a solo album??

But the star of ''A'' is neither ANDERSON or BARRE; this privilege goes to EDDIE JOBSON, the ''' special guest' 'member of the band who didn't want to consider JETHRO TULL as long term project. Also present are bassist DAVE PEGG who took over the late JOHN GLASCOCK for the STORMWATCH tour and drummer MARC CRANEY from South Dakota.

This is not the JETHRO TULL from your grand parents, the one ''we used to know''!This is 80s JT with a new sound, more modern with all the synths you want and the most up to date electronic equipment. Forget the mandolin, forget the lute and the string quartet, forget also the acoustic guitar from IAN as well!. There is no minstrel entertaining some count in his medieval castle. There are no earthy songs from the wood on ''A'.The cover is now a high tech space design with all the members in the same astronaut uniform . TIME WAS, no more!You still have some flute (wouldnt be JETHRO ANDERSON otherwise), the heavy guitar of BARRE, but what you notice first is the omnipresence of the keyboards and electric violin from EDDIE JOBSON!.

When 'A' was released, i didn't like it as it was definitely a very different sounding JT. I bought it as i was a faithful fan but never really played it more than 2-3 times. I couldn't go into it and so i was part of the criticizing legion ''what happened to good old TULL" and i forgot about it until now when the new remastered CD was released with a DVD. Once again, for complete collection purposes i bought it and gave it another try after a poster here on PA recommended me lo listen to it one more time.And thanks to him,i am glad i did!

Not that 'A' has become a sudden masterpiece, but this is a GOOD album nevertheless; Yes the sound is different, definitely more ''modern'', but that is still JETHRO TULL. The songs are more straightforward , lasting from 3 to 6mns, but you will find great solid song writing on this album from the catchy opener CROSSFIRE to the violin led-UNIFORM. What is there not to like in FLYINGDALE FLYER or BLACK SUNDAY?? Good TULL songs as good as anything they did in the past.A lot of good energy!

Maybe some fans are turned of by the synths sound, but i guess 27 years later, it doesn't affect and we have to accept than your favorite artists have or want to change. I am not the same person that i was in 1980. IAN ANDERSON is not in the same spirits than he was in 1968. Everybody is allowed to grow and to adapt to a new (musical) environment.

Also if there is change, it's good to notice there is no sell-out from the band. Jethro TULL has not become a boy band; this is just a solid modern sounding JT. IAN ANDERSON sings as good as usual, the flute is still around and BARRE still plays hard. The difference is EDDIE JOBSON!! But this is someone with some startling references: he played with FRANK ZAPPA, ROXY MUSIC and led UK with JOHN WETTON. And if you take the time to listen to his performance on 'A', he is really good and add a lot to the sound with his violin and grandiose piano playing; Actually he acts like the musical director on this album. He is the sound of the album.

So a different TULL? definitely! but why not trying something new! a violin all over JT music! i think it was something interesting and fresh to experience. There is no winning anyway for these guys! or they change their sound, it's a betrayal; or they remain the same true to their old sound and they become static or lacking of new ideas.

There are no acoustic ballads, but 'A' is a damn good rocking album! this is not a excellent addition to a prog collection, so won't be 4 stars, but i would like to give3.5 stars.


Report this review (#134924)
Posted Sunday, August 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Some people think that A is too dominated by synths. I agree, but still the classic Jethro Tull sound is present. Songwriting has not changed yet, and neither has Anderson's voice. This album is unfairly underrated.
Report this review (#152181)
Posted Thursday, November 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Certainly something else!

Since this was originally intended to be an Ian Anderson solo project that somehow got the Tull stamp it's no wonder that this one is a lot different than the Tull we've been used to up to this point. Let's also not forget the unfortunate loss of certain members on the album before this one and the fact that we've now been plummeted into the 80s. On this album the synths are more prominent than ever, the folk feel has been cut down considerably so that it's become more electro folk than anything, and in fact has an almost industrial air to it (but not the Rammstein kind of industrial... now wouldn't that be interesting?). There's some classic tunes on here as well as some that don't work out all to well, but in general this is a release that's just different from the rest of the Tull collection. It also seems as though they've wanted to shed the prog tag at this point in order to get something more hard rock, likely since prog was going out of style at this point. There's no sprawling epics and nothing else that could really be considered prog on here, but on the whole it's an enjoyable album.

The songs are all shorter, and some of them benefit from it. There's a couple of classics right off the bat with this album, side one is considerably stronger than side two. While this may not be Tull's best album (in the prog sense) we still have a couple of amazing songs like Fylingdale Flyer with it's excellent melodies to carry us onwards while the opening Crossfire rocks us with some hard rock with a pinch of folk at the solo. Also on side one is the excellent Black Sunday, which is arguably the crux of the album, and one of the best songs to come out of Tull's 80s period. Fast, frantic and well preformed, this is the one moment of progressive greatness on the album, and an essential song to a prog collection. If you like Anderson's fast flutes and haunting lyrics and vocal delivery then this song is for you.

Of course, side one isn't perfect. Here we also have the definitive nadir of the album in the form of Working Jon, Working Joe which is just plain skipable. Voice fx on Anderson don't help how weak the chorus of the song is with the quirky synths becoming nothing but an annoyance.

Side two proves to be not quite as good as side one, but maybe more consistent with no songs to really drag it down. Each one is quite frantic in pace and Jobson continues on his good job of playing those synths. All the songs here are rather short and some of them could have stood to be longer simply to help get the idea across, but then they would have done that if they really wanted to make a 'progressive' record. Hard rock again prevails in songs like Protect and Survive and Batteries Not Included with a pressing synth to help drive them. An excellent prog-like moment in The Pine Martin's Jig as a fun instrumental that brings us to the final song which finishes off the album well.

This is a good album that Tull fans will certainly like more than those who don't fancy the band. By prog standards this one gets 2.5 flyers out of 5 with Black Sunday being the majority of that mark. However, if you fancy yourself a hard rock fan who doesn't mind synths or somewhat of a Tull freak then you can easily add another half star to that one. This one really is for fans and collectors, but they'll get a big kick out if it.

Report this review (#177961)
Posted Wednesday, July 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have a soft spot for this album. Lyrically I think it is one of Anderson's best; the lyrics are compact, to the point, have a strong rhythm and in for example in 'And Further on' or 'Black Sunday' a certain doom-laden grandeur, which follows on from some of the themes set out in its predecessor 'Stormwatch'.

It is very much, an album of the late 1970's, in both its subject matter, the UK Iranian Embassy siege (Crossfire), nuclear war ('Fylingdale Flyer', 'Protect and Survive'), the daily drudgery of the working life (Working John, Working Joe, Uniform), technology ('4WD' and 'Batteries Not Included') and in the album art, with a similar aesthetic to The Strawbs 'Deadlines'

The biggest difference, compared with its predecessor's is in the music, with temporary new boy Eddie Jobson's electronic keyboards, replacing the warmer more classical tones of David Palmer and John Evans, although the folk influences still show in one of Tull's best instrumentals, the Pine Martin's Jig'.

If it has a week point, its the album's production, although the remastered version does improve things, the bass is still somewhat muddy and overall the album has a thin sound to it.

Report this review (#203868)
Posted Saturday, February 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 stars really

A was about to be Ian Anderson solo album. Fortunatelly he invited Martin Barre to record electric guitar parts and it became another Jethro Tull studio album. Eddie Jobson as special guest was responsible for all keyboard parts and he played also electric violin which was good for this release really. Not remastered CD version sounds pretty lame so if you want it louder and clearer better go for remastered version. Album starts with cool hard rock tune Crossfire. It's very good song and very catchy. Still not cheesy so you can enjoy it the way you enjoyed North Sea Oil or Quizz Kid. Flyingdale Flyer was set for promo video. It's still good song with great vocal lines. Working John, Working Joe is something closer to Heavy Horses but not as good as songs on that famous release. Black Sunday is probably the best tune on A. Mostly due to fantastic piano parts. But this song is also quite heavy. I mean not as heavy as heavy metal just more like classical hard rock. Protect And Survive is dynamic and great flavoured with violins song. Violins appear also in Uniform. In fact there's kind of country and western solo on violins. Very original I must admit. Batteries Not Included is dark and heavy song with experimental synthesizers. I like it very much. 4 W.D. strong blues rock song with typical flute parts of Ian Anderson smells oil. A good one. And that's it. Last two songs don't touch me at all. I don't know how to classify this release. It's still progressive I think. Still not cheesy. Still good album. There's lack of something. I don't know, maybe lack of conceptual mood that would make a bond between the songs. But I enjoy this record anyway. Maybe not the best Jethro Tull album but worth of attention. It's a bit experimental stuff done by Ian but experimental in a good way.

Report this review (#212206)
Posted Thursday, April 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Conceived by Ian Anderson as a concept around the turmoils and tensions of modern society with an aim to make it a solo album, the fact that it turned out to be a Jethro Tull album doomed "A" to be highly controversial among fans and critics -well, I see how and why it is controversial, but mostly I find it lovely and refreshing. Being signalled as a Jethro Tull album after all, "A" should be approached and appreciated as a thorough labor of evolution for the JT sound into the early 80s. It comes in the wake of the final folkish trilogy achievement, "Stormwatch": this one managed to complete a varied array of musical ideas that combined folk-rock, prog and hard rock, but it also brought out the dangers of self- repetition that emerged after the fabulous preceding studio gems "Songs from the Wood" and "Heavy Horses". For "A", Ian Anderson plus the perpetually loyal Martin Barre and the distinguished newcomers Jobson, Pegg and Craney avoided the afroemtnioned trap and went for a refurbishment of the band's living legacy. Of course, with that comes the danger of "treason", but in my humble opinion, such thing doesn't come out. Instead, the abundant synth work delivered by Jobson and Pegg's punchy bass work manage to instill a sense of modern energy to the band's overall sound in a solid rock context - no techno, no new-wave and no post-punk here. Craney's percussive work is stunning, providing a sensitive refreshness among the colorfulness and density provided by the guitar solos, keyboard domination and ever soaring flute solos by Anderson. This is no treason, but a creative reconstruction organized by a host of musicians who preserved their love for art intact while keeping themselves busy within the new airs of rock and art-rock. So... let's go for the album itself. 'Crossfire' is half-inspired by the crisis generated around the Iranian Embassy in London when beseiged by a host or Arab separatists: the song is a sweetly flowing rocker stated on a funky-friendly rhythm pattern - not special, but catchy enough as to bring the mood of excitedness and restlessness intended by the lyrics. 'Fylingdale Flyer' is a very effective progressive rocker that incarnates a perfect mixture of the kind of "modernized Jethro Tull" that Ian Anderson had in mind and the sort of dynamics that UK created for its trio-phase. The set of unusual tempos and mood variations feels perfect to portray the habitual tension in a world full of nuclear weapons. 'Working John. Working Joe' sounds like a leftover from the "Stormwatch" days repackaged under the new guise, and it certainly serves well as an anticipation for the style and dynamics of the album's mini-epic 'Black Sunday'. I agree with everyona else on that 'Black Sunday' is the most accomplished composition in the album - again, it has a very Tull-meets-UK feel to it, with monster guitar and piano solos arriving in proper places, as well as a wisely architectural provision of the rhythmic developments that take place. At this point, one has to wonder seriously if thsi album can be regarded as one of decay and mediocrity. The first four tracks of side 2 aim more closely at the usual pop-song pattern, but not totally: sure there are some Devo-esque mannerisms in the utterly sarcastic 'Batteries Not Included', but I personally cannot and must not overlook the attractive playfulness of 'Protect and Survive', the driving exotic appeal of 'Uniforms' and the blues-rock infections of '4 W.D.' The first two feature tremendous violin input by the virtuosic Jobson; the latter one brings old bluesy musos into the modernized JT typology. But if you want more violin in a perfect marriage with Anderson's flute flourishes and you really miss the pre-80s Jethro Tull to tears, then 'The Pine marten's Jig' is the sort of track that you had been waiting for so eagerly. This instrumental is another reminder of the "Stormwatch" days with a gentle touch of "Songs from the Wood": only the inventively distorted vibrations of the electric violin and the fuzzed pounding of the bass guitar keep you reminding you that this is not the already gone 76-79 line-up. And so, all things must end and this album ends with 'And Further On', a prog rock ballad that is delicate as it is powerful, an elegy to mankind in a context of constant fear for nuclear destruction and political mayhem. The lyrics of this song (as well as of 'Black Sunday') are among the best ever written by Anderson, and in terms of melodic depth, this is the vulnerable side of JT at its best. So, as a final proof that "A" is not a mediocre album, it ends with such flying colors. An 'A minus' for "A"!
Report this review (#213764)
Posted Monday, May 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars A OK

After such a super-strong finale of the 70's with 1977's Songs From The Wood, 1978's Heavy Horses, and, my personal favourite, 1979's Stormwatch, Jethro Tull entered the 80's with this rather average one-letter album. It is certainly much weaker than the three albums that had come just before, and in my opinion it is also less a lot less good than what came immediately after it (the very good Broadsword And The Beast), but it is still a pretty decent album in its own right. Eddie Jobson joins the band here and provides very nice electric violin to the mix, but the song writing is the weakest since Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll, To Young To Die! A lacks standout tracks and none of the album's songs would go on to become all-time classics or live favourites. But there are also not any real embarrassments to be found here (that would come a bit later with Under Wraps!) and I find it an enjoyable listen.

Don't miss the CD reissue that comes with the excellent Slipstream DVD as a bonus disc

Report this review (#224708)
Posted Monday, July 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Aaaaaayyyyyy!

Jethro Tull goes all 80's on your ass.

I've had both the LP and the Slipstream VHS for more than a few years. I was very excited to get a combo of those in CD and DVD format and recommend getting that package if you can. I'm going for a combo review.

Originally intended as an Ian Anderson solo project, A is sort of a transitional album for the band. I liked it at the time and still do today, if maybe in part in a more of a nostalgic way. Eddie Jobson was on board (key) and provided a major role in the band that resulted in a more synthesizer driven sound. (I swear this guy was stalking Darryl Way, who played on two Heavy Horses tracks and, of course, with Curved Air after Darry left).

It's possibly heretical to some old JT fans but Tull has always been in an evolutionary process, with Ian as the core as Robert is to Crimson and this was either an important step forward or could be viewed as an unfortunate diversion.

Even if you don't like the direction Tull took with A, you might just want to get your hands on the version that has Slipstream in DVD format. A decent selection of blasts from the past only "marred" by one track off the A album - Flyingdale Flyer. I'd have personally preferred swapping out Too Old To Rock 'n" Roll for something from Thick or Passion, but those probably would not have worked right with this band lineup. The video is a concert mixed with supplemental visuals, so it is not a pure concert video. The visuals that were added post show don't detract from the show as far as I'm concerned.

All in all, a digitally remastered, though not great, CD combined with concert DVD makes this just short of essential.

Report this review (#230000)
Posted Tuesday, August 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is one where me and my prog-brethren have issues, because I think that the first four songs alone are worthy of entering the Tull canon without blinking. True, the sound is a bit new (lots of CS-80), but Ian's gift for composing a catchy and relevant tune remains as strong as ever. The addition of Jobson is perfect, and contributes to the overall tighteness of the band. In my opinion Ian never sang better, and Martin's riffs bring forth old Tull glory immaculately. Working John, Working Joe as well as Black Sunday, remain as vital today, as they did 29 years ago, and prove that at the time the band (Yes I know, it was not the original Tull band) were at the height of their powers. My only real regret is that Jobson did not remain. However we have the DVD to remind us of what this could have been.



Report this review (#253398)
Posted Sunday, November 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars This is not a great Jethro Tull album. Nor is it a bad Jethro Tull album. The songwriting is just okay. Sometimes it feels as though Ian Anderson is just going through the motions, and some parts sound borrowed from previous songs (Protect And Survive is the worst culprit), and many of the choruses are just weak. However, on the plus side, the performance is as Tull as ever, with some great flourishes and nice solos. It also helps to have Eddie Jobson along on keyboards & violin, although his synths get a bit overbearing on Crossfire and 4.W.D.

Of note are the excellent Black Sunday, Pine Martin's Jig, and Uniform. The latter, with it's violin theme and eastern style, sounds like a precursor to the much later Roots To Branches album.

Report this review (#270498)
Posted Monday, March 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well, first of all, I do not find this to be a terrible album, as some do. Nor, is it a masterpiece of some kind of warped Folk-Rock-Electronic music. It nestles somewhere in the middle, I guess. There ARE some great songs here: "Working John , Working Joe", "Black Sunday", "4WD", and "And Further On". There are also some real dogs- "Batteries Not Included", "Uniform" come to mind. A represents a big change from what was beginning to be a repetive pattern after "Stormwatch" which fell far short of it's older sisters "Songs From the Wood", and Heavy Horses". With personnel changes came sound changes. This album reminds me a lot of the Ian Anderson solo effort which came out, I believe, around this time. In lining this up in the pantheon of Tull, I would say it falls somewhere around Crest of a Knave and somewhere just above Too Old to Rock and Roll. Good, not great. Different, but still recognizable as Jethro Tull. 3 stars. If it had another "Black Sunday" song, maybe 4. On the cheap, this is worth getting just for that one tune.
Report this review (#294750)
Posted Monday, August 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars I used to have the LP and was quite disapointed at the time. I recently purchased a new vinyl copy and I must say... Not bad at all!!!

It doesn't have the charm of "Stormwatch" and it has a couple of lesser tracks but overall I must say, after all these long years I'm actually glad I have it back.

What is clear from the start is what a fantastic bassplayer Fairport Convention man Dave Pegg is. He is doing beautiful things on the instrument here. Just listen to "And further on". He did equal things on some of Dan Ar Bras albums. I must say that this particular track reminds me a lot of "Flying Dutchman" from the previous album.

It is a much more varied album than eg "Too old to rock 'n' roll". A 3,5 really... I really am glad to have bought it again!!!

Report this review (#397611)
Posted Thursday, February 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Ah, the 1980's, the death knell of classic prog bands, yes? Well, no, it wasn't. This is the first release of that decade from Tull, although it was originally envisioned as a solo project by Anderson. Presumably, the record company persuaded him to change his mind in the name of artistic integrity; you know, the type that has the tills ringing.

I regard this as being a transitional album. It strikes me as being halfway between the exceptional folk prog phase that started with Songs From The Wood, and the harder rock phase that the band would realise with future releases.

It is by no means classic Tull. Only an avid obsessive would describe it thus, but there is still plenty of good fare to enjoy here.

Guest keyboardist and violinist, Eddie Jobson, fresh from the ashes of UK, adds some incredible textures to this slickly produced album, and it is a shame to these ears he didn't stick around longer. Dave Pegg also shines on bass, and the old Fairport stager sounds like he is having a thoroughly good time.

As with most Tull albums, it is the more folky, traditional songs that move me more. Highlight of these is Flyingdale Flyer, easily a top ten Tull track of all time for me, telling a wonderful story of the golden age of steam, and featuring some wonderful interplay between Anderson and Jobson especially.

An idea of the new direction Anderson would take the band in can be heard on the following track, Working John, Working Joe. A deliberate attempt to inject more punch into the band, edgier both lyrically and musically, it is actually very good.

Black Sunday stands out from the start bleeding, shock horror, synths as a lead. Synths as lead on a Tull album? Wash thy mouth out! As the track develops, it turns into a solid rock track, very slickly produced, and also very good. It is, perhaps, the best example on the album of where Anderson was headed, and even now, 31 years later, I find it difficult to come to terms with when I remember gems such as Songs, Heavy Horses, Broadsword & etc. Such thoughts, though, need to be expunged, and to appreciate the album and tracks such as this, a clear and unbiased mind is required. Once that is acheived, the toes and head are tapping along and you appreciate just how good it is.

Elsewhere, what we have is solid enough stuff. The Pine Marten's Jig is a fun instrumental showing a group of musicians at the top of their game. Jobson's violin is especially good on this, interplaying with Anderson's flute. 4 W.D. (Low Ratio) is a good example of Anderson's continuing whimsical lyrical style, a track that basically takes a huge chunk of fun at the expense of the times blokey car obsession. It is a good, heavy, track.

Three stars for this album. Good, but nowhere near deserving the description of excellent.

Report this review (#468198)
Posted Thursday, June 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars A good album from the evolving Tull. There are hints of the 80's "new look" that they would later take but the experimenting with electronics here didn't turn out bad at all. It is a transitional album so it is also not far removed from the previous releases. This is actually quite excellent in places. . The first side of A is the most skillfully written. 'Crossfire' is the opener and a competent pop rocker with a relatively catchy vocal melody. 'Fylingdale Flyer' is even better as well as 'Working John, Working Joe' with its convincing social statement, real emotion and feeling

The crown of the tree though is 'Black Sunday'. I'd say that it's slightly in the vein of Stormwatch, with a dark vocal melody. Later on it gets expanded with good solos and all kinds of brilliant atmospheric passages. One of Tull's best attempts at capturing that 'light pessimistic' vibe.

Of the second half, "Uniform" is decent enough with some interesting violin work but the most pleasing are the final two tracks "The Pine Marten's Jig", "And Further On". Not essential JT by any means but still a lot of very good moments. Worth picking up if you have enjoyed the band's work up to this point.

Report this review (#486317)
Posted Tuesday, July 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Eddie Jobson - a guest artist on the album - wow - was my first impression. "Crossfire" - about the 1980 siege of the Iranian Embassy in London - an ok piece of music but nothing special. This should have had a much harder edge, "Fylingdale Flyer" - ballistic missile warning and space surveillance service. This must be about an incoming missile. Better than the first track for me although the folk side of Tull is almost non existant here. "Working John, Working Joe" - a decent rock track with traces of Tull's old style. "Black Sunday" - nothing profound in the lyrics however musically and lyrically I like this track. "Protect and Survive" - A nuclear attack policy. Not a bad track. "Batteries not Included" - Tull electronica? Not bad but a bit basic. "Uniform" - I don't really go for this much "4.W.D." - By this track I've decided that I'm not a fan of Tull with Jobson - the music just goes on and on. "The Pine Martin's Jig" - now that's a bit better. More old Tullish kind of an instrumental track laced with flute and Jobson. "And further on" - After the holocaust - what's down the line? A slow track that is one of my preferred efforts from the album.

I must say that I don't much like this album - it's not what I expect from Jethro Tull. The over riding theme of the album seems to be a bleak future for mankind which is good but it could have been done a whole lot better. The Jobson spice doesn't belong here with Tull on this album. A two star rating I'm afraid.

Report this review (#942771)
Posted Thursday, April 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars The eighties. It's time to your favorite prog bands sound stoopid. But 1980's "A" (from Anderson) is the proof that a great musician could use the current "new" effects to make the music even more complex. "A" is one of my favorite Jethro Tull albums, and is one of the most detailed works from the band. It's very progressive, the most progressive and technical album since A Passion Play. It start as an Ian Anderson solo album, because of the missing band members, but it easily became a Tull album.

It's very easy to understand why this album is so hated. A prog-folk band lands into the futuristic music concept territory, featuring hardcore keyboards, synth and use of fxs. The technologic sounding and sci-fi soundscape makes the album very enjoyable. I can highlight any track because I like the whole album. IMO, the last two tracks are made for prog-folk Tull fans that really doesn't want to open their minds and realize the art from "A". The prog-fok atmosphere actually escapes from the album genre in those tracks, but it's fine anyway.

Report this review (#991784)
Posted Thursday, July 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars This was originally supposed to be an Ian Anderson solo album, but with Chrysalis Records having slow record sales, the record company asked Anderson to credit this under the Jethro Tull moniker. Yeah, this isn't the first time something like this happened, nor will it be the last. Remember the Squire- Rabin Cinema project?

Ian Anderson during this time period had some sort of passing fascination with synthesizer technology and because of this, this album is loaded with them, making it quite distinct compared to earlier albums in the Jethro Tull discography. This also makes this one of the more controversial albums the group ever released. It really sounded like nothing Anderson or Jethro Tull had ever produced before. In hindsight, the group probably regrets this album and fans seem to either hate it or love it.

I am on the "love it" side of that equation and it's primarily because Anderson had the good sense to bring a really good keyboard player into the fold: the one and only Eddie Jobson. But instead of a symphonic prog/folk prog mixture one might expect, this album sounds like Jethro Tull's version of new wave music. The end result is a rather unique sound consisting of melodic flute lines interacting with new wave/neo prog keyboard and Ian Barre's guitar. The other aspect from the Tull repertoire are Anderson's lengthy lyrics squeezed into shorter fragments than they normally would have had on their more folkier albums. The music also has a more accessible feel to it, but even so, there is a lot of stuff going on in each song. This isn't pop rock per se, but more like complicated art rock.

Anderson would later take his fascination with music technology and synthesizers to the brink of insanity with the ridiculous Under Wraps album a few years later. He would find a decent balance between the folkier aspects of Jethro Tull and modern keyboard usage with Crest of a Knave later in the 1980s.

I found this album to be a rather fascinating experiment and a rather enjoyable listen. Perhaps it should really be considered an Ian Anderson solo album as it is so different from the usual Jethro Tull releases from the 1970s. Regardless of how it got its name and who it ought to be credited to, it's valid proof of Anderson's ability to be a composer in multiple genres.

Report this review (#1064147)
Posted Monday, October 21, 2013 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars Well there may be many ways to change the line-up of a band, but this has to be one of the most unusual. Ian went into the studio to record a solo album, taking with him new Jethro Tull bassist Dave Pegg who had replaced the late John Glascock. Eddie Jobson (UK etc) was invited along to play keyboards and violin and he in turn brought drummer Mark Craney to the party. Ian admits that the first mistake he now made was in asking Martin Barre to also play on the album. If Martin hadn't come along then things might have been different' The tape boxes were marked with 'A' for Anderson, but when they were presented to the record company Ian was told that it was to be released as Jethro Tull. Apparently Barriemore Barlow had already said that he was ready to leave, but before Ian could talk to David Palmer or John Evan the fact that there was a new line-up has been announced to the press.

Given that this album is sandwiched between the mighty 'Stormwatch' and the even mightier 'Broadsword & The Beast' I have always felt that it is sadly neglected, which is a shame as it saw Ian move in a new direction. This was music that was much more rocky, as he moved a long way from 'Heavy Horses' which at the time was only two years old but was a world away from this. Punchy hard rock (although with extremely strong melodies) was the order of the day, with only occasional acoustic guitar to lighten proceedings such as on 'Working John, Working Joe' but the keyboard sounds had moved a long way from the portable pipe organ of the Seventies. 'Crossfire' is a great opener, one of the few (if not only) songs written about the Iranian Embassy siege but the highlight of the first side (as it was) is 'Black Sunday'. The studio version doesn't capture the passion that they demonstrated in concert, but it is a fine song all the same as the band drive along with Ian's view of a strike.

The second side started with 'Protect and Survive' with some great flute and lazy bass lines, but it is the synth-driven 'Batteries Not Included' (which almost incongruously has fretless bass behind it) that challenges for song of the album. 'The Pine Marten's Jig' looks back to older times while album closer 'And Further On' could have featured on 'Songs' or 'Horses'. This line-up toured the album then it was no more, although Eddie did return for one gig in Germany (which luckily enough I have on video).

The remastered reissue doesn't feature any extra tracks from the sessions, but it does contain a DVD! 'Slipstream' was the first commercially available Jethro Tull video (I seem to remember paying what seemed a fortune when I was on my student grant). It contains a mixture of songs from the 'A' tour along with some specially shot videos. Some of these are quite painful to watch now ('Sweet Dream' is quite definitely a case in point), while others really show the humour that has always been there ('Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll' is just glorious). But it is the live songs that take centre stage with 'Black Sunday' blasting the studio version to pieces, and 'Locomotive Breath' being the perfect closer to any gig.

The booklet contains the original front and rear covers, along with the lyrics as they appear on the inner sleeve and some words from Ian. It may not be the best presented package in the world but I bought this CD+DVD from Amazon for the paltry sum of '9.99. That has to be bargain of the year ' and boy did this take me back. Just wonderful.

Originally appeared in Feedback #79, June 2004

Report this review (#1100417)
Posted Thursday, December 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars During a span of three decades I have read so many bad reviews about this Jethro Tull album, and after so many years I can only say that those reviews are actually bad, not the album itself.

I remember hearing this masterpiece for the first time, and the only two tracks I could remember in the days after were Fylingdale Flyer and Black Sunday, the rest of the album did not make a greater impact on the first two or three listenings and I was thinking at time "hmmm...ok, this was strange experiment with the unknown territories, bring me the JT classics now." But as it's always the case, quality is surely finding it's way to the ears, so in the following months I noticed that I keep coming for the dose of A on a regular daily basis.

There is something very special in the way this album is produced and played (my only notice is that in Uniform bass line should have been mixed a little bit lower, and in Crossfire those funny synths blops during chorus are completely useless, but there is no perfect album anyway...), musical and technical variety heard on this work are in my simple opinion, the best pieces of music ever recorded in 1980's.

This album had a great luck in the very unlucky situation, and that is the fact that after the disastrous decision of mr. Anderson to fire the best musicians he could be with in the 70's under the Jethro Tull hat, he again somehow managed to find best of the best, especially naming Eddie Jobson and his maestrous "additional material" paired together with his marvelous musicianship skills that can be heard trought all of the album. The truth is that without Eddie in place of both David Palmer and John Evans, as well as Mark Craney on drums, this would be a true disaster on the same level as mr. Andersons true solo album - Walk into the Light and reprise of disaster heard on Under Wraps, thankfully that was not meant to happen in 1980.

Martins signature Electric Guitars (the true reason I started listening Jethro Tull) are really shining trought the whole of the record with spot on correspondance with the mood and themes in songs, while mr. Anderson's voice really hammers everything written for this ocasion. Sadly, it was the last time in his carrier that we have heard real mr. Anderson and his mighty voice on any album, he thankfully still sounds very good on the Broadsword, but it's already a two or three steps below the quality heard on A and all other previous JT records. As I said earlier, Eddie Jobson altought featured just like a guest musician here, had almost impossible task of providing the true replacement for both David Palmer and John Evans. In reality, there is no true replacement for those two, but he actually DID IT on a much different scale, giving the new energy and sound to the Jethro Tull of 1980's (violins are nailing it down a big time!), while Mark Craney on drums maybe - just maybe, did the best ever job on any Jethro Tull album, an also almost impossible task besides maestral legacy of Barriemore Barlow - techniques on The Pine Marten's Jig, Protect and Survice, Black Sunday and Uniform are just madly perfect. The strange link is surely Dave Pegg which I'm sure did the best he could, but with a huge gap between John Glascock and especially Jefrey Hammond Hammond who was in my opinion the best bass player.

This album surely needs time to really get into the ears, but as the time goes on I consider it to be one of the best Jethro Tull efforts up to date.

Report this review (#1297050)
Posted Saturday, October 25, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Nice album! In the beginning of the 80's, Jethro Tull turned to a more commercial kind of prog, and that's because of the use of electronic instruments and it resulted in a more simple songs, but the progressive music of JT still remains unique! And there's one more reason to it and only on this album: the presence of the famous keyboardist/violonist Eddie Jobson as a special guest. After a "classic golden era" in the 70's , the music is a little bit soft and the voice of Ian remains gentle and pleasant. The rhythmic section is ok, but the use of electronic sounds made by synthesizers put the mark. Overall, a good prog album of a cult prog rock band. Songs to be mentioned: Flyingdale flyer" , "Working John, working Joe", Black Sunday", the instrumental "Pine martin' Jig" and the nice final song "Still further on..." 3 Stars!!!
Report this review (#1506013)
Posted Sunday, January 3, 2016 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars JETHRO TULL was never one to rest on their laurels even when a formula such as the megahit "Aqualung" proved to be an irresistible sound that probably could have been replicated and recycled to infinity. However Ian Anderson was in it for the passion of it all. He was a true forward thinking musician who had the urge to evolve into new arenas and take serious risks along the way. While a few duds were dropped along the way (do you hear me "War Child" and "Too Young To Rock?"), most others were surprisingly cohesive and brilliantly composed. Originally slated as the very first Ian Anderson solo album hence the title of the album, A (for Anderson), it was released under the name JETHRO TULL upon request of their record label Chrysalis wanting to increase record sales. Sounds familiar, huh? In the end, it really doesn't matter because everyone knows JETHRO TULL is Anderson under the guise of a band anyway. What really matters is the music and what a surprise A is for me. This is one i had simply not been exposed to for the longest time and never really had the urge to seek it out. It turns out it is quite the catchy and well-crafted album that may not excite those who only limit themselves only to the most complex offerings of the band but for those who find the songwriting and melodies to be Anderson's most seductive force in the music, then A will not disappoint.

While this could never be mistaken for anything other than a JETHRO TULL album with Anderson's signature vocal style accompanied by the expected folk rock display of Martin Barre wailing one catchy guitar riff after another, the rest of the band is completely different from the heyday of the early 70s and after 1979's "Stormwatch" the band literally imploded leaving only the two original members carrying the musical torch. Barriemore Barlow had left the band due to severe depression, bassist John Glascock left to start his own band and keyboardists John Evan and David Palmer were simply fired for unknown reasons. In the wake of the big change was the addition of bassist Dave Pegg who only appeared on a couple tracks on "Stormwatch" now on board full time, new drummer Mark Craney who added a totally new percussive style to the mix and the most noticeable differences of all with the inclusion of Eddie Jobson who not only added Keith Emerson type symphonic pomp and new wave keyboards to the mix but contributed his sophisticated electric violin skills as well. The result is that A is simultaneous more symphonic prog sounding at times, more folk infused at times and even dips into bluegrass all the while maintaining the catchy folk rock catchiness in the songwriting department. It also takes the modern era into mind and seamlessly weaves new wave type keyboard melodies into the mix. Anderson's vocals are still top notch and this album excels in extreme progressive time signature work outs, more frenetic and demanding than almost any album before or since.

For me the progressive qualities of JETHRO TULL have never been their greatest attraction. Yes, they managed some serious progressive behemoths in their days with albums like "Thick As A Brick" and "A Passion Play" but for me the true magic lies in the simplistic beauty of the songwriting where even the simplest albums are fun fueled trips into their folk rock playground. The album A is absolutely no different in that regard. True that it will never compete with the progressive crowd's expectations of such complexity but this album has plenty of satisfying progressive time sig workouts while never for a moment sacrificing all the addictive folk rock melodies that made this band the superstars that they were. With all the new musicians on board delivering new experimentations especially with Eddie Jobson's excellent keyboard and violin contributions, this album displays the full maturity of a totally new sound for the band and one that should have steered throughout the 80s. Personally i find this album to be quite exciting and definitely the best thing released under the JETHRO TULL moniker of the entire 80s. This is quite the really brilliant album that not only takes the folk rock aspects of what came before but seamlessly fuses them with Emerson type symphonic prog, new wave type rhythms, bluegrass and touches of adventurous and complex progressive workouts. It more than works for me.

Report this review (#1609448)
Posted Saturday, September 10, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars My first taste of the "A" album by Jethro Tull came via listening to "Working John, Working Joe" on one of NYC's FM stations sometime in 1980. It sounded solid and refreshing, especially after the staid "Stormwatch" and the lackluster "Heavy Horses". Don't get me wrong, as both albums were chock full of quality songs but they just seemed to lack the fire and inspiration of the stellar hit album "Songs From The Wood" released prior to both albums by Tull in 1977.

I believe that the backstory of "A" is pretty well known. A proposed solo album by Anderson with backing from prog alumni Eddie Jobson (ex UK and Roxy Music) and ex Fairport Convention bassist Dave Pegg with drums handled by an American mate of Jobson named Mark Carney. The only other current Tull member, aside from Anderson, to participate was the erstwhile Martin Barre. And supposedly, that's were the all drama originates from, as Tull's record label Chrysalis wanted the album put out as a Jethro Tull release as it at least featured both Anderson and Barre from the former incarnation of Tull. Tull bassist Dave Glascock had sadly passed away just after Stormwatch was recorded and super drummer Barry Barlow no longer wanted to play. So, dual keyboardists John Evan and David Palmer were excised from Jethro Tull for the sake of good business sense. At least that's, more or less the official version from Ian.

On to the music on "A". Without doubt, Jobson could almost be the co creator of "A"s magnificent sound. A combination of his unique sythn tones and playing style is perfectly and sympathetically meshed with Anderson's harmonic and melodic genius. Using near Styx styled synth melodies matched up with quirky but subtle synthesized atmospheric embellishments, Jobson delivered a modern (for Tull!) sounding sonic template that's mated perfectly with Barre's own atmospheric and slightly quirky guitar playing. Jobson also adds his electric violin to two songs with all manner phasing, delay and echo while still remaining absolutely grounded in the song's folk based melodies and stance.

Drummer Carney, while being no match for the proceeding prog fueled drumming of Barlow, still holds his own with a more rock orientated sound and playing style that's greatly enhanced by being loudly recorded with tons of reverb applied by studio means. His exhausting playing is a major feature of every song on the album and does make "A" sound somewhat one dimensional. Ah, but what a dimension to be stuck in! With Pegg's rubbery bass playing and many stop-start rhythm passages and breaks, trying to remember any one song absolutely is nearly impossible. And that says quite a lot for an album that's made up of ten 4-6 minute songs!

Standouts include "Flyingdale Flyer", "Working John, Working Joe (in which Anderson resurrects his multi tracked chorus vocals from "Songs From The Wood)", "Black Sunday (in which Anderson tempts his abilty to breath while singing run on song verses ad infintium)", "Black Sunday", "Protect And Serve (featuring a tour deforce of synths and piano from Jobson)", "Uniform" and the truly prog folk of "Pine Martin's Jig", in which Jobson smokes his electric fiddle. Only "Batteries Not Included" , which is too cute for it's own good, and the workman like "4 W.D. (low ratio)" seem weak to me, but quite tolerable.

If I have a criticism of "A", it's only that the lack of a break in the music's non stop rapid fire delivery for something acousticly soothing as a palette cleanser seems remise. After all, "A" is a creation of the acoustic based Anderson, be it a veiled Anderson solo album or a true Jethro Tull project. Regardless, the music is killer. So, damn it, I like it. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.

Report this review (#1871664)
Posted Saturday, February 3, 2018 | Review Permalink
3 stars Jethro Tull's "A" lives its own life and doesn't really mimick anything they've done before. This is where synthesizers arrived with a bang, guns blazing, tearing their way to the foreground and leaving only laser beam, pinkish trails behind. Eddie Jobson brought digital pianos, electric violins and technical marvels of Yamaha CS-80 kind, while the rest of the band seemed on board with these novelties. I applaud Ian Anderson for trying to revolutionize the band without betraying prog/folk legacy built in previous era. But dramatic changes and establishment of new formulas always come with growing pains, and "A" has some of that as well.

I don't really enjoy production on this album, I feel it's very dated and murky - but when everything clicks, this is hardly a problem. "Crossfire" is an exciting opener, brimming with funky basslines, tasty piano and sweet melodies. Though I'm not enthusiastic about synthesizers of that era, they are used tastefully on this one - to enhance and accentuate. Anderson delivers good vocal lines and awesome flute - it's worth noting. Then we have "Fylingdale Flyer", more laid back and poppy effort with cool vocals. I'm still on board with this one, although it screams early 80s with F/X utilised.

"Working John, Working Joe" is basically "Stormwatch" era song with Vangelis guest appearance, it seems. Nothing to write home about - decent track with heavy synth usage in the middle, maybe reminiscent of Rick Wakeman or Zeppelin's "Carouselambra". If you like that new, electronic and spacey approach, you'll be delighted with "Black Sunday". I think this is a clear highlight of the album, with often changing motives, superb musicianship and memorable parts. Just take a look at rocking 1:20 theme with armor-piercing flute, Martin's edgy solo at 3:00 or cosmic ambient at 3:30. And then it all beautifully comes together around 4:20, the thumping bass, screaming guitars and perfect blend of remaining instruments. In my opinion this is a truly progressive song, despite esthetics differing wildly from Tull classics.

"Protect and Survive" brings exciting electric violin parts, but also cranks up the synthesizer use significantly - manageable, but too much 80s for my taste. "Uniform" displays that Jean-Luc Ponty violin style as well, but gets old quickly with subpar melodies. "4.W.D. (Low Ratio)" is the most obvious filler - directionless and gimmicky with distorted vocals.

"Batteries Not Included" is also quirky, heck, it's the wildest synthfest on entire album, often feeling like a cross of earliest Depeche Mode with Jaco Pastorius and rock band. I quite enjoyed it, despite antiquated sound and 80s 'overdrive'.

The last two tracks tip the scales from 'mixed results' towards 'recommendable'. "The Pine Marten's Jig" is a classic, vintage Jethro thanks to rustic, evergreen melodies married with adventurous basslines (hats off to Dave Pegg) and modern guitar. This particular song addresses the tastes of hardcore Tull fans, so if you're ready to dismiss "A" for electronic approach, make sure to at least check Pine Marten's. "And Further On" ends the album on a more serious note, especially once majestic guitar lines come to the front. It's no "Elegy", but those guttural, underworld synths are put to good use.

To sum it up: "A" turns out to be a solid effort for a band that just lost four of its members and found itself on the brink of extinction. Eddie Jobson was a double edged sword - on one hand we get tons of synthesizers, and it's always a hard pill to swallow for enthusiasts of organic, historically oriented prog folk; on the other, Jethro Tull acquired a wildly talented musician that gave them an extra gear in live performances, as well as chaotic, jazzy passages of Frank Zappa mold. I think the good stuff equals the amount of filler, but if you're open-minded and willing to turn a blind eye on production and common quirks, you'll be rewarded with some gems ("Black Sunday", but also "Crossfire" and "The Pine Marten's Jig"). It's enough to get a nod and three stars in my book.

Report this review (#2083157)
Posted Thursday, December 6, 2018 | Review Permalink
3 stars Review Nş 338

'A' is the thirteenth studio album of Jethro Tull and was released in 1980. Initially, it was recorded with the intention of being an Ian Anderson's solo album. But, the record label decided that it should be released as a Jethro Tull's album to increase the sales of the album. So, I think it was the reason for the album's title, 'A' for 'Anderson'. 'A' marks a change in the sound of the band. After the three previous studio albums, 'Songs From The Wood', 'Heavy Horses' and 'Stormwatch', who had a more folk sound, they became known as the folk prog trilogy of Jethro Tull, the sound on 'A' is more a synthesizer based sound, a fact which created some controversy among many of the traditional band's fans.

'A' marks also a profound change in the line up of Jethro Tull. It features a dramatically different line up from their three previous studio albums. The former keyboardist John Evan and the organist David Palmer were fired from the group. The drummer Barriemore Barlow left the band due to the depression by the death of the bassist John Glascock and because he was unhappy with the direction the band was taking. He also had plans to form his own band. The only members who appear on 'A' and on those previous albums are, Ian Anderson and Martin Barre, and Dave Pegg, who had become a member of the band during the 'Stormwatch' live tour in 1979, replacing the deceased Glascock.

So, the line up on the album is Ian Anderson (vocals, flute and acoustic guitar), Martin Barre (electric guitar), Dave Pegg (bass and mandolin) and Mark Craney (drums). The album had also the participation of Eddie Jobson (keyboards, electric violin and synthesizer), as a guest artist.

''A'' has ten tracks. All tracks were written by Ian Anderson. The first track ''Crossfire'' is a great opener. It has an electric piano and a couple of other notes performed with a synth. The keyboard opening riff is nice and the chord change into the verse is really great. Great chorus, great song. The second track ''Flyingdale Flyer'' is even better. The opening keyboard riff works extremely well as a riff, and I really like the part where the two main riffs of the song are superimposed onto each other. The melodies are always great. Basically, everything about this song is extremely attractive to me. The third track ''Working John, Working Joe'' is another good song. It has some sort of acoustic guitar effect that sounds like a real cross between a sitar and a mandolin playing, and though the synths may be considered annoying, they're offering a fantastic catchy riff every few seconds and even get quite a good solo.This is another great song. The fourth track ''Black Sunday'' is one of the best Jethro Tull's songs, and it hearkens back to ''Stormwatch'', if only you replace all of the synths by guitars. Pretty much everything about the track is great and the various riffs of Anderson that came up are all really great. And so, it ends one of my favorite sides of Jethro Tull's albums. But, unfortunately, the things don't keep the same quality level on side 2. Despite the fifth track ''Protect And Survive'' have an opening catchy riff, a nice rhythm, some nice flute work and a good bass line, the song is repetitive and uninspired. It's the first low point on the album. But the things get worse on the sixth track ''Batteries Not Included''. This is one of the worst Jethro Tull's songs ever. The awkward intense synth opening with the awfully cheesy spooky synth riffs that pop up everywhere in the track isn't good. But worst of all is the ''siren-imitating'' melody. The seventh track ''Uniform'' has a nice violin line. The only keyboards that happen in the song are the two or three notes at the very end. Still, there are some good instrumental things going on too. This isn't one of the best tracks neither one of the worst tracks on the album. The eighth track ''4.W.D. (Low Ratio)'' is another weak track. It has an awkward funky blues groove. I'm not a great fan of those both music styles. But the sung parts are even worse, repetitive and aren't catchy too. The ninth track ''The Pine Marten's Jig'' isn't a fantastic song but it's really nice. It's one of the two songs not to feature keyboards, the other is ''Uniform''. It's a breath of fresh air on this side of the album. The tenth track ''And Further On'' has an excellent verse melody. It's a prog rock ballad that is delicate and powerful too. Besides, I've always been a great fan of corny power ballads. Finally we have a great track on the side two of the album. This is a nice and great closer for this album.

Conclusion: ''A'' is the Jethro Tull's album that begins the 80's. Those were times of changes and as happened with almost progressive rock bands, the sound of Jethro Tull begun to change to a more 'modern'' sound. This was surely the main reason why Ian Anderson fired Evan and Palmer. This was also the main reason why he invited Jobson, to have synths on the album and a different orchestration from the usual orchestration from Palmer. It was great because I always was a great fan of Jobson despite I always loved the work of Palmer too. So, 'A' is an album full of changes in many ways in the sound of the band. But unfortunately, not everything was well. 'A' has great moments, the four tracks on the side 1 and the last track on side 2. Still, all the other tracks aren't really great. Especially, 'Batteries Not Included' and '4.W.D (Low Ratio)' are even bad tracks. So, this is a good album but surelly a non-essential purchase.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#2405348)
Posted Saturday, May 23, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars Sometimes I think that simple marketing tools (like album covers or names) can influence our opinion of the music inside, either positively or negatively: 1) Compared to the fairy tale covers of early Genesis ("Nursery Cryme", "Foxtrot", etc.), the black and white cover to "Lamb" was modern and sterile - yet contained some of Genesis's most extraordinary music. 2) The naked man standing in front of the geometric shapes and buildings of "Going For The One" was clearly different from the dreamy Roger Dean covers of the early Yes albums - yet most fans would rightly place "GFTO" as one of Yes's top albums.

Similarly here - the sterile space suits and 80's neon colors on the cover of "A" do little to conjure up the English countryside that the covers of "Heavy Horses" or "Songs From The Wood" do; and there's no clever or artsy title to the album - just a similarly sterile "A".

But don't pre-judge the music. Shunning this album for years because of my own personal biases as well as the errant reviews of others, I was recently ASTOUNDED at the rich variety of melodies and sonorities that I found on this album. Give this album its due!

First thing you have to do: clear the slate of your Jethro Tull biases. If you love progressive rock, there is some great music here. I mean, imagine a vocalist as great as Ian Anderson fronting a prog band that features Eddie Jobson on keys and violin! (Great electric violin on the song "Uniform", by the way.) Anderson's flute is all over this album. Barre's guitar has a cleaner, proggier sound (a la Steve Howe). And there is excellent melodic bass playing.

Yes, the lyrics are more modern and political, but still very good. And the production on this remaster is very bright.

Let's be honest, folks: few Tull albums ever resembled another one. "Aqualung" was great in a much heavier and rockier way than, say, "Thick as a Brick" (with its prog/classical stylings), or the folkier material of later Tull. They changed a lot. That's good. And so is "A". It was a change from the previous output. But taken on its own merits, there is a lot to like here.

Throw in an hour-long "Slipstream" DVD and...are you thinking what I'm thinking? Stop thinking so much, and just buy the damn thing! This is a classic no-brainer. I know you'll silently thank me as the final strains of "And Further On" fade away over your headphones...;-)

Report this review (#2442136)
Posted Friday, August 28, 2020 | Review Permalink

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