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JETHRO TULL RISING
Jethro Tull is probably as much a victim of false-name bandits as any one. 'Rock-jazz-blues' they called it. "Jethro Tull is a group of young English musicians posing as old men," said their publicity folks. Jethro Tull is the man who invented the plough, said another blurb. Ballocks.
The best reality came from a school-master in England, after he saw them on television. Outraged, he wrote in to the local chronicle, "Let us put down this group now, before they contaminate our youth as did the Rolling Stones." (Now that's criticism and comment.)
Jethro Tull made their fame, like it or not, on being jazzy-rock. But as their recent album. Stand Up, indicates, and as their next one, as yet unnamed, will even more show, is that they're getting more used to the studio environs ... and experimenting. Yes, they like to show that they have a dash of Sgt. Pepper in their veins, except that Jethro Tull know how to handle the urges.
Stand Up, thankfully, was free from long improvised solos, and run-of-the-mill east mindstorm epics. Actually, when you get right down to it, Jethro Tull play the music of old movie houses. Yellowed, parchmentized, zany amalgams of hard rocks in the whoop-la, and then expansive west coast sunsets, such as 'Reasons For Waiting'.
The album saw use of balalaikas, organs, mandolins, and things, but live, they stick to tough stuff. Said Ian Anderson:
"There's the danger that if you piny alt these instruments on stage, people will say, 'Yah boo, multi-instrumentalists.' We don't really play these instruments (referring to balalaikas and that) but we play the desired thing, given enough time for rehearsal."
Another clue to their new material is in their new single, called 'Sweet Dream'. Three guitars, brass, violins, all that, yet 'judiciously' used. (If the Stones can do it now, so can Jethro Tull.) Unlike here, Jethro are big single artists in England. 'Living In the Past' was a smash there, but went unnoticed here, although a few prize record stores carried it.
Back to the movie theme, they are indeed relics from ageing movie lobbies. The baroque facades that lined a thousand Loew's and Fox-type cinema houses. That's what Jethro Tull is. Drama jazz, false starts, bad news across the border. The first album, This Was, had a remake of a Roland Kirk tune, 'Serenade to a Cuckoo'. Roland Kirk is one of those cats who's even a little weird for the most frozen of beretted jazz cats. Blowing 97 saxophones at once, wearing a skin diving outfit ... you know. You could call some of Jethro Tull's music jazz, but then to a lot of people, it's because of Ian Anderson's flute, and a flute (check out Herbie Mann, Charles Lloyd) is a jazz instrument. (Right?) Jazz buffs, come out and buff.
The biggest sole improvement of the second album to the first, is in the guitar work of Martin Lancelot Barre, who replaced Mick Abrahams. Mick might have been a nice guy, although he purportedly left in a huff to start his own band (as yet, unheard of), his playing was often hoked-up. For instance, 'Cat's Squirrel', which he winds up and slows down in a magnificent piece of guitar sludge, putting in trick-bottoms and unlikely corners to a number that's supposed to be free and fast. It did, however, sound spiffy when played at full-volume-bass-&-treble on a rainy night.
Barre's playing is decidedly English. (Marshall amps, little fuzz, you know, loud.) 'A New Day Yesterday' opens the album with a constant riff from Barre, laying down the theme (such as Blind Faith's 'Had To Cry Today'.). Lotsa rock. In 'Reasons for Waiting', however, Barre plays flute over Anderson's acoustic guitar. His flute is mellower and more even, almost Moody Blues, as opposed to Ian Anderson's oft-frantic huffing and puffing.
Ian, though, knows how to use a flute with class and showmanship, playing with one leg tucked up into his crotch. As he said when he played the Newport Jazz Festival:
"Here I am with this chromium phallic object ... I sure wish mine were all shiny like this."
If Jethro Tull can't make it on their musicianship, they will make it on their touch with the audience.
The band got together in the club scenes of England. Said Anderson:
"We used to blow around at home, in Blackpool, and then I came down to London. I'd never been away from home before. It was just like the yokel hitting the city with all his belongings in a knotted hankie at the end of a stick.
"I started out as a singer and when the others were playing, I found I was just gazing 'round the lofty halls. I thought I'd like to be playing something and moving 'round, too, so I got hold of a flute and a harmonica and bluffed my way through. The great thing is to pick up something and mess with it."
After one critic saw him at Newport, he compared him to Roland Kirk, who came along two acts afterward, and said that Anderson was a second-rate imitation. Said Anderson, when he heard about this:
"There's no comparison between us. I don't know how old Roland Kirk is, but I'm only 21. I've been playing for 18 months. I mean, technically, there's no comparison whatsoever. Sound wise, there is a similarity. Roland Kirk does it because he's a person who understands the instrument, the flute, to a fantastic degree. I do it because it's the one sound that I can make which will blend with a guitar: a strident noisy sound. I have to do it; it's a matter of coming across."
Chick Churchill, the organist for Ten Years After, who, if you've seen them, doesn't do anything all night except his allotted 12-bar solo, labelled Anderson, "that bloke who stands on one leg and blows down a drain-pipe." (Which further goes to prove that tongues are all a matter of taste.)
Jethro Tull, as a group and in Mister Tull's (Ian's) head, is a group with brains. The Beatles are their own music. The Band are their music. Not metallic-and-sapphire plated phallic symbols or other vogue-things. Music based on what we used to cherish with dignity — melody structures and rhythm. As for the names they are called by the nasty men in the catalogue departments (just look at what they say: "BS&T is a finely honed rock-jazz fusion." "So-and-so falls into a folk bag, but is prone to blues." Sheeit, man.). Ian the Anderson lordly reasoned in an English paper, Top Pops:
"Listen, I can't play jazz. I'm not a musician in that sense. I'm a musician inasmuch as I understand ... I have a pretty broad understanding of music and the different sorts of music. But as a player, I can't play jazz; I can't play classical music. I can't play folk music and I can't play blues. But I know what I can play. It's just music. To categorize it might help the listener or the critic, but it isn't necessary for the music to he categorized. Oh, there are times when I might refer to an untitled song as that folk one or jazz, but that has some likeness to what I think is folk or jazz. That jazzy one, which doesn't mean it's folk or jazz, but that it has some likeness to what I think is folk or jazz."
Many thanks to Glenn Cornick for this article