This Was by Jethro Tull

April 29, 2010

Ian Anderson’s musical career extends back to 1962 when he formed his first group, “The Blades.” By 1967 he had joined with guitarist Mick Abrahams, drummer Clive Bunker, bassist Glenn Cornick, and horn player David Palmer to form Jethro Tull. The most important change for Anderson was his instrument of choice was now the flute and it added a unique aspect to their sound.

Tull originally started out as an English blues band with Abrahams and Anderson as the co-leaders. As such, their 1968 debut album This Was is different from all other albums in their vast catalog.

Abrahams was and is at heart a rock/blues guitarist and much of the music contained on this album was a result of his influence. He vision for the group would clash with Anderson’s and he would depart after only one album. He would go on to form Blodwyn Pig and during the late 1990’s re-formed the original members of Jethro Tull, except for Anderson, and toured under the name This Was. He has recently re-established a musical relationship with Anderson.

This Was finds Jethro Tull not trying to be too ambitious, which would happen with both brilliant and not so brilliant results in the future. The energy and the beginnings of Anderson’s madman persona are present but the band performs within its capabilities.

Abrahams’ direct presence is felt on a number of tracks. “My Sunday Feeling” may have been written by Anderson but it is Abrahams’ bluesy guitar which makes the song work. “Beggar’s Farm” is a nice slow blues/rocker and remained a part of their live show for years. “Cat’s Squirrel” is a traditional blues piece, which early Cream would move in a psychedelic direction. “Move On Alone” is the only non-instrumental song by Jethro Tull not to feature a lead vocal by Anderson as Abrahams does the honors.

The song which would look ahead to Tull’s and Anderson’s future is the six minute version of “Serenade to a Cookoo” by Rahsaan Roland Kirk. It was a jazz piece written for the flute and helps Anderson establishes himself as an instrumentalist of note.

Forty-two years after its initial release This Was remains an interesting listen as it presents one of rock’s classic and enduring groups at the beginning of its legendary career. In addition, the music itself holds up well and makes the album worth a listen or two today.

You Really Got Me 45 by The Kinks

December 27, 2009

The Kinks were formed in 1963 by brothers Ray and Dave Davies. They were quickly signed to a recording contract and became part of The British music invasion of The United States in the mid-sixties.

The Kinks still exist today and have had a long and commercially succesful career but no song had more impact than their first big American hit.

“You Really Got Me” contains one of the best known opening riffs in guitar history and was a first blast of what would become hard rock. Ray Davies may have had the vision but it was Dave who got it just right. Many groups have built upon this riff over he years but The Kinks can always say they were first.

Living With The Past DVD + CD Collector’s Edition by Jethro Tull

August 20, 2009

Jethro Tull has been around almost as long as I’ve been collecting music — and that is a long time. They have issued twenty studio albums since their 1968 debut, This Was, and I’ve stuck with them through thick and thin, playing such classics as Aqualung, Thick As A Brick, Songs From The Wood, and Heavy Horses every so often. They also remain a popular concert attraction over four decades into their career.

Living With The Past: DVD + CD Collectors’ Edition is an enhanced and upgraded version of the 2002 release. While the original release comprised only the DVD, a CD has now been added and, while some of the tracks are the same, there is enough new material to please any Tull fan.

Ian Anderson and Martin Barre remain the foundation of the group. Anderson’s flute playing may be a tad more sedate than in his prime but his skills have improved dramatically over the years. His voice has also aged well and he is still able to sing songs that were written decades ago. Barre is one of the great underappreciated guitarists of the last forty years and he is in fine form here. The 2002 line-up was rounded out by drummer Doane Perry, bassist Jonathan Noyce, and keyboardist Andrew Giddings.

The concert footage was taken from the band’s British and American tours of 2001. Famous songs such as “Locomotive Breath,” “Aqualung,” “Thick As A Brick,” and “Cross Eyed Mary” are presented alongside such obscure gems as “Roots To Branches” and “Jack In The Green.”

Two issues need to be noted concerning the DVD portion of this set. The tracks are taken from different shows so there is not a continuous flow to the concert footage. Also, there are interviews interspersed between the songs, which I find interesting but others may consider off-putting.

There are several interesting bonus tracks, among them a 2001 performance of Ian Anderson performing with Fairport Convention and one from a year earlier with Uriah Heep. The most historic track is a performance of “My Sunday Feeling” by the original 1968 Tull line-up of Anderson, guitarist Mick Abrahams, bass player Glenn Cornick, and drummer Clive Bunker.

The CD begins with 11 cuts taken from their November 2001 performance at the Hammersmith Apollo Theater and, as such, it has more of a true concert feel to it. Other highlights include performances of “A Christmas Song,” “Cheap Day Returns,” and “Mother Goose” from some dressing room tapes in 1989 plus “Dot Com” and “Fat Man” from 1999.

If you already own the DVD portion of this set then you will have to decide if the additional material is worth the price. However, if you do not own the DVD or are a fan of Jethro Tull then this release is essential.