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Classic Rock News And Views
October 27, 2012
Story by Scott Smith (photo courtesy of Ian Anderson)
Like veteran peers The Who, Roger Waters, Yes, Deep Purple and Rush, Jethro Tull founder-singer-flute player Ian Anderson still has all of the on-stage goods.
A lively Anderson led his stellar solo band through a back-to-back reading of Jethro Tull’s “Thick as a Brick” album from 1972 and Anderson’s recent solo album, “Thick as a Brick 2″ on Oct. 25 at The Joint inside the Tulsa Hard Rock. Anderson’s gifted prog-rockers included lead guitarist Florian Opahle, bassist David Goodier, keyboardist John O’Hara, singer Ryan O’Donnell and drummer Scott Hammond, and they gleefully jumped into the sonic deep end, tackling the material’s complex, bending passages and arrangements with a relaxed ease. The delivery was punchy and tight — extremely tight — yet left room for that much-needed, rock edge.
Anderson rotated between his flute and one of the greatest-sounding acoustic guitars ever. Often standing in his trademark style — on one leg — Anderson first appeared with guitar before reaching for his flute. When he first pulled the silver, shiny flute into view, the audience roared with approval.
Although anticipation was rightfully at a high level at the Tulsa show — Anderson’s merch crew sold a ton of T-shirts that night — a couple fans revealed pre-show bouts with hesitation. Before curtain time, friends Matt Christian and Pat Door discussed what Anderson’s set list might include.
“I’ve read where Ian only does ‘Locomotive Breath’ as the encore,” said Dorr. “Ian plays for an hour and 40 minutes straight, with no break, but there’s no ‘Bungle in the Jungle’ or ‘Aqualung.’”
“Yeah, but it’ll still be a good show,” Christian added with a smile.
Following an energetic, note-perfect reading of the two “Brick” albums, Anderson and crew returned to the stage for “Aqualung,” which often darted away in style and sound from its original, studio incarnation but remained impressive. Several minutes later, an excellent reading of “Locomotive Breath” steamed its way through the crystal-clear sound system, keeping the near-capacity crowd cheering, clapping and whistling.
Anderson’s sense of humor telegraphed itself numerous times via pre-recorded. big-screen footage, where Anderson took on Monty Python-esque characters, urging concert-goers to heed his yard’s yellow “cat-crossing” sign so they won’t be trampled by a kitten or wandering, tail-wagging dog.
Sure, long-time Jethro Tull fans will miss the pioneering work of Tull’s Martin Barre (guitar) and Dave Pegg (bass) at these new shows, but Anderson’s stamina and genuine affection for the audience on the new tour fills in that gap nicely. Even if Tull never tours again, Anderson’s “Thick as a Brick 1 & 2 Tour” most definitely will make everyone not want to sit this one out.
December 19, 2011
What good is a reissue anyway? In many cases, not much. One often gets the sense that reissues are just another way to milk a bit more cash from some classic music. Such is not the case with Jethro Tull’s Aqualung 40th Anniversary Special Edition and Collector’s Edition. This one is not one of your typical “remastered” releases, this one has been remixed and that’s what makes this release a very worthy addition to any Tull fan’s collection.
Fortunately for Jethro Tull fans, the fact that the original 1971 release of Aqualung was a bit flat – OK quite flat – sonically speaking, did not go unnoticed by Ian Anderson. The quirky frontman, it turns out, was disappointed with the final mix after spending many frustrating hours working with equipment that just wasn’t able to deliver the sound he had wanted. Although the material is brilliant and was executed superbly four decades ago, the sound quality of the album was always a disappointment, and left fans like myself wondering why they could not have done better. Now we know.
Although the quality of this new release is limited by the quality of those original master recordings that were used to remix this album, I can say without hesitation that the result was well worth every hour invested in it by Ian Anderson and Steve Wilson, the audio wiz behind this release. As revealed in the accompanying booklet, Wilson made use of the latest technology to bring out the best of the original recordings and tweak them just enough to finally make these classic tracks come alive.
Sitting here with both the original release and the new release queued up, comparing the two might best be summed up by saying that the original recording sounds as if someone has draped heavy blankets over my speakers while the new release brings the lows, the mids and the highs that were sorely lacking in the original release to life. For me personally, the lack of a good solid “bottom” (the low-end frequencies produced by instruments such as the bass, tom toms and kick drum) was always the most prominent deficiency on the original release.
I’m happy to report that the disappointments with the quality of the original release have been remedied by this new release. Although it might not be in the same league as something like Heart’s Dreamboat Annie which was recorded just four or so years after Aqualung, Steve Wilson deserves a massive amount of credit for milking an album’s worth of dramatically improved sound from those 40-year-old master tapes. Finally, one can crank Aqualung up to 11 and enjoy the full knock-you-down sonic experience that we’ve been missing for the past 40 years!
For those who may be struggling with the difference between a “remaster” and “remix,” perhaps Ian Anderson explains it best: “For those of you easily confused about such things, a ‘remix’ is not the same as a ‘re-master.’ Remixing involves going back to the original studio multi-track masters and balancing and perfecting the sound on all the individual instrumental and vocal tracks and creating from them a new stereo or 5.1 surround master.”
The Special Edition which includes two CDs and a 30-page booklet with photos, history of the group, details on the evolution of Aqualung tracks and a few words from Steve Wilson on the technical details of the remix process.
The limited collector’s edition includes a 180g heavyweight LP, 2 CDs, DVD, and Blu-Ray disc including various unreleased materials, a new stereo mix, the original Quad mix, and 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital Surround. Also included is a 12″x12″ 48-page hardback book featuring liner notes and an interview with Ian, Q&A with engineer John Burns, Don Lawson, memoirs from band members, rare photos, lyrics and more.
After hearing the vastly improved audio quality of this new release, I suggest that serious Jethro Tull fans, run – not walk – to the store and grab a copy of this new release. As always, it’s available on Amazon.com as well.
March 25, 2011
Aqualung and me go back a long way. There was something about the way Ian Anderson sang about the reclusive vagabond that formed a very clear mental image of the character in my mind. It was a friend that was three or so years my senior who introduced me to music like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Jethro Tull during those days.
At the time these guys were in their prime. We’d listen to new releases on my friend’s cassette player as he managed to save up enough to go to the record store and buy them. In retrospect, listening to those legendary songs on a mono cassette player seems like heresy, but that’s what we had at the time and I still cherish the memories of listening to that music when it was brand-new.
With the continuing popularity of the classic rock genre, it’s sometimes hard to date that stuff, but it becomes quite easy for me when I envision those cassettes being popped into the player, enabling us to tune into the latest and greatest that era had to offer. Although it seems like it was a lifetime ago, at times it seems like it was just yesterday. Those are the kinds of tricks time plays on you as you put more and more if it in the rearview mirror.
It’s been a while, and like so many other acts from that era, not all the original members are still with the band, but Jethro Tull is coming back to America this summer and they’ve agreed to bring the venerable Aqualung along with them. The group will start their tour in June and plan to perform the Aqualung album in its entirety, bringing classics like “Cross-eyed Mary,” “Locomotive Breath” and of course, “Aqualung” to life on stage.
The group has a pretty extensive 4-decade catalog to draw from, so there will surely be much more to this tour than Aqualung, although I suspect the “Aqualung moments” will be the most memorable for a good number of fans. The tour is being billed as a celebration of the group’s 40th Anniversary and will continue on to various venues in Europe once the U.S. tour has wrapped up.
Although none of the U.S. venues are anywhere near me, and as a result I am unlikely to attend, I might still find myself wondering if a fleeting glimpse of Aqualung himself might be caught near some shadowy area of the stage during the show. Sure, all sane individuals know he’s simply a fictional character, but for a one who formed such a vivid image in my mind’s eye, I suppose I just cannot help myself.
Jethro Tull has planned the following U.S. and Canadian Tour dates:
June 08: Red Rock Amphitheater, Morrison, CO
June 10: Comerica Theatre, Phoenix, AZ
June 11: The Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, CA
June 12: TBA, Valley Center, CA
June 13: The Grove, Anaheim, CA
June 14: TBA, Saratoga, CA
June 16: Cuthbert Amphitheater, Eugene, OR
June 17: McMenamins Edgefield Concerts On The Lawn, Troutdale, OR
June 18: TBA, Woodinville, WA
June 19: Centre for the Performing Arts, Vancouver, BC
June 21: Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, Edmonton, AB
June 22: Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, Calgary, AB
June 23: Casino Regina, Regina, SK
June 25: Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis, MN
June 26: Chicago Theatre, Chicago, IL
June 27: Rosemont Theatre, Rosemont, IL
December 10, 2010
Hearing the start of the interview with Jethro Tull front man Ian Anderson proves beyond doubt that the music Anderson and his band mates have crafted through the decades does indeed stand up well to the test of time. Talking about the early days and the mention of the year 1968 drives that point home. To say that Jethro Tull has been together for more than four decades is one thing, but for those of us that actually remember 1968, it provides some additional perspective that helps one better grasp just how long these chaps have been at it.
Although Stand Up was not the group’s first album, Anderson refers to it as “The first Jethro Tull album on a creative level.” He goes on to say that Stand Up represented “The emergence of a broader-based and more eclectic Jethro Tull, which is more-or-less what we remain to this day.”
A bit reminiscent of some other notable figures from the world of rock (Rush comes to mind), Anderson comes across as more of a “thinker” when compared to some of the contemporaries who were almost as well-known for partying and trashing hotel rooms as they were for their music. Fostering that kind of “bad boy” rock star stereotype is something that Anderson clearly wanted nothing to do with.
Reflecting on his decision to turn down the opportunity to play at Woodstock, he says that it felt that it wasn’t the right thing for the band. “I didn’t want to be a band that made its name and fortune on the back of a bunch of naked hippies rolling around in the mud,” he says. At the same time, he’s quick to acknowledge that some of the groups at Woodstock went on to enjoy great success, but Anderson felt that there was a risk of being defined by the event and forever being “stamped as a certain kind of band,” much the way their contemporaries at Chrysalis – Ten Years After – wound up.
“Too much of the drugs and naked flesh around,” which Anderson says he found “All rather childish and irritating,” preferring to keep his clothes on and spend his nights going to be early with a roast beef sandwich and Joey Bishop on the TV.
The interview with Anderson is somewhat unconventional in the sense that not a word is spoken by the interviewer. However, despite it being a departure from the typical interview format, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Anderson’s opinions, observations and tales from the past. Being well-spoken, as you might expect a songwriter to be, was a big plus for the viewer, and Anderson’s proper-sounding British accent and mannerisms made for an informative, casual and entertaining piece.
Jethro Tull became known to me after the release of Aqualung, which seemed to be the album that really garnered the attention of my generation at the time. A friend had purchased the cassette and would often be playing it in his room as we hung out. Admittedly, Stand Up was largely unknown to me, although I was familiar with various tracks that have likely been included on “greatest hits” compilations I have heard. “Fat Man,” “Bouree,” and “Nothing is Easy” were certainly recognizable, but the other tracks were not familiar.
The collectors edition contains two CDs and a DVD with video content being limited to the Ian Anderson interview. The first CD is the remastered version of Stand Up, which is well done. For me it was interesting to hear the band’s earlier sound which struck me as more acoustic-oriented and a bit more subdued when compared to Aqualung and some of their other subsequent material.
The second CD is Jethro Tull’s 1970 benefit concert at Carnegie Hall, a performance that has not previously been released in its entirety. The CD version is edited and remixed in contrast to the raw version that is included on the DVD, which is unedited and presented in 5.1 surround sound.
Although I understand the appreciation that many have for the energy and spontaneity of a live recording, it’s quite difficult for me to arrive at a conclusion since I am biased towards studio recordings and few live recordings I have heard come close to matching studio work. Had a video of the performance been available, I would have undoubtedly been more interested in the live recording. Being able to see the performers adds that critical second element that takes the experience a big step closer to actually being present at the performance.
If it’s not already evident, the Ian Anderson interview was what I most enjoyed in this new release. It’s always interesting to hear the songwriter’s perspective on their music and a little bit about how certain songs came to be. The album itself was a bit lacking for me, since Aqualung is so well-defined in my mind as the Jethro Tull sound, with harder-hitting tracks like “Aqualung,” “Cross-eyed Mary,” and “Locomotive Breath” being more in line with my particular tastes.
This release is likely a worthwhile investment for the serious Jethro Tull fan, particularly due to the Carnegie Hall recordings and the interview. The packaging may also be appealing to collectors due to it’s retro pop-up element that was also a feature of the original LP. Also included is a 12-page booklet with a few photos, some commentary by Ian Anderson on the development of Stand Up and a track listing.
March 9, 2010
As the Sun begins to banish the bitter winter chill and eat away at the snow here in the northeast, the newswire continues to deliver word of more classic rock groups who are set to offer their U.S. fans another opportunity to catch them live.
Three classic rock powerhouses – Foreigner, Kansas, and Styx have teamed up for something they are calling the “United We Rock” tour. All three groups are well-known for their fair share of hit singles that blared from countless car stereos during the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Today, classic rock radio stations continue to pump out those same hits, keeping those classic favorites alive, and bringing a new generation of fans into the classic rock fold. Although the crowds at these up-coming shows will likely feature a good number of graying heads (for those of us who still have hair!), there are sure to be many fans who were not yet born when these groups were at the top of their game, and packing stadium-sized venues full of screaming fans.
Although only a handful of dates have been announced so far, the summer tour dubbed “United We Rock” is set to open on June 3rd in Kansas City. This one should be one of the top classic rock tickets of the summer. The tour heads west after the debut show to finish out the month of June, and more dates will be announced soon, including stops in Boston and Chicago.
A press release from the tour quotes Styx guitarist James “JY” Young as saying “These three bands represent the more rocking side of the classic rock genre. With the countless great rock songs each band will be performing, this is going to be a guitars-a-blazin’ good time had by all.”
British rock veterans Jethro Tull are said to be planning a new album in addition to a summer U.S. tour. Starting on June 11th in Miami, the tour will then take the group north to Boston, Chicago and Toronto, among others.
Tull’s plans for a new album will end an 11-year drought for the group, one that is remembered for iconic hits such as “Aqualung,” “Locomotive Breath,” and “Living In The Past.”
Regarding the new album, enduring frontman Ian Anderson says, “I have sent material over to America where the band are working on it. That’s kind of how it works these days but they seem to like what I am doing.”
No release date for the new material has yet been announced, but it is probably a bit too early in the process. Perhaps there’s a chance they will showcase a taste of their new work while on tour.
So far it looks like the summer of 2010 is looking pretty good for classic rock fans. It is probably reasonable to assume that more tour news is on the way. The market is obviously still hungry for the genre, and other recent reunion plans are bound to translate into more live shows for classic rock fans across North America.
More on these tours is available at Live Daily.