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ROCK BEYOND WOODSTOCK
27 April 1970
Jethro Tull is that rare thing: a complex, playful, free yet intelligent rock band. They are often in the company of the likes of Roland Kirk, Fleetwood Mac, the Nice, sometimes in a cloud-cuckoo land, sometimes down-to-earth. They are, however, quite their own masters, unorthodox and extraordinary to behold.
Musically, Jethro (named after an eighteenth-century agriculturalist — for no reason in particular) is a band of revolutionary moderates. Moderately proficient, moderately experimental. And yet there is much grace and beauty in their timidity about excess. Perhaps Chris Holdenfield puts it best: "Never saw a third-rate band I enjoyed more, this Jethro Tull band ..."
Moderates musically, but never on stage. There, they are matchless. Ian Anderson, that famous Fagin come Captain Hook, moves with drunken abandon in phases of sexual intoxication, his arms and legs flailing, his eyes bugging out like uncut diamonds, his shaggy hair dancing merrily in ringlets, waving his flute like the Pied Piper of all lost innocents. Anderson's strength consists in his ability to evoke a mounting atmosphere of lurid, bubbling frenzy — all the while, making a music that is a delicious idyll, totally structured and yet care-free, sharp and delicate.
But it is very easy (too easy indeed) to attribute the Jethro Tull magic to Anderson alone. The other members (Glenn Cornick, bass; Clive Bunker, percussion; Martin Barre, lead guitar; John Evan, piano) produce some very good, very solid music that could — and should — well be considered on its own merits. You might well begin with their fine new LP, Benefit (Reprise).
"I took up flute because I was just a singer, a pretty mediocre one, and I thought I should do something else mediocrely ...
"All I am is a musician; I don't try to offend anybody ...
"I think most of us possess a feeling ... you know, I think even people who don't play instruments might possess a feeling for the music and are lacking simply the technique although they inherently possess a certain amount of musicianship completely apart from technique ...
"Music should be taken for what it is. Intellectualization is meaningless ...
"The movements are a natural manifestation of the music. I jump around in the studio just like on stage. I have to. I perhaps get more creative satisfaction when recording, but more emotional satisfaction when performing. Then again, the two over-lap — and where does that leave us?
"As long as we can keep our music valid and expanding from within, we're satisfied — at least as satisfied as a musician ever can be.
"Audiences are a good wall to play off of. In performing, we leave a lot of the space to improvise in. The kind of audience you have affects that. You can't play down to some audiences — the ones that freak out and don't listen ...
"You know, it's actually rather silly to talk about music. I'd rather play it and make it my own.
"Everything moves so fast. One needs standards a lot more than many people imagine ..."