As the lead guitarist for Jethro Tull, Martin Barre has been joined at the hip to Ian Anderson since 1969, when he replaced Mick Abrahams in the group’s lineup. His playing has provided much of the energy that allows the band to soar on record and in concert amid the beauty of Anderson’s melodies and the complexity of his lyrics, and played no small part in helping the veteran band (some would say “dinosaur”) win the 1988 Grammy for Best Hard Rock Album for Crest of a Knave. Anderson himself has been quoted as saying, “Without Martin Barre, Jethro Tull could not exist.”
Barre’s solo work was confined to his home studio until he assembled a band to play some charity gigs in the early 1990s. Since then, he has recorded a pair of albums that allow him to stretch out in directions that Tull normally doesn’t permit, and to put his instrument into new sounds, genres, and musical contexts. (by Bruce Eder)
Wot No flute? Well very little anyway.
What can I say about this, do we really need it, probably not, but news that he was releasing this certainly caught my interest and uncustomarily quite excited, momentarily anyway and touring this Celebration with additional members Clive Bunker and Dee Palmer in the band has certainly provided some long overdue publicity. Well the next question is is it any good?
Disc 1 Live at the Factory Underground (Studio?) is a band effort by that I mean Martin Barre, guitars, mandolin, mandola, flute and Hammond, Dan Crisp, vocals, guitar, Alan Thomson, previously with John Martyn on bass, Derby Todd, drums. Disc 2 are Studio tracks, tracks 1- 6 an Acoustic Set where his female backing singers Alex Hart and Becca Langford take centre stage on all tracks up to and including One White Duck and also Locomotive Breath, John Carter, Martins childhood friend with whom he made the Grand Union album takes on Waking Edge, Dan Crisp, Still Loving You Tonight and Slow Marching Band. Other participants are Paddy Blight, Double Bass, Josiah J, keyboards and Frank Mead, the albums flute solo on this disc on Home.
Disc 1 the Live set has Mr. Barre in full hard rockin’ electric mode, of course initially it’s hard not to make comparisons with the originals in fact it’s impossible, Dan Crisp’s vocals have come in for some criticism, and on first play on disc this seem justified but Martin has stuck by him and having seen him live a few times and with a little mental readjustment, the initial concerns have diminished. It’s not that he is a bad vocalist I just think singing Tull songs is not his natural style and in any event is nigh on impossible to emulate Mr Anderson in his prime but ultimately this album is all about Martin Barre and his interpretation of these songs, putting his stamp on them and keeping them fresh of which I must say in this department is an unqualified success. Having seen him play these tracks live his enthusiasm is totally infectious, he seems to be having the time of his life, in fact he and the band are an absolute joy to watch. How he has narrowed it down to these 13 tracks who knows because if one looks at his set lists Setlist.fm this is a very small portion of what he has being playing live.
After a rather tentative start with a jazz flavoured My Sunday Feeling, things pick up with For a Thousand Mothers and it all becomes clear what a crucial element he was in Tull’s classic sound. Hymn 43 has that wonderful chugging riff and then we come to Love Story where Dan Crisp earns some plaudits, this rendition is a little slower and grittier than the original and candidate for best on this disc and so it continues with perhaps an unusual choice in Sealion, Song for Jeffrey is rather lumbering but inherits a couple of hard rock riffs and guitar solo. Back to the Family gets heavy. I could go on, but what’s the point suffice to say although the songs are familiar to all, these versions have balls, played at full volume, the guitar work exceptional.
Disc 2, I was a little shocked when I heard the female vocals, but then again not, having seen them do the acoustic set, and they carry the songs effortlessly, with some wonderful accompaniment. Life’s a Long Song, Cheap Day Return, Under Wraps and One White Duck are standouts. I won’t say the quality dips hereafter but it’s a hard to follow on from those girls, suffice to say that they take it down a bit with the remainder including the mandolin driven Locomotive Breath where the girls come on board again
If this album does anything it shows what a creative writer Ian Anderson is or was depending on opinion and what a classic guitarist Martin Barre is.
Of course if one is looking for reasons to knock this, one doesn’t have to look far, it would be easy to shred it for any number of reasons, it can’t match the originals, the vocals may not be to everyone’s taste (I suspect the most likely criticism), it’s a good but not great album, the anticipation was greater than the reality but taken for what it is, this Celebration of Tull as a rock band reignites music much of which the punters would never expect to hear live again, is reason enough to make this is a worthwhile exercise. If nothing else it’s an advert for people to go check out Mr Martin Lancelot Barre live. My only disappointment here is that there is no third disc. (by oldrock)
Martin Barre (guitar, mandolin, mandola, flute, organ)
Paddy Blight (bass)
John Carter (vocals)
Dan Crisp (vocals, guitar)
Alex Hart (vocals)
Josiah J. (keyboards)
Becca Langsford (vocals)
Darby Todd (drums)
Alan Thomson (bass, vocals)
Frank Mead (flute on CD 2/09.)
CD 1 – Live at Factory Underground:
01. My Sunday Feeling 3.32
02. For A Thousand Mothers 4.34
03. Hymn 43 3.31
04. Love Story 4.11
05. Sealion 4.07
06. Song For Jeffrey 3.42
07. Back To The Family 4.05
08. Nothing To Say 5.44
09. Hunting Girl 5.35
10. Teacher 5.53
11. Steel Monkey 3.46
12. Nothing Is Easy 4.58
13. New Day Yesterday 4.50
CD 2 – Studio Tracks:
01. Wond’ring Aloud 1.53
02. Someday The Sun Won’t Shine 2.02
03. Life Is A Long Song 3.29
04. Cheap Day Return 1.30
05. Under Wraps 3.06
06. One White Duck 2.20
07. Still Loving You Tonight 4.54
08. The Waking Edge 3.17
09. Home 3.16
10. Locomotive Breath 4.09
11. Slow Marching Band 3.28
All songs written by Ian Anderson
Martin Barre talks about this album: