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.