Beginning in 1968 Jethro Tull had released a studio album every year for thirteen straight years until 1981. Maybe Ian Anderson needed some time off to recover from the loss of four long term members of the group, or possibly needed to re-charge the engines after the less than stellar album A. Whatever the reason for the hiatus it was not until April of 1982 that he and the group returned withThe Broadsword and The Beast.
The group’s supporting cast contained some old and new faces. Group leader Ian Anderson and lead guitarist Martin Barre were still present. Joining them was bassist Dave Pegg, who had played on A, plus new additions Gerry Conway on drums and keyboardist Peter Vettese. Also of note was the fact that Ian Anderson did not produce the album but rather brought in Paul Samwell-Smith.
The music would continue to evolve and maintain an eclectic flavor. Hints from their folk influenced days were still present, but the band began moving in a harder edged direction. The songs themselves were also some of the most structured of their career which belied the different sounds of the music. It all added up to a good if not excellent release.
I find there are three superior tracks. “Fallen On Hard Times” has an almost Scottish folk melody. It features an acoustic base and contains a nice medieval flavor. “Slow Marching Band” is a rare Anderson composition that is a ballad about male/female relationships. It makes for an interesting and excellent track. “Seal Driver” features Martin Barre at his best. You can almost smell the ocean on this rock anthem.
I also find “Broadsword” somewhat amusing, as the lyrics find a man protecting his family and home. I can still envision Conan The Barbarian when listening to this tale.
Not all is good as “Flying Colours,” “Pussy Willow,” and “Watching You, Watching Me” are average 80’s rock.
The Broadsword and The Beast may sound a little dated in places today, but overall it holds up fairly well. It is not one of their better albums but is still very good in places. A nice, if non-essential, stop on Jethro Tull’s musical path of life.
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