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My God: Jethro Tull’s ‘Aqualung’ really IS an album that you MUST hear before you die
04.21.2016
11:11 pm
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Burton Silverman’s iconic cover portrait of ‘Aqualung,’ the wheezing, shabby homeless man ‘eyeing little girls with bad intent’ who happens to look a lot like Ian Anderson

In 2016, Jethro Tull is one of those utterly amazing bands that is—sadly—very difficult to explain to those for whom they seem to hold no obvious appeal. Although once one of the very biggest concert draws in the world of music—and don’t get me wrong, they’re still a popular group—their fanbase is getting older each year and I don’t think it’s exactly getting any bigger with the passing of time. But for the sake of “the young people” who are reading this I’m going to try to get across why I think Jethro Tull are so great and why they deserve your attention. The occasion is Rhino’s re-release of their classic 1971 longplayer Aqualung, an album that I’m absolutely nuts about, on a 2 CD/2 DVD box set. I hope my enthusiasm will be contagious enough that you’ll give it a listen yourself.

I canvassed some of the other Dangerous Minds contributors about their opinions of Aqualung: Editor-at-large Marc Campbell relayed that he remembered “the scuzziest hippies smoking skunk weed and listening to that piece of crap.” Fair enough. He was there. Our Chris Bickel (who wasn’t) wondered “who the fuck is the audience for this jester-hat-wearing Renaissance Faire bullshit?” while acknowledging that its multi-platinum record status indicated there must have been quite a large one. My wife sees Jethro Tull as the sort of group that “old bikers listen to at keg parties in Cincinnati,” in the same category with say, Steppenwolf and Howie Pyro cited the time when I tried to force their Benefit album on him and how this resulted in “some kinda kneejerk anti-Tull punk reaction inside of me.”
 

 
All of these reactions are perfectly understandable. If you don’t really know what Jethro Tull are all about, being confronted with this scraggly-looking comically leering hirsute and freaky Dickensian hobo-sage character wearing thigh-high boots and a glittering codpiece playing the flute is simply confusing in 2016 isn’t it? Don’t worry I’m here to help you. Please try to keep an open mind, won’t you?

Until not all that long ago, I can’t really claim to have had much more than a passing familiarity with Jethro Tull’s music myself. Although one of the very first 45s that I ever bought was their “Bungle in the Jungle” in 1974, for the most part I just knew some of the greatest hits. A couple years back, a publicist at Rhino threw Steven Wilson’s 5.1 surround revisioning of their 1970 Benefit album in the package with something else that I’d asked for. I’ll listen to anything Steven Wilson has remixed for 5.1 and I was utterly floored by Benefit. I had never really thought all that much about Jethro Tull frankly, it was more about Wilson’s participation than anything else that had piqued my curiosity. Because I had no expectations one way or the other, Benefit hit me like a bolt from the blue. I was completely smitten with that album pretty much upon the first listen. My initial reaction was “Wow! How did a group this big never truly get on my radar before?” (Howie’s right: If you came of age during punk, Jethro Tull were simply a dinosaur band you avoided and that’s the straightforward answer).
 

Jethro Tull, stand up guys

I gorged myself on that album and fanned out through their back catalog. I liked their second effort Stand Up quite a bit and I also got way into their Living in the Past compilation. Their first album This Was I was less enthusiastic about—it’s just a basic blues thing, music they’d already outgrown before its release, hence the title—but the one that came after Benefit—that’s Aqualung—blew my doors off. If you consider yourself a fan of say, King Crimson, Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa or even Nick Cave (who named one of his sons Jethro he was such a fan) you might have the same reaction I did: “HOW did I miss out on this?”

Obviously any discussion of Jethro Tull begins—and ends—with the group’s leader, the singular Ian Anderson, a rather brainy and idiosyncratic figure surely seen in retrospect (if not necessarily at the time) as the unlikeliest of arena rock gods. Anderson always read very “old” to me. At the time Aqualung was recorded he was just 23, but what a wizened old 23 he seemed to be. Some people are born old men, I guess, but by this age his lyrics were already becoming quite dark and deep. Aqualung‘s brooding, philosophically sophisticated subject matter included seeing homelessness people and doing nothing about it; how whatever kernel of truth there had been in Christianity had been co-opted by the Church of England and a cynical ruling class; and in “Locomotive Breath”—one of their signature numbers—humanity’s mad dash towards Hobbesian overpopulation.

Aqualung‘s liner notes included the following statement, an audacious sentiment to express in the early 1970s:

In the beginning Man created God;
And in the image of Man created he him.

2 And Man gave unto God a multitude of names,
that he might be Lord over all the earth when it was suited to Man.

3 And on the seven millionth day Man rested
and did lean heavily on his God and saw that it was good.

4 And Man formed Aqualung of the dust of the ground,
and a host of others likened unto his kind.

5 And these lesser men Man did cast into the void. And some were burned;
and some were put apart from their kind.

6 And Man became the God that he had created
and with his miracles did rule over all the earth.

7 But as these things did come to pass,
the Spirit that did cause Man to create his God
lived on within all men: even within Aqualung.

8 And Man saw it not.

9 But for Christ’s sake he’d better start looking.

 

 
Here’s a stunning rendition of ‘My God’ (from ‘Aqualung’) performed in front of a crowd of 600,000 people at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival
 

 

 
Plenty more Jethro Tull after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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04.21.2016
11:11 pm
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Win a copy of Jethro Tull’s ‘Minstrel In The Gallery: La Grande Edition’ deluxe box set
05.07.2015
04:09 pm
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Jethro Tull’s 1975 album Minstrel In The Gallery has been sonically upgraded to a 5.1 surround mix by Steven Wilson, as well as expanded with rare and unreleased studio outtakes and BBC radio and recordings in the 40th anniversary “La Grande Edition” on the Parlophone label.

Minstrel In The Gallery was Jethro Tull’s eighth studio album and its sixth gold record, a top ten hit in the US. It was the final Tull record to feature the classic lineup of Ian Anderson, Martin Barre, John Evans, Barrie Barlow and Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond.

Like the other WEA deluxe Tull sets, this one comes in a case-bound 2X CD, 2X DVD book with an 80-page booklet featuring an extensive history of the album, track-by-track annotations by Ian Anderson, an essay about the Minstrel tour by roadie Kenny Wylie, memories from the studio engineer of the studio in Monaco where the album was recorded, some observations from one of the touring string section members and plenty of photographs.

Additionally a new stereo remix of Minstrel In The Gallery will be released on a single CD, digitally and on 180-gram vinyl as a limited edition pressing.

“La Grande Edition” features a live recording of the band performing at the Olympia in Paris on July 5, 1975 mixed to 5.1 and stereo by King Crimson guitarist Jakko Jakszyk. Interestingly, parts of Minstrel—one of the harder rocking albums in the Jethro Tull discography—often sound very much like later period King Crimson.

Below, nine-minutes of previously unseen footage from Paris, 1975

 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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05.07.2015
04:09 pm
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Being for the ‘Benefit’ of Jethro Tull
11.20.2013
09:36 pm
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I’ve never really been a huge Jethro Tull fan—I’ve always liked them just fine on a “greatest hits” level, and I’ve owned some of their albums purchased at garage sales when I was a tyke—but I was 11 when Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols came out, so “prog rock” was not really something I grew up on. It was something to be avoided. I respected them, liked certain songs a lot (“Bungle in the Jungle” was one of the earliest singles I ever bought) but from a safe, skinny tie and Ray-Ban-wearing distance.

In the past five years, though, I’ve started to listen to Jethro Tull through downloading quadraphonic (4 channel) bootlegs of Warchild and Aqualung that popped up on the Demonoid torrent tracker. I’m willing to listen to anything once in multi-channel and Tull’s classic albums were recorded especially well and the quad mixes of these albums were fun to listen to. Some 70s quad mixes were little more than doubled-up stereo afterthoughts and were pretty conservative sonically, but some performers did it right, like Jethro Tull, who perhaps did it the very best. I fanned out from there into some of their other albums.

Then I started to notice that new 5.1 Jethro Tull releases remastered by Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree (who has been reworking the King Crimson catalog and is now also turning his attention to Yes and XTC) were starting to come to market and I picked up his Aqualung, which is damned good. Then yesterday I got a copy of the Wilson remastered Benefit—a Tull album from 1970 that I’ve (mostly) never heard before—and I’ve played it like ten times in the past 24 hours. It’s fucking killer and I am glad that I have “discovered” it, but honestly, since I don’t care what you think about Jethro Tull, why should I expect you to care about what I think about them? The issue of whether or not Jethro Tull are any good has been long settled and isn’t up for dispute and this isn’t a review as such. More like PSA for audiophile rock snobs.

What I would like to tell you fine people, is what a great value the Benefit
“collector’s edition” is, and praise the project’s producer Steven Wilson for yet another job well done. Wilson’s name on something these days is the gold standard as far as I am concerned. Hell, I’d buy something I wasn’t even particularly interested in just because he was involved in it with the expectation that I’d come to like it (For instance, Yes I normally don’t give a shit about, but the idea of hearing them in 5.1 surround and mixed by Steven Wilson, well all of a sudden that’s a very attractive proposition to me).
 

 
It’s not like I’m listening to Benefit “anew” after decades of living with it—I just got it yesterday, as mentioned above—but I am hearing it with fresh ears and it’s a product of remarkable quality and maniacal attention to detail. Wilson returned to the multi-track masters, did the slow bake process that needs to happen to older analog tapes with the iron oxide flaking off, and once the vocal and instrumental tracks were laid off to digital, went back to the same (or similar) vintage processors as would have been used in studios at the time to add EQ, phasing, reverb and double tracking consistent with the original mixes. In the CD booklet, Ian Anderson credits Steven Wilson with painstakingly removing technical glitches, amp buzz, stray noises and the analog hiss between musical notes, all the while retaining the original balance, but causing the music to sparkle in comparison to previous versions. In his notes about the process of restoring and remixing the album, Wilson wrote that he hopes fans who have lived with Benefit for 40 plus years wouldn’t even really notice what he’d done.

All in all, I’d rate this package an A. The music’s great, the surround mix is positively eargasmic and the price is right (you can buy the Benefit three disc set discounted to around $20 on Amazon). The reason that I’m not giving it an A+ is simply because they put the 5.1 and hi resolution stereo transfers on a regular DVD instead of a Blu-ray. It’s worth mentioning that Steven Wilson’s Yes and XTC remasters do come with a Blu-ray. This is what the folks who buy (as in purchase, as in who don’t download it for free, as in who spend money in record stores) physical media releases like this one WANT, but it’s not a fatal flaw and hopefully future labels who hire Wilson for his own special brand of ace reissues, will listen to him next time. I’d be willing to bet a finger that he argued for a Blu-ray instead of a standard DVD but was over-ruled by someone in the accounting department because it would have added another 17 cents to the per price cost of manufacture. Note to that accountant: the Warner Music Group would sell more of these suckers if there was a Blu-ray component here. It’s one of the main criteria that I, for instance, look at when doing the mental calculation of “do I want to buy this or download it?” Just sayin’, record industry. You might want to listen to your customers, the ones you still have left.

Or just listen to what Steven Wilson is telling you people. He’s the man!

“With You There to Help Me” performed in 1970. This is Benefit‘s lead-off track and in the 5.1 mix, it becomes a swirling thing of almost celestial beauty. I’m obsessed by this song. This live version here is simply stunning.
 
More vintage Jethro Tull after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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11.20.2013
09:36 pm
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‘Drive The Girls Wild With Desire’ with THIS Jethro Tull tee-shirt!
04.23.2013
04:49 pm
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Or “drunk with desire”! Is she so overcome by the magical magnificence of this Jethro Tull tee-shirt that she had to rip the shit right off of him? Apparently so.

According to the 1970 ad (yes, I’m actually typing this out for you. No copy and paste action from me):

You say you’re not making it with the local lovlies? That when you make Paul McCartney eyes at alluring little honeys in violet hip-huggers they respond by frowning and suggesting, “Jerk off, loser”? That even the offer of a seat next to you at a Led Zeppelin concert is insufficient inducement for a far-out nubie to spend part of the evening with you?

Then, fella, whatchoo need is a SUPER-OUTTA-SIGHT-JETHRO-TULL-T-SHIRT of the sort worn by the fullest-handed rakes everywhere.

These eye-catching sartorial groovies, which are guaranteed to reduce even the haughtiest of lovlies to a mound of hot pulsating flesh, are a divine shade of yellow designed to to flatter even the swarthiest of complexion, are the three-buttons-at-the-neck style recently made all the rage by your sharper English groups.

Chances are this was a Jethro Tull publicity joke-ad to garner attention for their 1970 Benefit album. It’s still an amusing concept, though, AS IF a woman would have been caught dead at a Jethro Tull show. I mean, come on...

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The women’s bathroom at last night’s Rush concert

Posted by Tara McGinley
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04.23.2013
04:49 pm
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