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Jethro Tull | Album review

In honour of the legendary prog-rock bands' arrival in Aberdeen, this monthly album review focuses on a collection of some of the group's greatest tracks.

By James Wilson

Rating: 4/5

As part of their The Seven Decades tour, the eclectic Jethro Tull are set to perform at the Aberdeen Music Hall on the 29th of April. Admittedly, this means that this will be rather late news to any readers of this article, considering that this edition will have been released after this date. Nevertheless, I felt it was fitting to review one of my favourite of their albums, in light of the event.

Released in 2001, as the name suggests The Very Best of Jethro Tull serves to provide just that; a compilation of some of their best work, spanning what was already, at the time, a career over thirty years in the making. Some of their most popular songs, such as ‘Aqualung’ and ‘Locomotive Breath’, naturally make an appearance here, however there are also some lesser-known pieces to be discovered as well.

Pino D'Amico on flickr. License: CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED

The tracks were selected by the band's frontman, Ian Anderson, who served as producer for the album, and approved of any necessary edits to songs that might have been overlong, such is the nature of prog-rock. One track on the compilation, the beautifully wistful ‘Thick as a Brick’, was cut down from its original mammoth forty-four-minute runtime to just three minutes long here (although the full version is still well worth listening to).

The album begins with the single ‘Living in the Past’, opening with a nimble bassline followed shortly by Anderson's signature flute playing, an unconventional choice for rock and roll that would come to set him and his band firmly apart from their contemporaries.

He uses this instrument to particular effect in his own rendition of Bach’s ‘Bourée’, imparting a sly, creeping swing into the piece before launching into a furious groove a quarter of the way through.

The compilation does not run chronologically to the group’s discography, but nonetheless maintains an excellent flow, with no tracks feeling awkwardly or unfittingly placed. As such, the band’s wide breadth of stylistic influences is put on full display, floating from folk-driven pieces such as ‘The Witches Promise’, which wouldn’t feel out of place heard playing from the corner of a medieval tavern, to the distinctively 80s, synthesizer-driven ‘Broadsword’. Both long-time fans as well as newcomers to Tull’s music will likely find plenty to enjoy here, regardless of their pre-existing tastes.

Although unconventional, Jethro Tull's musicality seems undeniable after listening to this excellent compilation for the first time, spanning a number of styles, genres, and themes.

As someone who was initially sceptical about whether the band would be for my taste, I can now attest that this album is a must-listen for anyone looking to broaden their listening horizons, and I look forward to seeing how they hold up live at the end of the month.


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