Classic Rock Bottom

This week marks the 40th album in the series I thought up all by myself and featured an album with a really, really short title. That suits me just fine since it means less keystrokes which means less work. 

A, released in 1980, is the 13th Jethro Tull album and followed three albums that were certified gold in the U.S. This was also the lowest charting album (#30) in the U.S. since Tull's 1968 debut, This Was, which reached #62 on the charts. 

From 1969-1975, every studio album was certified either gold or platinum and the streak ended with 1976's Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die! which did reach #14 on the U.S. charts but did not receive any certification.

There's a bit of a history behind this album, and I'll let allmusic.com do their review thing that explains what went on, but I do remember seeing this album in a record store and thought it looked really futuristic. Didn't make me want to buy it back then, but I still thought it looked cool for some reason. When I finally did give it a listen, I dug it and still do. 

Gone are the longtime Anderson images of the vagabond/sage (the group is clad in white jumpsuits on the cover) -- also gone are the historical immersion of their music and anything resembling Dickensian, much less Elizabethan sensibilities. And nearly gone was Jethro Tull itself, for A started life as an Ian Anderson solo project but ended up as a Jethro Tull release, probably for commercial reasons. The difference is probably too subtle for most people to comprehend anyway. It is more reflective than Tull's usual work, but lacks the sudden, loud hard rock explosions that punctuate most of the group's albums. The death of bassist John Glascock in late 1979, and the departure of Anderson's longtime friend John Evans after the release of Stormwatch, as well as the exit of arranger/keyboard player David Palmer, led to some major lineup shifts; Fairport Convention's Dave Pegg's taking over Glascock's spot and the addition of Eddie Jobson, ex-Roxy Music/King Crimson violinist/keyboardman all seem to have removed some of Anderson's impetus, at least for a time, for keeping the group going in the studio. What finally emerged is the first Tull record not to feature Anderson's acoustic guitar, yet it also has a more balanced sound than any of their prior records. Jobson's arrangements are leaner and more muscular than Palmer's, giving the music a stripped-down sound, a sort of hard folk-rock (reminiscent of Steeleye Span's All Around My Hat), augmented by synthesizer and electric violin; this somewhat updated Anderson's music and moved him into the art rock category. Released in the midst of the punk/new wave boom in the United States, it didn't do too much for anyone's career, although it probably maintained Anderson's credibility better than any traditional Tull album would have.

A

1. Crossfire
2. Flyingdale Flyer
3. Working John, Working Joe
4. Black Sunday
5. Protect And Survive
6. Batteries Not Included
7. Uniform
8. 4.W.D. (Low Ratio)
9. The Pine Marten's Jig
10. And Further On

Availability: A remastered version with a bonus DVD runs around $17 used. I got this in a 4 CD set that cost around $9 but is now OOP and runs around $50 used.  

 

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Some questions/thoughts...

  • If this version of Tull is less vagabondy will I still fall asleep listening to this?
  • How do you leap from vagabond to futurist in one album? Sounds like they were trying to reinvent themselves
  • White jumpsuits?  Glad this isn't a VOTW... men in onesies is something I don't want to see
  • Are you sure this is the 40th in a series or are you starting a new series on extremely short titled albums?
  • Will this make me think differently of Tull?

Some answers...

  • Yes it is less vagabondy, and a bit more interesting since its got a harder edge to it, so I did not doze off.
  • Not sure its futuristic at all, its just electric-vagabond with some pretty nice keyboard work as texture, so no leaping here (especially with an instrumental like Pine Martins Jig!), but a baby step in the right direction anyway
  • I seen Alice Coopers band perform (TV performance) during his "Flush The Fashion" days and the band was wearing green onesies with Red Duct Tape strategically wrapped around certain body parts...  I've been tainted to onesies ever since
  • Maybe its a series within a series?  That takes some talent, but for me to be really impressed, this woudl need to be a series within a series within a series!  Let me know when you get there!
  • Yes this does make like Tull a bit more, but not enough to purchase...

Good work Jon!

One thing I've always thought about Tull is that, although I like quite a few of their "hits", it seems like listening to a full album is a little too much.  But I can now say that's not true.  I really, really enjoyed this, start to finish.  Not a bad song here.  

Two other things I've always enjoyed regarding JT is Ian Anderson's voice and Martin Barre's guitar playing. Neither of those disappointed here.  This may be Jon's best post this year.  As a matter of fact, that's what I'm going with.

Now I want to buy a couple of Jethro Tull albums.  Any recommendations?  I already have Aqualung 2CD version, and I also have Crest of a Knave.  In addition, I have Songs From the Wood on vinyl I believe.  Whaddayasay?  Benefit?  Thick As A Brick?  War Child?  Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young To Die?

Heavy Horses, Minstrel In The Galley, TAAB. I am one of the few that likes Broadsword And The Beast, I also like War Child.

Is this an episode of the Twilight Zone? Or maybe opposite day?

Say what??????

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