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Thread: A Reassessment of the Jethro Tull catalog

  1. #1
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    A Reassessment of the Jethro Tull catalog

    Let me preface by first saying that I love me some Tull and their 70's oeuvre still stands up. While reading up on all the fanfare and clamoring that the Steven Wilson remixes have garnered, I decided to plunge into the cornucopia with unbridled avarice, hoping that my one time exuberance for these albums would be re-kindled. Let me also say that I am no Steven Wilson fanboy and find his manner regarding his revisionist approach to the "classics" has become extremely maddening. That's not even taking into account his obvious Narcissistic Personality Disorder(imho). Now onto the music. I have been culling my collection down to essentials and I must say, it has been a liberating and albeit arduous process. I have thinned the herd by 500 CD's and 500LP's and I'm finding new things everyday to liquidate. None of the 80's albums made the grade or "This Was"(Too blues based and Barre hadn't joined yet). However, what really had me puzzled was my eventual disdain for "Stormwatch". WtF happened!? Why the critics/fans decided to connect it to "Songs from the Wood" and "Heavy Horses" is incomprehensible. Tull has always been an Autumn band for me in that their sound is organic and the compositional approach has always had room to breathe.The album art from SftW encapsulates their sound perfectly. "Stormwatch" in a nutshell represented a lack in direction(poor song writing), syrupy arrangements(orchestration was over done and downright schmaltzy at times)and a definite void in the bass guitar department. Ian's playing was pedestrian at best and his voice was starting to show definite signs of deterioration. I'm interested in hearing others evaluation of Tull's evolution and where you get off the proverbial bus.

  2. #2
    I don't listen to anything pre-Aqualung. Too Old To Rock and Roll was the first Tull album that had a majority of songs that did nothing for me. After that I found myself loving a couple songs per album (even two on Under Wraps!) enough to keep. Songs From The Wood, Heavy Whore Says and Stormwatch were all uneven to me but with some real gems that make them indispensable. The last albums that I find almost perfect were Roots To Branches and J-Tull.Com - so I won't be getting rid of any. But that perfect songwriting streak, for me, probably ended after Minstrel.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by florentine pogen View Post
    Let me also say that I am no Steven Wilson fanboy and find his manner regarding his revisionist approach to the "classics" has become extremely maddening. That's not even taking into account his obvious Narcissistic Personality Disorder(imho)... "Stormwatch" in a nutshell represented a lack in direction(poor song writing), syrupy arrangements(orchestration was over done and downright schmaltzy at times)and a definite void in the bass guitar department. Ian's playing was pedestrian at best and his voice was starting to show definite signs of deterioration. I'm interested in hearing others evaluation of Tull's evolution and where you get off the proverbial bus.
    Agreed about Steven Wilson - it would be a great thing for music if he stopped making these remixes immediately.

    As far as Tull - agreed that Stormwatch is not as good as SftW and Heavy Horses. Agreed also that it doesn't really fit as any kind of trilogy with those other two. The bass guitar void is because Ian Anderson himself had to play bass on most of the songs, due to the incapacitation of John Glasscock. The music suffered for it, certainly. I would also add that the Stormwatch production was not very good - quite muddy, in spots. I've never heard the original vinyl, but the cassette, first Chrysalis and and the remastered CD don't sound that good, IMO.

    I would disagree that it's all poor songwriting. I think North Sea Oil is one of the band's best short songs, in fact. I like Dark Ages a lot, too, despite it not really being much of a progression from the Back Door Angels/No Lullabye style of longer, electric-guitar-laden mini-epic. WHere I do think the material is outright weak is Home and Something's On the Move. Old Ghosts, Orion and Flying Dutchman are just kind of "there"; '70s Tull-by-numbers, in a way. Not bad or anything, but Tull's better albums typically only had one of these such songs - two at most. Warm Sporran is kind of cool, IMO, but I could also see how others might find it to be total filler. I'll defend Dun Ringill and Elegy, though - I woudn't call either of these great songs, but I think they're very good at what they're trying to do.

    I'd throw Stormwatch a B. Not a particularly good grade for an album by a band I call myself a fan of, but I'll certainly take it over almost all of the albums that came after it (I do prefer Crest of a Knave to Stormwatch).

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by florentine pogen View Post
    However, what really had me puzzled was my eventual disdain for "Stormwatch". WtF happened!? Why the critics/fans decided to connect it to "Songs from the Wood" and "Heavy Horses" is incomprehensible. Tull has always been an Autumn band for me in that their sound is organic and the compositional approach has always had room to breathe.The album art from SftW encapsulates their sound perfectly. "Stormwatch" in a nutshell represented a lack in direction(poor song writing), syrupy arrangements(orchestration was over done and downright schmaltzy at times)and a definite void in the bass guitar department. Ian's playing was pedestrian at best and his voice was starting to show definite signs of deterioration. I'm interested in hearing others evaluation of Tull's evolution and where you get off the proverbial bus.
    I'd agree with you that Stormwatch isn't as good as the two albums that precede it, but then those two albums are near masterpieces in my book, so I'm not sure that's a fair comparison. I agree with Facelift that Glascock's absense was a factor. I also think after two very strong albums that Anderson was low on quality material, and was perhaps searching for a new direction after heavily mining that "folkish" sound. In retrospect, a break for the band may have been in order to let Anderson do his solo album then come back to Tull refreshed. Though with the changes in the industry and popular tastes, I'm not sure Tull would have ever fully returned to the SftW/HH sound.

    I also personally prefer Crest of a Knave to Stromwatch, and it remains the only post A album I own. I also don't own This Was, which I've never really liked much. So I basically get on the bus with Stand Up and get off the bus with A, and Crest of a Knave is something of a post script (and oddly one of my favorite Tull albums). I'm not much of a fan and Too Old to R&R, but there's some stuff on it I like, and I've bought, sold, and re-bough that album enough that I've just leaving the damn thing be in my collection.

    Bill

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Facelift View Post
    Agreed also that it doesn't really fit as any kind of trilogy with those other two. The bass guitar void is because Ian Anderson himself had to play bass on most of the songs, due to the incapacitation of John Glasscock. The music suffered for it, certainly. I would also add that the Stormwatch production was not very good - quite muddy, in spots. I've never heard the original vinyl, but the cassette, first Chrysalis and and the remastered CD don't sound that good, IMO.

    I would disagree that it's all poor songwriting. I think North Sea Oil is one of the band's best short songs, in fact. I like Dark Ages a lot, too, despite it not really being much of a progression from the Back Door Angels/No Lullabye style of longer, electric-guitar-laden mini-epic. WHere I do think the material is outright weak is Home and Something's On the Move. Old Ghosts, Orion and Flying Dutchman are just kind of "there"; '70s Tull-by-numbers, in a way. Not bad or anything, but Tull's better albums typically only had one of these such songs - two at most. Warm Sporran is kind of cool, IMO, but I could also see how others might find it to be total filler. I'll defend Dun Ringill and Elegy, though - I woudn't call either of these great songs, but I think they're very good at what they're trying to do.

    I'd throw Stormwatch a B. Not a particularly good grade for an album by a band I call myself a fan of, but I'll certainly take it over almost all of the albums that came after it (I do prefer Crest of a Knave to Stormwatch).
    I have to disagree with you. Stormwatch is indeed part of a trilogy, if you look at the subject matter that is encapsulated in each: Songs from the Wood deals mainly with woodland and forest themes; Heavy Horses with farm and field; and Storm Watch with the sea and the stormy weather that rises from the sea. Half of the songs (eliminating the 2 instrumentals) on the album have a water theme: "North Sea Oil", "Old Ghosts", "Dun Ringill" and "Flying Dutchman", and the other half, "Something's on the Move, "Orion", "Dark Ages", and "Home" all have a weather theme.

    So you have a triumvirate perspective of Ian Anderson's regarding the British/Scots environment.
    "And your little sister's immaculate virginity wings away on the bony shoulders of a young horse named George who stole surreptitiously into her geography revision."

    Occasional musical musings on https://darkelffile.blogspot.com/

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    Some won't like what you have said about Him. (FWIW, I've very, very briefly met Wilson and he was nothing but pleasant.)

    I rate the 1968-72 period highly, am agnostic about the 1973-6 albums which many here love. Am back with them again for the 1977-8 albums. Stormwatch is not one I've played that often, although it has its moments.
    Last edited by JJ88; 05-23-2017 at 06:06 PM.

  7. #7
    I find plenty to enjoy on Stormwatch. There's a bit of burn out after the pace they kept all through the 70's but it's surprisingly strong for a bands 12th album in as many years. Ian must've had some fondness for it as a couple bootleg shows I have from the tour open with 6 or 7 songs from the album in succession before hitting some older material. I have very fond memories of Crest of a Knave as it was the first Tull album I bought as a new release when I was 18 and saw them for the first time on that tour. Very shaky output after that but there's still a lot to enjoy. I buy all of the Steven Wilson editions for the 5.1 mixes and all the extras and don't have much of an opinion on the stereo remixes. This series of new editions is spotlighting one of the great all time bands and I can only think of that as a good thing regardless of people's opinions of Steven Wilson.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JJ88 View Post
    I rate the 1968-72 period highly, am agnostic about the 1973-6 albums which many here love. Am back with them again for the 1977-8 albums. Stormwatch is not one I've played that often, although it has its moments.
    I'm pretty much with you on this. I just could never get into PP, WC or 2O2R&R no matter how hard I tried. Some good songs/parts, but overall they never clicked for me. But I got back from 1977-1987. Liked A, B&B, and even UW. Crest was a favorite for along time though the interest has waned over the years. Then I got off the bus again until R2B. Love that one.

    For me Stormwatch is right up there with the others. The songs really fit the sea theme (BTW good call Elf on explaining the trilogy; I had never thought of that but now I'm sure you are right!).

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    Stormy is my least favorite of the trilogy by a fair chunk, but its still Tull and worth a spin every once in a while. I have always loved "Dun Ringill", but the live version on the 20 years set is even better imo.

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    Highly Evolved Orangutan JKL2000's Avatar
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    It's only from Crest... onward that there are tracks I skip. And I like all of Catfish...

    I'm not a SW fanboy, but unless you know more about him than the rest of us do I think it would be awfully hard to say he has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. That disorder involves a lot more than thinking highly of oneself, and a lot of it is fairly crippling, which is why it's called a Disorder. We have at least one person in the public eye now who experts do think quite possibly has this disorder and he lives in a House that's White.

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    Interesting…….I have been really happy with the Wilson re-mixes that I have picked up. Some of those old albums were pretty bad sonically, and I think Wilson has done a nice job with them. As for thoughts on the albums, here are the ones I own (I never picked up Stormwatch):

    Stand Up: Good early effort. I think they did much better later, but Barre makes a huge difference.

    Benefit: Not quite as good as Stand Up, but still solid.

    Aqualung: A classic for the most part.

    Thick As A Brick: Their all-time best IMO.

    Passion Play: They took it too far IMO. Not that much of a fan.

    Minstrel In The Gallery: Another really strong album.

    Too Old To Rock N Roll: I don’t dislike it as much as many do, but definitely a step down from the albums on either side of it.

    Songs From The Wood: Another masterpiece.

    Heavy Horses: Underrated IMO. This one usually is not mentioned with the band’s best, but I think it is great.

    A: Just ok for me.

    Crest Of A Knave: I am a pretty big fan of this one and have always enjoyed it.

    Catfish Rising: I think this one is pretty good. It has some filler, but also some great songs.

    .Com: Not as good as Catfish, but it has it’s moments.

  12. #12
    The remixes prove 74 and 76 would have been strong years if they weren't meant to be soundtracks

  13. #13
    I'll do the 70s for now

    1970-If benefit contained teacher and witches it would have been pretty strong
    1971-aqualung side 1 great, side 2 average, outtakes mainly great.
    1972-taab classic
    1973-app growing nicely, left right and audition are first class outtakes
    1974-Soundtrack album. If other album was released, it would have been a strong album
    1975-tulls weakest year but still decent
    1976-see 1974
    1977-sftw strong
    1978-horses stronger plus some very good outtakes
    1979-storm pretty good plus some very good outtakes

    So overall, Tull were strong every year apart from 1975 imo. Tull really needed to release 2 albums in 74 and 76 as they planned so they got the recognition they deserved from the mid 70s.

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    Parrots ripped my flesh Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JKL2000 View Post
    We have at least one person in the public eye now who experts do think quite possibly has this disorder and he lives in a House that's White.
    Somehow he's managed to not claim he's going to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet.

  15. #15
    To the original post:well now, that's certainly your opinion. Have a good day, all.
    Sleeping at home is killing the hotel business!

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    Stormwatch was typical of the post-HH output: some good songs but not the peak performance we were used to. It's not a bad album by any means but pales compared to the glories of HH and SFTW. Along with Warchild it's the 70s Tull album I've played the least.
    I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means 'put down.'- Bob Newhart

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    Quote Originally Posted by florentine pogen View Post
    I'm interested in hearing others evaluation of Tull's evolution and where you get off the proverbial bus.
    I got off the bus after Passion Play. I bought Songs from the Woods and Minstrel and Roots to Branches as digital downloads, indicating a lesser degree of interest, and I've bought 3 or 4 Anderson solo discs in the same spirit. But the main JT albums? Sampled 'em, decided against.

    I happen to love This Was, but then it's as much a Mick Abrahams disc as an Ian Anderson isn't it, and I followed Abrahams for a few decades afterward too.

  18. #18
    While Stormwatch was definitely not as good as SftW, I thought it had some pretty good songs scattered throughout. Love "North Sea Oil" as an opener. It has a much darker, bleaker atmosphere than SftW -- perhaps to its detriment -- but it was definitely an interesting counterpart IMO.

    A Passion Play is probably my favorite Tull album, so take any of my opinions with a grain of salt. Gosh, some of those passages are just so powerful on APP. One thing about Wilson's new mix for APP that I did not care for was that he stripped away some of the saxophone overdubs, and to me it made those sections lose some of their punch (especially the "Overseer Overture" section).

    The only SW-remixed Tull albums I've picked up so far have been Thick As A Brick and A Passion Play. Kept meaning to get the rest eventually, but I think SftW just jumped to the head of the queue.

  19. #19
    Chronic Overspender zombywoof's Avatar
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    My Top 5 Tulls

    Passion Play
    Stormwatch
    Too Old to Rock 'n Roll
    WarChild
    Songs from the Wood

    Tull are my favorite band ... and I love what SW does with them!
    Check out Colouratura's sophomore release Unfamiliar Skies - out this spring on Melodic Revolution Records!

    colouratura.bandcamp.com

  20. #20
    Member 2steves's Avatar
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    thick as a Brick is their best---my problem with the band is the sameness of sound on all their albums---

  21. #21
    Parrots ripped my flesh Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    Yeah, I can barely tell This Was, Dotcom and Under Wraps apart.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by The Dark Elf View Post
    I have to disagree with you. Stormwatch is indeed part of a trilogy, if you look at the subject matter that is encapsulated in each: Songs from the Wood deals mainly with woodland and forest themes; Heavy Horses with farm and field; and Storm Watch with the sea and the stormy weather that rises from the sea. Half of the songs (eliminating the 2 instrumentals) on the album have a water theme: "North Sea Oil", "Old Ghosts", "Dun Ringill" and "Flying Dutchman", and the other half, "Something's on the Move, "Orion", "Dark Ages", and "Home" all have a weather theme.

    So you have a triumvirate perspective of Ian Anderson's regarding the British/Scots environment.
    I think of SFTW as representing spring, going into summer. Heavy Horses is late summer, autumnal, and Stormwatch is darker, more wintry.

  23. #23
    Member Vic2012's Avatar
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    I don't have the time or patience to type something out on a tiny soft keyboard but I'll just say I avoided This Was for many years. Then one day I took a chance on it. I love it.

  24. #24
    My top 5 Tull:
    Songs From the Wood(#3rd Greatest Record Ever, IMO)
    [A] - Jobson Bliss
    Minstrel in the Gallery
    Thick as a Brick
    Benefit(Where they hone their sound, IMO)

  25. #25
    I got off the bus with A.

    But if you are speaking of essentials, in the way of pruning an oversized collection, I would just have kept:

    Stand Up
    Aqualung
    Thick As A Brick
    Passion Play
    Songs From The Wood
    Macht das ohr auf!

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