Jethro Tull – The Christmas Album (2003)

frontcover1For a band that remained relatively consistent (with a few minor exceptions) in their approach to rock & roll since 1968, Jethro Tull also possessed a sound that was uniquely ’70s-oriented during their most successful period between 1971-1978. Avid fans have been yearning for the group’s return to the style which made them one of the most successful of the guitar-based, mainstream prog outfits — albums like Broadsword and the Beast and J-Tull.Com touched on their former glory, but they didn’t fully satisfy. Christmas Album could be the recording that those fans have been waiting for, and they shouldn’t let its title or overt seasonal orientation dissuade them — with their liberal use of classic English folk music and overall orientation toward England’s past (even in their name), Jethro Tull is also the one prog rock/hard rock band of their generation that could issue a Christmas album that folds so easily into the rest of their output; it transcends its purpose and focus, mostly through the quiet boldness of its music and playing and the surprising excitement that laces most of the 16 songs. With a mixture of re-recorded old songs, Christmas standards and new originals, songwriter/singer Ian Anderson, in a roundabout manner, captures the tradition, warmth, and bittersweet feelings that are inextricably linked to the holiday season; at the same time, Anderson, longtime collaborator/lead guitarist Martin Barre, and the rest of the group’s 2003 lineup recapture the musical intensity of three decades’ past, and build on the classic Tull mood of sardonic humor, wry irony, and fierce passions that permeated all of their work from Stand Up to Songs From the Wood.

illustration01All of this material, in its content and execution, recalls the group’s prime early-’70s years and levels of musical complexity not presented so successfully by this band in at least 25 years. With a generous use of unamplified instruments like mandolin, acoustic guitar, flute, and accordion, this album resembles the production found on Songs From the Wood and Heavy Horses. In fact, three tracks from those two albums were reworked for this release; “Fire at Midnight,” “Ring Out Solstice Bells” and “Weathercock.” Only “Ring Out Solstice Bells” appeared to be the obvious choice for a Christmas album, but given Anderson’s offbeat perspective of things, the other two tracks assimilate nicely. In addition, “Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow” sounds like it could have emanated from those 1977 and 1978 recordings, as could “Last Man at the Party” from 1974’s War Child sessions. Among the re-recordings, pieces such as “A Christmas Song,” that originally had orchestral accompaniment, are redone without it, in new arrangements, while others that were done without orchestra get dressed up with strings. From the traditional side of Christmas, Tull gives “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” a jazzy adaptation reminiscent of “Bouree” from Stand Up (which is also revisited on this recording) and “We Five Kings” sounds rhythmically similar to “Living in the Past,” particularly the bass guitar line. In addition to Bach’s Bouree, the majestic Gabriel Fauré piece Pavane is included, which features guitarist Martin Barre’s exceptional acoustic playing. And Barre himself gets a rare solo composition as the album closer (a Christmas gift from Anderson?), the deeply evocative tone-painting “A Winter Snowscape,” which takes some gratifying turns away from the most obvious melodic direction. The album’s overall mix of folk, jazz, pop, rock, and classical elements carries it beyond the holiday listening for which it was intended, and is all woven together so skillfully as to make this an essential Tull album, their first in almost three decades and their most musically rewarding. And although this Christmas album doesn’t necessarily conjure up images of Santa and the Savior, it does create a mood and feeling reflective of the holiday season. More importantly, it is perhaps the most satisfying Tull releases in 25 years. (Dave Sleger)

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Personnel:
Ian Anderson (flute, vocals, guitar, mandolin, percussion)
Martin Barre (guitar)
Andrew Giddings (keyboards, accordion)
Jonathan Noyce (bass)Doane Perry (drums, percussion)
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James Duncan (drums, percussion)
Dave Pegg (bass, mandolin)
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The Sturcz String Quartet:conducted by András Sturcz:
Gyula Benkő (viola)
Gábor Csonka (1st violin)
András Sturcz (cello)
Péter Szilágyi (2nd violin)

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Tracklist:
01. Birthday Card At Christmas (Anderson) 3.37
02. Holly Herald (Traditional) 4.16
03. A Christmas Song (Anderson) 2.47
04. Another Christmas Song (Anderson) 3.31
05. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen (Traditional) 4.35
06. Jack Frost And The Hooded Crow (Anderson) 3.37
07. Last Man At The Party (Anderson) 4.48
08. Weathercock (Anderson) 4.17
09. Pavane (Fauré) 4.19
10. First Snow On Brooklyn (Anderson) 4.57
11. Greensleeved” (Traditional) 2.39
12. Fire At Midnight (Anderson) 2.26
13. We Five Kings/We Three Kings (Hopkins) 3.16
14. Ring Out Solstice Bells (Anderson) 4.04
15. Bourée (Bach) 4.25
16. A Winter Snowscape (Barre) 4.57

Tracks 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, 14, and 15 are all re-recordings of previously released pieces. ‘Bourée’, however, has significant alterations to the musical arrangement.

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Jethro Tull – Living In The Past (1972)

FrontCover1Living in the Past is a double album quasi-compilation collection by Jethro Tull, which contains album tracks, out-takes, the “Life Is a Long Song” EP, and all of their singles except for “Aeroplane”, “Sunshine Day”, “One for John Gee”, “17” and the original United Kingdom version of “Teacher” (the United States single version was included instead). Many of the tracks only appeared as British releases before being compiled on Living in the Past for the first time in the American market.

The album was named after the single released in May 1969 and was released in an elaborate gate-fold packaging that contained a large colour photo booklet with over 50 photos of the band.

Two songs, “By Kind Permission Of” and “Dharma for One”, were recorded live at Carnegie Hall. “Love Story”, “Christmas Song”, “Living in the Past”, “Driving Song”, “Sweet Dream” and “Witches’ Promise” were originally released as mono singles and remixed into stereo for inclusion on the album.

Booklet06AIn the United States, Living in the Past was the first Jethro Tull album to appear on the Chrysalis Records label; while each of the band’s previous albums were marked as “a Chrysalis Production”, the albums were released by Warner Bros. Records’ Reprise Records subsidiary. Interestingly, early U.S. editions of Living in the Past bore both a Chrysalis catalogue number (2CH 1035) and a Reprise catalogue number (2TS 2106). This suggests that the album was scheduled to appear on Reprise Records but Chrysalis gained control of the band’s USA releases in late 1972.

Booklet11AThe album peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 charts and went gold not long after its release. The title track from the album became Tull’s first top-40 hit in the United States, reaching No. 11, a full three years after it performed well in Britain. In UK, the album reached No. 13. In Norwegian charts, the album hit No. 5.

JohnEvanListen to this collection, put together to capitalize on the explosive growth in the group’s audience after Aqualung, and it’s easy to understand just how fine a group Jethro Tull was in the early ’70s. Most of the songs, apart from a few heavily played album tracks (“Song for Jeffrey,” etc.) and a pair of live tracks from a 1970 Carnegie Hall show, came off of singles and EPs that, apart from the title song, were scarcely known in America, and it’s all so solid that it needs no apology or explanation. Not only was Ian Anderson writing solid songs every time out, but the group’s rhythm section was about the best in progressive rock’s pop division. Along with any of the group’s first five albums, this collection is seminal and essential to any Tull collection, and the only compilation by the group that is a must-own disc. (by Bruce Eder)

JethroTullLivePersonnel:
Mick Abrahams (guitar on 01. + 02)
Ian Anderson (flute, vocals, mandolin, tin whistle, guitar, balalaika, organ, violin)
Barriemore Barlow (drums on 17. – 20.)
Martin Barre (guitar, percussion, background vocals)
Clive Bunker – drums, percussion, background vocals on 14.)
Glenn Cornick (bass, organ on 08.)
John Evan (keyboards, percussion + background vocals on 14.)
Jeffrey Hammond (bass)

Booklet05ATracklist:
01. A Song for Jeffrey (from the album This Was) 3.20
02. Love Story (1969 UK single) 3.02
03. Christmas Song (1969 UK single) 3.05
04. Living In The Past (1969 UK single) 3.20
05. Driving Song (1969 UK single) 2.39
06. Bourée (Bourrée in E minor by Bach) (from the album Stand Up) 3.43
07. Sweet Dream (1969 UK single) 4.02
08. Singing All Day (previously unreleased) 3.03
09. Witch’s Promise (1970 UK single) 3.49
10. Teacher (1970 UK single) 4.08
11.  Inside (from the album Benefit) 3.49
12. Just Trying To Be (previously unreleased) 1.36
13. By Kind Permission Of (previously unreleased) (Evan) 10.11 (*)
14. Dharma For One (previously unreleased) (Anderson/Clive Bunker) 9.45 (*)
15. Wond’ring Again (previously unreleased, recorded in 1970 Aqualung sessions, part of the song is the same as “Wond’ring Aloud”) 4.12
16. Locomotive Breath (from the album Aqualung) 4.24
17. Hymn 43 (from the album Aqualung)
18. Life Is A Long Song (from 1971 UK EP) 3.18
19. Up The ‘Pool (from 1971 UK EP) 3.10
20. Dr. Bogenbroom (from 1971 UK EP) 2.59
21. For Later (instrumental, from 1971 UK EP) 2.06
22. Nursie (from 1971 UK EP) 1.38

All songs written by Ian Anderson, except as indicated

(*) Recorded live at Carnegie Hall for the benefit of Phoenix House, 4 November 1970

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Jethro Tull – Benefit (1970)

FrontCover1Benefit is the third album by Jethro Tull, released in April 1970. It was the first Tull album to include pianist and organist John Evan – though he was not yet a permanent member of the group – and the last to include bass guitarist Glenn Cornick. Recorded in a better studio than the previous albums, the band could experiment new tecniques. “To Cry you a Song” and “Teacher” became notorious for the stage shows and radio frequencies.

Anderson has said that Benefit is a much darker album than the predecessor Stand Up for the pressures of an extensive tour in U.S. couple with frustrations with the music business.

Martin Barre said that compared to previous albums, Benefit was a lot easier to create. He attributed this to the success of Stand Up, which allowed the musicians more freedom and artistic latitude.

Bassist Glenn Cornick stated that the intention on the making of the album was to let a more “live-r” feeling to the music, saying that: “I felt the last one sounded like a group of session musicians performing various songs. It was pretty cold”.

JethroTullLive1970Additionally, Benefit saw the band incorporate more advanced studio techniques. These included back-tracking (flute and piano tracks on “With You There to Help Me”), and manipulating the tape speed (guitar on “Play in Time”). In a 1970 interview, Anderson noted that the addition of pianist/organist John Evan effectively changed the band’s style: “John has added a new dimension musically and I can write more freely now. In fact, anything is possible with him at the keyboard”.

Ian Anderson said that Benefit was a ‘guitar riff’ album, and noted that it was recorded in a year when artists like Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin were becoming more riff-oriented than in the past. Anderson also noted that Benefit is “a rather dark and stark album, and although it has a few songs on it that are rather okay, I don’t think it has the breadth, variety or detail that Stand Up has. But it was an evolution in terms of the band playing as ‘a band.'”. Overall, Anderson considered the album “a natural part of the group’s evolution”

Benefit’ music style can be exemplified by “To Cry You a Song”, as Martin Barre put it: “The influence for that song was Blind Faith’s ‘Had To Cry Today,’ although you couldn’t compare the two; nothing was stolen […]. The riff crossed over the bar in a couple of places and Ian and I each played guitars on the backing tracks. It was more or less live in the studio with a couple of overdubs and a solo, Ian played my Gibson SG and I played a Les Paul on it”.

PromoPic1Critics were generally unimpressed with Benefit. Rolling Stone called the album “lame and dumb”. Disc & Music Echo, on the other hand, was also unimpressed, but recognized the band quality: “This album doesn’t advance by such a drastic leap as Stand Up did from This Was. It’s more like the Jethro Tull we’ve seen and heard for the past year. It seems to be a remarkably long album, and shows what an exciting group this is. Exciting because they can have quite long guitar breaks and still retain a very tight and together sound”. AllMusic review came more benevolent and accepting the album’ style. Bruce Eder state that: “Most of the songs on Benefit display pleasant, delectably folk-like melodies attached to downbeat, slightly gloomy, but dazzlingly complex lyrics, with Barre’s guitar adding enough wattage to keep the hard rock listeners very interested. ‘To Cry You a Song’, ‘Son’, and ‘For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me’ all defined Tull’s future sound: Barre’s amp cranked up to ten (especially on ‘Son’), coming in above Anderson’s acoustic strumming, a few unexpected changes in tempo, and Anderson spouting lyrics filled with dense, seemingly profound imagery and statements.”

Benefit was the first million record seller from Jethro Tull. The album reached No. 3 in the UK album charts; No. 11 in the US and No. 2 in Norway.

BackCover1Personnel:
Ian Anderson (vocals, guitar, flute, keyboards)
Martin Barre (guitar)
Clive Bunker (drums)
Glenn Cornick (bass, organ)
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John Evan (keyboards)
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David Palmer (Orchestral arrengements)

Inlet1Tracklist:
01. With You There To Help Me  6.15
02. Nothing To Say 5.10
03. Alive And Well And Living In 2.43
04. Son 2.48
05. For Michael Collins, Jeffrey And Me 3.47
06. To Cry You A Song 6.09
07. A Time For Everything? 2.42
08. Inside 3.38
09. Play In Time 3.44
10. Sossity; You’re A Woman 4.31
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11. Singing All Day 3.07
12. Witch’s Promise 3.52
13. Just Trying To Be 1.37
14. Teacher (Original U.K Mix) 3.49

All songs written By Ian Anderson

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