Friday, February 07, 2014

Jethro Tull - Stand Up

OK, I"m about to blow any "cool quotient" I might have with this admission - I really dig early Jethro Tull!
Their mix of British folk/blues/jazz and rock'n'roll really struck a chord (so to speak) with me when I first heard them. I know this isn't a really apt comparison, but I like these early records in the same way I like, say, Steeleye Span - the combination of styles - old and new - really seemed effective to me. With Tull, it wore out after a few albums, but this is one of my faves. And the vinyl issue had this great woodcut art (something else that I was really into at the time) and when you opened the gatefold, the band literally did "stand up"! Nice touch.

This was the band's second album (the first was, funnily enough, titled This Was), and reveals the debut of guitarist Martin Barre, replacing Mick Abrahams, who left after it was apparent that Ian Anderson wanted to move away from blues-rock. Though, those influences are certainly still apparent here, though maybe not quite so deliberately.

The opener is one of their best riff-rockers, "New Day Yesterday", that highlights their use of dynamics from bombastic to quiet (for Ian's flute solo) and back again. Fine stuff! Ian plays a number of different instruments throughout, adding coloring to songs such as "Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square", with its mandolin, organ, flute and percussion. "Bouree" is a jazz take on "Bouree in E minor" by J.S. Bach and, odd as that may sound, it truly works (even the bass solo!) and became one of their better known numbers.

A lot of the songs are unique enough to defy easy description, such as "Back to the Family", which starts out as sorta blues/folk and turns into a hard rocker before reverting. "Look Into the Sun" is as close to a standard ballad as they get, though it has some unusual traits, such as the artificially tremolo'd vocals. There's another rompin' rocker in "Nothing is Easy" that has some sweet guitar licks whereas "Fat Man" has East Indian influences with its use of balalaika and percussion and "We Used to Know" reminds me of a more rockin' (as it grows in dynamics and adds a hot wah-wahed guitar lead) old English folk song. Certainly they get a lot more folky in the acoustic guitar/flute/strings (with some swelling organ) ballad "Reasons For Waiting" but then rock it hard again for the album closer "For a Thousand Mothers". There are several bonus tracks on the CD, including a version of "Living In the Past", a loping riffer, "Driving Song", the cinematic "Sweet Dream" and the hard-to-describe "17".

I know that these cats got a bit excessive later in their career, but these early records really do still hold up as cool late-60's rock. Worth checking out!