Sunday, August 21, 2011

Jethro Tull: Cross-Eyed Mary

On the sleeve of Jethro Tull's Songs from the Wood (1977), Ian Anderson sat, a Robin Hood brewing a cauldron at his forest hearth; their follow-up, Heavy Horses, pictured shire horses harnessed for farm labour.The romance of time travel had tipped over into outright Luddism.
Rob Young's Electric Eden does not have a lot of time for Jethro Tull's folk-rock period, but when I was in the sixth form I thought these were just about the best albums ever.

Then a strange thing happened. I bought another Tull LP - Repeat: The Best of Jethro Tull, Vol. 2 - and it was completely different. Loud, bluesy... it was nothing like folk rock.

Yet, though I found this music more difficult, I very much wanted to like it. And after listening to it several times I did like it, and eventually came to like it more than Songs from the Wood or Heavy Horses. In fact that there was a sense in which I knew the bluesy songs were better even when I did not like them.

So you can educate and extend your taste by listening to new kinds of music. It is rather like the time, at the age of 13 or so, when you don't like the taste of beer but very much want to.


burkesworks said...

A man of taste, as ever! Not entirely surprised you're a Tull fan.

TBH, I find the early "blues" albums before Aqualung the least interesting of their canon (allowing a cut-off point around '79/'80) though even there Ian Anderson was moving everything towards his own musical vision and stood out greatly from the many British bands churning out workmanlike variations on Chicago blues only with bigger amps. Still, if you liked the bluesier end of things, for me it was original Tull guitarist Mick Abrahams who really refined that sound in the two albums he made with Blodwyn Pig, who went one better than Tull with their Rahsaan Roland Kirk references by hiring sax player Jack Lancaster whose party trick was playing two saxes simultaneously a la Kirk.

Incidentally, Ian Anderson is one of the nicest and most articulate Big Rock Stars I've ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Wartime Housewife said...

I came to Jethro Tull late in life but haven't got round to adding them to my collection. Solstice Bells is my absolute favourite Christmas song.

They also bring back memories of me and Lady Somerset cruising down to Somerset in 1989 in her Toyota Celica with me standing on the passenger seat with my top half sticking out of the sun roof, whooping with youthful joy whilst listening to Broadsword & Beastie. Happy days, but don't try this at home children.