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Jethro Tull - Stormwatch CD (album) cover

STORMWATCH

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.46 | 747 ratings

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TCat
Special Collaborator
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
3 stars It was the close of a decade when 'Stormwatch', Jethro Tull's 12th studio album, was released. The 70s were ending, but this album was also pivotal for other reasons. It would be the last album that bassist John Glascock would play, as he would pass away from heart failure shortly after the album was released. Glascock would actually only play on 3 of the track (five if you include the 4 bonus tracks on the remastered CD). Ian Anderson would end up playing the bass on the rest of the tracks on the original track list. Dave Pegg (Fairport Convention) would be his replacement later. This would also be the last album for John Evan, Dee Palmer (both keyboardists) and Barriemore Barlow (dummer) as they would leave the band after the tour ended.

Things looked pretty bleak for Jethro Tull after this point, and the next Tull album, 'A' was actually supposed to be Ian Anderson's solo album, but he was talked into releasing it as a Tull album. There was a marked difference between this and the next album because of this, and the influence of the 80's could really be heard on the following album. Also, this was the last album of the 'folk-rock trilogy' which also included 'Heavy Horses' and 'Songs from the Wood', the two previous albums. The main theme of 'Stormwatch' deals with environmental issues, oil and money.

'North Sea Oil' definitely leans on the rock side, but still has a folkish lilt to it that makes it undoubtedly Tull, but already, there seems to be a lack of spirit to the song. Anderson has already announced that he was going to do a solo album, the band was concerned about Glascocks failing health, so the fact that the other band members futures were up in the air could have been part of the reason for the mass exodus that tore the band apart. 'Orion' is one of the 3 tracks featuring Glascock, and the track has a definite difference in the 'heart' of the song and is one of the better tracks of the album. Palmer's orchestral arrangements also bring life into this track that was missing in the first track. 'Home' is much more laid back and folkish. Again, the orchestral influence helps boost the track, and Barre's guitar shines through. This is also a strong track and Anderson proves that his vocals were still emotional. There is a lot of heart in this track.

This is followed by the longest track on the album 'Dark Ages' at over 9 minutes. The track is a bit more complex and everything about it should work. Yet it is not one of Tull's best, when it should have been. After a tense and hesitant beginning, it finally starts to come to life sounding like it might go somewhere, but the melody and the hooks and riffs just seem to be lacking. Not even the orchestra seems able to save it. Barre's work is really the only strong point on this track as his playing shows a lot of spark, but the wildfire doesn't spread to the rest of the song, partly because of the waning inspiration and sub-par craftsmanship. It ends up feeling a bit choppy when it is all said and done. 'Warm Sporran' is an instrumental about a place to store stuff in your kilt. It has an okay traditional sound to it, but again lacks anything really memorable or original.

'Something's on the Move' alludes to the heavy rock sound of future Tull, but the melody is boring and the band wasn't ready for this kind of music yet. It's hard to find anything catchy on this tune. 'Old Ghosts' is as lifeless as the title. 'Dun Ringill' is about a historical fort near where Anderson lived for a while. The acoustic work is nice on this one, but the melody is lacking again. After these lackluster short songs, 'Flying Dutchman' (7:46) flies in to hopefully save the day. This is the 2nd of the 3 tracks with Glascock playing bass. This one is also a highlight of the album and has probably the most memorable riffs and melody of the album, the inspiration more blues based than folk based. 'Elegy' is another instrumental and the third track that Glascock plays on. It is an elegy to Dee Palmer's father, not to Glascock as some have surmised. It is a mellow, soft rock instrumental that sounds quite out of place.

The remastered album has four more tracks not on the original. 'A Stitch in Time' is a non-album single released in 1978. The song features a small chorus of background singers and a fairly simple melody. 'Crossword' is an outtake. The thing that stands out here is the bass work, and, yes, it is performed by Glascock, as is the next bonus track 'Kelpie' which is a song about a shape-shifting water sprite. The playfulness of the track is an anomaly for the album, but it's not bad. 'King Henry's Madrigal' features the new bassist that would replace Glascock, David Pegg, and is based on an English folk song, but this version is instrumental.

Not one of Tull's best, this album was a bit ill fated from the start. But the band still manages to pull out a few inspired performances anyway, however, most of the album shows signs of waning creativity and a feeling of unsureness. The album is slated to be released is October of 2019 with a Steven Wilson remastering, and hopefully that box set edition will help bring some life into some of the lesser songs on this album, and maybe find some rare recordings that will help bring up the overall quality of the album, but it is not an album that is in high demand among Tull's discography. The box set will include 6 discs with new stereo remixes, a lot of unreleased tracks and a full concert recorded in the Netherlands from March 1980. It still manages to achieve a 3 star rating, but isn't an album that I would recommend getting started with.

TCat | 3/5 |

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