It took Ian Anderson almost two years to issue Under Wraps and unfortunately the wait for Jethro Tull fans was not worth the results. It is one of the weakest and oddest entries in their large catalogue.
He tried to modernize the 80s style. It is filled with electronic wizardry plus a synthesizer sound pushed his signature flute playing into the back ground all too often. There is no drummer; rather Anderson programmed all the drum parts which just do not fit the Tull style. It gets worse. He allowed keyboardist Peter-John Vettese to co-write eight of the eleven tracks issued on the original vinyl release. This took the music in a direction which was very different from all their other releases.
When allowed, the instrumental playing is very good. Ian Anderson’s flute may be muted but every once in awhile it shines. Martin Barre still manages to produce a tasty solo now and then. Bass player David Pegg is the most consistent by virtue of his bass parts being needed for the music’s foundation and he produces admirably.
There is an underlying theme of espionage to the lyrics which is a far cry from the grand stories of A Passion Play and Thick As A Brick.They seem forced and never really form a whole.
The best of the lot are “Under Wraps #1 and #2” which have fewer keyboards and “Heat” which may be different from their classic material but contains a nice guitar solo.
On the down side songs such as “Lap Of Luxury,” “Saboteur,” “Paparazzi,” and “Apogee” are in synch with the eighties but not what one would expect from one of the unique groups in rock history.
Under Wraps did continue Ian Anderson’s penchant for changing the group’s sound. The mistake was the direction and not the effort. In some ways it would be interesting to see this album re-recorded using actual drums and with the synthesizers toned down.
Jethro Tull would move in a more hard rock direction as time passed making Under Wraps an out of place stop for the group. It remains an album only for fans who want everything.
Article first published as on Blogcritics.org