Monday, January 6, 2014


The maligned third album from Tull, coming just after their breakthrough hit Living In The Past in England and Stateside success supporting Led Zeppelin on tour, and just before the big sound of Aqualung.  The group was still feeling its roots, not quite at the storytelling epic sound that would see them through the 70's, and a touch of blues left over from their beginnings.  Ian Anderson himself doesn't care for much it, but it does have some friends among the rest of the band, old-time hippies and Tullheads. 

This package includes the original album, non-LP singles of the day, and a bunch of alternate mixes and variant mono and stereo takes, plus a DVD with the 5.1 and PCM mixes, all done under the fingers of star U.K. mixer Steven Wilson.  He's getting quite the rep for cleaning up everyone from Prog bands to XTC, and the results are easily the cleanest, brightest versions of this work.  That's all very good for existing fans, but for those with just Aqualung and Thick As A Brick in the collection, is there more to discover?  I think so, you'll find some solid, if understated material that certainly includes the hallmarks of the Prog-ish Tull days;  Anderson's acoustic with Martin Barre taking some edgy leads, busy drums from Clive Bunker, and the recently added piano of John Evan, a classical fellow who fills in the sound well between Barre and Anderson.  There are those jagged little runs they love, flute doubling electric, piano doubling guitar, almost jazzy phrases that are unique to the band.  Few could mix heavy and pretty so well.

Highlights include With You There To Help Me, Nothing To Say, and For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me, name-checking the Apollo 11 shuttle driver, stuck alone while the other two moon-hopped.  Hardly cornerstones of the Tull hits selection, but all worthy on their own.  As with all the early albums, Anderson's lyrics are always worth a listen, plainspoken and interesting, far from boy-girl romance and also avoiding most late 60's cliche.  Song structures were also a surprise each time out, with different sections and speeds, never verse-chorus-verse.  It's just that nothing grabs you as much as Aqualung.

As for the bonuses, there are actually some more memorable numbers in the singles, a couple of which were sizable U.K. hits.  Again, Teacher, Sweet Dream, 17 and The Witch's Promise aren't that well known, but probably stand out a little more than the Benefit tracks.  Unfortunately, including several versions of each among the bonuses makes the second disc too repetitive for repeated listening.  Teacher gets aired twice on the end of disc one, and four more times on disc two, U.K. version, U.S. version, mono, stereo etc.  What is great about the deluxe package is the wonderful booklet full of current interviews of most of the band (Evan now out of touch in Australia), where they debate and disagree about the value of each cut, Anderson being the grouchiest, placing it in the bottom third of all Tull releases.  You gotta love a good curmudgeon.

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