Journal : Dec 23, 2011 : 5.30 AM : Ode To Jethro Tull

It’s cold now. The longest night is passed. The water froze my fingers.

I have not installed a geyser, and have an electric rod instead. We use that for readying a couple of bucketfuls for bathing only.

On the other hand we do have the toilet paper rolls but do not use it. Have never. It’s always with a water jet installed on the seat !

* * *   * * *

The entire establishment and politico – economic system, hallowed Parliament and holy cow of democracy has brought us to pass… corruption, black money, huge huge marginalised population, commodity prices and cost of essential services rising like a speeding locomotive without a brake, society fractured by perpetuated caste identities, and power of people institutions hijacked by cliques and coteries.

Anna Hazare has risen to restore democracy back to the people. His call to people amounts to wresting control of the power vested in people institutions. He wants installation of a strong, effective and autonomous anti – corruption ombudsman, the Lokpal.

But how could such a Lokpal be established except by law ? The corrupt establishment has made it impossible… first, it was weak; then, ineffectiveness was built into it. Now, it is not autonomous. The lawmakers propose but do not want it; some openly oppose it; others may want it but would like to move on into the electoral game. Even the Judiciary is cool towards it.

Obviously, there is a war on. Anna has given the battle cry. People had flocked on earlier occasions. But will they heed ? The media is working overtime seeding doubt and discouragement, painting the lies white and truths black !

We will see.

* * *   * * *

Someone asked me about ” Spirit ” and ” Soul.”  I gave my response in brief, as herebelow :

(1) What are people ? A person ?

… it is a SYSTEM of 5 – layer or sheath,

with a dimension or axis that is obviously dipped
in MATTER, at one end, and the SELF, at the other.

(2) The 5 sheaths are :

|   –  FOOD or Gross Matter, flesh and bones et al
|
A|       >>  Blood and Breath bridge
|             the FOOD & VITAL sheaths
|
|   –  VITAL or Subtle Matter, air ( 5 kinds )
|      that energise and move the gross body matter

   |   –  LOWER MIND, Instrument of ( sub – ) consciousness,
|       where emotions and will surge,
|
B|      >>>> Waking State Mind, bridges
|                the LOWER MIND & INTELLECT
|                where thoughts and ideas flow, are distilled &
|                knowledge of facts and understanding reside
|
|   –  INTELLECT, the Instrument of ( super – ) consciousness,
|      where comprehensive knowledge abides
|      with which the Witness Consciousness is identified

C|   –  BLISS, of which the Ego (Waking State) in the mind,
|      which covers the SOUL… the Overlord to Ego
|      Soul… which is also Overlord of all other sheaths 24/7
|      Soul… which is the Witness, over entire lifetime
|      Soul… which the Ego does not know, but can merge with.

Ego + Vital  =  Spirit … that has the energy and the will.

SOUL identified with the VITAL  =  SPIRIT, comprehensive.

The SELF is the soul of the SOUL, soul of the Universe !

* * *   * * *

my ode to jethro tull …

I have been meaning to write a few words about Jethro Tull, the classy ” mavericks ” on the music scene while I was coming of age. There were Doors, Beatles, Eagles, Grateful Dead, Louis Armstrong, Queens, Fleetwood Mac, Joan Baez, Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppellin, Rolling Stones, and some more. But the Tull music stood out, both in its art and import. It was one of its kind… refreshing, bold, rebellious and, well, very very different. I am not qualified to offer musical critique of any kind, and have had to rely on others who know more. And I have borrowed the biographical information from several locations on the world wide web.

Ian Anderson, known throughout the world of rock music as the flute and voice behind the legendary Jethro Tull, celebrated his 40th year as a recording and performing musician in 2008. Ian was born in 1947 in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. After attending primary school in Edinburgh, his family relocated to Blackpool in the north of England in 1959. Following a traditional Grammar school education, he moved on to Art college to study fine art before deciding on an attempt at a musical career.

After release of Aqualung [1971] and Thick As A Brick [1972], the band’s success grew internationally. By the mid-seventies, Jethro Tull were one of the most successful live performing acts on the world stage, rivalling Zeppelin, Elton John and even Rolling Stones. Surprising, really, for a group whose more sophisticated and evolved stylistic extravagance was far from the Pop and Rock norm of that era. Now, with some 30-odd albums and 60 million copies to their credit, and sales totalling more than US $50 million, the apparently non-commercial Tull have lasted over the four decades, travelling near and far to fans across the world. They’ve been at the bottom, at the top, and at various points in between, but are still performing typically more than a hundred concerts each year.

* * * * * * * * *

To us, students of engineering at one of the best in the country, Jethro Tull threw images at us that were powerful.

Let me bring you songs from the wood

To make you feel much better …

Dust you down from tip to toe

Show you how the garden grows

Hold you steady as you go

Join the chorus if you can

It’ll make of you an honest man.

Let me bring you love from the field

Poppies red and roses filled …

To heal the wound and still the pain

That threatens again and again

As you drag down every lovers’ lane

Life’s long celebration’s here

I’ll toast you all in penny cheer

Let me bring you all things refined

Galliards and lute songs served in …

Greeting well-met fellow, hail I am the wind to fill your sail

I am the cross to take your nail

A singer of these ageless times

With kitchen prose and gutter rhymes

Songs from the wood make you feel much better

Songs from the wood …

Jethro Tull lyrics and its compelling delivery communicated a world – view and a values – system that found its home in our growing minds and largely vacant spirits. I do not believe that Ian Anderson, its founder, who wrote all the lyrics, was either a man of letters or a man of wisdom. But he was speaking of matters that were not mainstream to engineering students at large, and was taking positions that were extremely provocative. During those few but long graduate years, we listened intently to what he was trying to say and discussed what he projected. But we loved his performances far too much to judge it.

Ian Anderson started his first band, The Blades, in 1962 in Blackpool. In 1967 the band moved to the London area. However, viability was forever at risk and within days of the move most of the band quit and headed back north. Anderson remained. He and bassist Glenn Cornick join hands with blues guitarist Mick Abrahams and his friend, drummer Clive Bunker. This was early 1968 … a group of young British musicians rising from the ashes of failed regional bands and gathered together in hunger, destitution and modest optimism.

The new band had trouble getting repeat bookings and they took to changing their name frequently to continue playing the London club circuit. Band names were often supplied by their booking agents’ staff, one of whom, a history enthusiast, eventually christened them “Jethro Tull” after the 18th-century agriculturist. The name stuck because, after its first performance, a club manager so liked the show that he invited them to a return.

With a common love of Blues and an appreciation, between them, of various other music forms, they started to win over a small but enthusiastic audience in various pubs and clubs of Southern England. The breakthrough came when they were offered the Thursday night residency at London’s famous Marquee Club in Wardour Street, Soho. Later, they were taken on by the blossoming Ellis – Wright agency, and became the third band managed by the soon – to – be Chrysalis empire.

It was around this time that Anderson purchased a flute after becoming frustrated with his inability to play guitar like Eric Clapton. Initially playing blues rock with an experimental flavour, the band also incorporated elements of classical, folk, jazz, hard rock and art rock into their music.

Won’t somebody tell me

Where I laid my head last night ?

Won’t somebody tell me

Where I laid my head last night ?

I really don’t remember,

But give me one more cigarette and I think I might.

‘Till I get it put together,

That old feeling can’t yet arrive.

In late 1968, Jethro Tull released their first Blues – oriented album, This Was, before moving on to more home – grown and eclectic efforts. The work showcased their talent. Mick Abrahams was a particularly accomplished blues player. But with the arrival of Clapton, Hendrix, etc preceding them, Jethro Tull were a little late in the day, and not entirely convincing at that, to make any kind of huge impact upon the blues scene. For, at the end of the day, Anderson himself was a lousy blues singer. And sure enough, his vision went beyond that… into Jazz, world music, folk music, et al, especially since Abrahams left band after recording this album. While with the band, Abrahams used to say, if it ain’t blues, it’s shit !

In 1969, Tull issued Stand Up, their clear break from blues to progressive rock, through which they could say practically anything, as it was on their mind. Anderson often spoke of this album as a personal favourite of his, and perhaps with good reason. It saw the group stretching out a little and incorporating different styles and elements to compliment the blues influences. The song ‘A New Day Yesterday’ was done fantastically well with a propulsive bass rhythm, some great exhilarating guitar work including solos, the obligatory flute work ( of course ! ) and interesting vocals. The flute and guitar solos were a delight to behold.

Oh I had to leave today

Just when I thought I’d found you.

It was a new day yesterday

But it’s an old day now.

The second song ‘Jeffrey Goes To Leicester Square’ rams home the diverse nature of this record early on, being a quirky little folksy pop song. It’s very light, but very enjoyable and the flute work is again accomplished. ‘Bouree’ is a little piece of Bach transformed into an exhilarating instrumentals, with great playing from everyone. It gave the group a distinctive sound. ‘Back To The Family’ had passion and pace but, above all, impressive conviction in terms of performance. ‘Look Into The Sun’ mellowed things out with some acoustic guitars to close the first side of the record.

So if you hear my sad song singing

Remember who and what you nearly had.

It’s not easy singing sad songs

When you can sing the song to make me glad.

So when you look into the sun

And see the words you could have sung:

It’s not too late, only begun,

We can still make summer.

Yes, summer always comes …

On the other side, ‘Nothing Is Easy’ was hugely enjoyable and ‘Fat Man’ had eccentric lyrics that were lots of fun. ‘We Used To Know’ was a little soft guitar led ballad with wonderful solo half way through. The whole song was haunting. ‘Reasons For Waiting’ was another nice mellow song. More superlative flute work and all-out performances marked the closing song ‘For A Thousand Mothers’. The flute, mixed in with the blues influenced Rock music worked extremely well. The most recent CD re-issue of ‘Stand Up’ has four bonus tracks including the perennial ‘Living In The Past’ released shortly after Stand Up which became the groups biggest selling single.

Happy and I’m smiling,

Walk a mile to drink your water.

You know I’d love to love you,

And above you there’s no other.

We’ll go walking out

While others shout of war’s disaster.

Oh, we won’t give in,

Let’s go living in the past.

The year 1971 saw the release of Jethro Tull’s best – known work, the iconic Aqualung, in which Anderson’s lyrics projected strong opinions about society and religion with much craft and sophistication, and thematic ambition. The songs had something urgent to say and held the work together magnificently. The lyrics staked a distinction between religion and God, and were very unusual and thought provoking. The first side was full of little stories and story-telling; the second side more philosophical. The first three songs flowed wonderfully. The title track was full of impressive musical parts, ‘Cross Eyed Mary’ was snarled and hard hitting, yet easy to enjoy. ‘Cheap Day Return’ for all its 83 seconds was absolutely delightfu with folky guitar, beautiful vocals and touching import. ‘Mother Goose’ had happy sounds on flute. ‘Wond’ring Aloud’ rebounded with folky sounds and ‘Up To Me’ with superlative flute. It all worked gloriously, raising shivers and giving goose bumps.

Aqualung my friend

don’t start away uneasy

you poor old sod

you see it’s only me.

Do you still remember

December’s foggy freeze

when the ice that clings on to your beard

is screaming agony.

And you snatch your rattling last breaths

with deep-sea diver sounds,

and the flowers bloom like madness in the spring.

The other side of the album left you in contemplation, substantive and deep. ‘My God’ took us on a a trip, ‘Hymn 43’ sported pounding piano work and more fascinating lyrical content. ‘Slipstream’ cooled it off but the lyrics again take off with strings sweeping quietly to a close. ‘Locomotive Breath’ followed, all too quietly, on piano sounds and classical notes. There was a mix of all sorts of musical influences, done so very well, including funk and harder rock, and the flute ! ‘Wind Up’ closed the virtually perfect album with guitar riffs and lots of groovy stuff. The experience overall was amazingly satisfying, happy and contemplative.

People what have you done

locked him in his golden cage.

Made him bend to your religion

Him resurrected from the grave.

He is the God of nothing

if that’s all that you can see.

You are the God of everything

He’s a part of you and me.

So lean upon him gently

and don’t call on Him to save you

from your social graces

and the sins you wash to waive.

The album, Aqualung, is a masterpiece and in my humble opinion should be considered as one of the top 10 albums ever recorded. The music sounds no less wonderfully accomplished 40 years later and the musicianship displayed cannot be bettered. It deals with perennial social, economic and political issues : Homelessness, Destitution, Paedophilia, Organised Religion and its debilitating effects on individuals and communities, Education System and its sadistic school regime that leaves one with no real sense of self – worth… such addressed topics are as relevant today.

Observe the lyrics of Locomotive Breath :

In the Shuffling madess

of the locomotive breath,

runs the all time loser,

headlong to his death.

He feels the piston scraping

steam breaking on his brow

old Charlie stole the handle

and the train won’t stop going

no way to slow down.

He sees his children jumping off

at stations one by one.

His woman and his best friend

in bed and having fun.

Crawling down the corridor

on his hands and knees

old Charlie stole the handle

and the train won’t stop going

no way to slow down.

He hears the silence howling

catches angels as they fall.

And the all time winner

has got him by the balls.

He picks up Gideons Bible

open at page one …

old Charlie stole the handle

and the train won’t stop going

no way to slow down.

40th Anniversary of Aqualung  http://bit.ly/ti5JCQ 

40 years later where a great album gets even better. First, we have the new stereo mix masterminded by the indefatigable Steven Wilson, who has become a champion for prog rock remastering. What Wilson has done with the master tapes is spectacular bordering on unbelievable: the songs do not merely sound improved, they sound different, albeit in ways that do not encroach upon or overwhelm the versions we have grown so fond of over the decades. Now, each instrument (especially the bass and John Evan’s omnipresent piano) gets released from the murkiness of the earlier mixes. Anderson’s vocals are crystalline and each note from the acoustic guitar is a room-filling revelation. “Aqualung” refers to the gurgling sound of the man’s chronic bronchitis. The cover of the album had featured the actual tramp from the Thames Embankment who had inspired the song. Now its 2011 avatar would make the lyrics about the real human being inexorably more vivid and disturbing.

The song projects as a confrontational movie that directs itself: a shot that pans a city beside the river; quiet men bundled in rags, huddled together under a bridge, “drying in the cold sun”. Finally the camera zooms in on one individual, whose rasping cough makes it difficult to ignore… “snot is running down his nose/greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes”. A tracking shot follows him… “an old man wandering lonely” …as he goes about his daily routine… “taking time the only way he knows” …picking up used cigarette butts, taking refuge in a public toilet to warm his feet, queuing up for a daily dose of charity… “Salvation a la mode and a cup of tea”. Then, the guitar solo. The other two immortal solos from that early ‘70s era, David Gilmour in “Time” and Jimmy Page in “Stairway to Heaven” (coincidentally recorded in the same studio at the same time) are like Technicolor bursts of inevitability. Martin Barre’s less celebrated solo is a strictly black-and-white affair, sooty, unvarnished, irrefutable: it is the bitter breath of a broken down old man spitting out pieces of his broken luck. Finally, the reprise: we might see or at least imagine multiple Aqualungs… “and you snatch your rattling last breaths with deep – sea diver sounds” …in multiple cities — the nameless people we make it our business to ignore, the people we must walk by because it’s bad for business to do otherwise. Or so we tell ourselves. “And the flowers bloom like madness in the Spring…”

Aqualung was followed up with the EP, Life Is a Long Song.

We will meet in the sweet light of dawn.

As the baker street train

spills your pain all over your new dress,

And the symphony sounds underground

put you under duress,

Well don’t you squeal

as the heel grinds you under the wheel.

Life’s a long song.

Life’s a long song.

Life’s a long song.

But the tune ends too soon for us all.

Thick as a Brick, released in 1972, proved to be the ” mother of all concept albums.” The album set the music world abuzz with the preposterous idea that the lyrics had been written by an eight-year-old boy. It consisted of a single track running 43 : 46, an innovation previously unheard of in rock music, split over the two sides with a number of movements melded together and a few repeating themes. It was the first Tull album to reach number one on the US Billboard Pop Albums chart, the following year’s A Passion Play being the only other. In its lyrical details, the scene in this two part composition was set early by … ” Really don’t mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper — your deafness a SHOUT. I may make you feel but I can’t make you think. Your sperm’s in the gutter — your love’s in the sink. ” – … and more clearly by the albums cover art that was made to look like a newspaper. ” Judges Disqualify Little Milton In Last Minute Rumpus, ” read the headline, and the story underneath revealed that an eight year old had been disqualified of his status as a literary prizewinner following a reading of his ‘ Thick As A Brick ‘ poem. The judge pronounced that the child is ‘ seriously unbalanced ‘ and that his work displays ‘ unwholesome attitudes. ‘

So you ride yourselves over the fields

and you make all your animal deals

and your wise men don’t know how it feels

to be thick as a brick.

And the sand-castle virtues are all swept away

In the tidal destruction the moral melee.

The elastic retreat rings the close of play

as the last wave uncovers the newfangled way.

But your new shoes are worn at the heels

and your suntan does rapidly peel

and your wise men don’t know how it feels

to be thick as a brick.

And the love that I feel is so far away:

I’m a bad dream that I just had today —

and you shake your head and say it’s a shame.

Spin me back down the years and the days of my youth.

Draw the lace and black curtains and shut out the whole truth.

Spin me down the long ages: let them sing the song.

Thick As A Brick was just about the most ‘prog’ of all progressive rock albums from the classic era of the genre. It was just two ‘songs’ and forty plus minutes of music that held the piece together. I actually wasn’t able to figure out most of the lyrics; just enough to follow the story. But it was hard work.

However, enjoying the album as a piece of music was easy even if you were not aquainted with the progressive rock scene of the early seventies, as indeed I was. There was melody all over and the composition changed plenty of times as it went along, like little abandoned songs stictched together, different ideas and trains of thought woven into a fabulous new whole. The music was now light, and then very serious sounding. The lyrics varied from being hilarious to being awesome – a mixed bag, but quite the outpouring of someone who was passionately trying to communicate something very important at its core.

I was impressed by the way it had all been put together… the play of words, the concept, and the story. I could choose to flow with whatever component, depending on how I then felt, while the music coursed through the vitals with unfailing joy. It was fantastic, if you were in the mood. It still sounded great, even if you were not. It changed you anyway, at the end….

The Poet and the painter

casting shadows on the water —

as the sun plays on the infantry

returning from the sea.

The do-er and the thinker:

no allowance for the other —

as the failing light illuminates

the mercenary’s creed.

The home fire burning:

the kettle almost boiling —

but the master of the house is far away.

The horses stamping —

their warm breath clouding

in the sharp and frosty morning of the day.

And the poet lifts his pen while the soldier sheaths his sword.

Speaking of this music, the melody and the playing… it opens with a little distinctive flute melody that weaves in and out most alluringly. Fine vocals… Little childlike melodies charm us for a minute and a half before the bass and drums kick in, and it gets going. Back with a little more light acoustic guitar and flute, then a sweet vocal section – and on. Suddenly, it explodes with keyboard sounds from everywhere, accompanied with brass parts. Stupendous ! Nice mellow sections and noisy superlative play alternate and continue throughout.

At the beginning of ‘part two,’ there is an extended drums show that impresses, interpersed with the dance and hop of flute, which makes you smile. Shortly thereafter, everything sounds medieval. A brief marching rhythm brings in sorrow. But the guitar stabs and things move on. It ends with a repeat of the initial melodic ‘sway’ of songs.

Let me tell you the tales of your life

Of your love and the cut of the knife

The tireless oppression the wisdom instilled

The desire to kill or be killed

Let me sing of the losers who lie

In the street as the last bus goes by

The pavements are empty, the gutters run red

While the fool toasts his god in the sky.

After Thick As A Brick, various band members came and went, but the charismatic front man and composer, flautist and singer, Ian Anderson, continued, as he does to this day, to lead the group through its various musical incarnations. The 1973 release, A Passion Play, was largely a washout… without any lighter moments to contrast the darker ones. It was one big long track with reused ideas. The music wasn’t designed to enhance the lyrics, or so it seemed. The music had little guitars, Ian Anderson played the saxophone for some unknown reason. The record lacked individual exciting sections, with everything quickly returning to the same, uninteresting, melodic theme. Apart from the difficulty in deciphering the lyrics, they were too obtuse and serious, without the musical variety and excitement to carry them. Not exactly a recipe for joy !

Here’s the everlasting rub

Neither am I good or bad

I’d give up my halo for a horn

And the horn for the hat I once had.

I’m only breathing, there’s life on my ceiling

The flies there are sleeping quietly…

Twist my right arm in the dark

I would give two or three for

One of those days that never made

Impressions on the old score.

I would gladly be a dog

Barking up the wrong tree

Everyone’s saved- we’re in the grave

See you there for afternoon tea.

Time for awaking, the tea-lady’s making

A brew up and baking new bread…

The album Minstrel in the Gallery, released in 1975, resembles Aqualung … The softer, acoustic guitar based pieces alternate with lengthier, more bombastic works headlined by Barre’s electric guitar. Written and recorded during Anderson’s divorce from his first wife Jennie Franks, the lyrics here sound very introspective, cynical, and bitter at times.

I once met a girl

With the life in her hands

And we lay together

On the summerday sands

I gave her my raincoat

And told, “Lady, be good”

And we made truth together

Where no one else would

I smiled through her fingers

And ran the dust through her hands

The hour-glass of reason

On the summerday sands

We sat as the sea caught fire

I waited as the flames grew higher

In her eyes, in her eyes

We watched the eagle born

Wings clipped, tail, feathers shorn

But we saw him rise

Over summerday sands

Came the ten-o’clock curfew

She said, “I must start my car

I’m staying with someone

I met last night in a bar”

I called from my wave top

“At least, tell me your name”

She smiled from her wheel spin

And said, “It’s all the same”

I thought for a minute

Jumped back on dry land

Left one set of footprints

On the summerday sands.

The band closed the ’70s decade with a trio of folk rock albums, Songs from the Wood, Heavy Horses, and Stormwatch.

Songs from the Wood was the first Tull album to receive generally positive reviews since the release of Living in the Past [ issued in 1972.] By this time, Anderson had moved to a farm in the countryside, and his new bucolic lifestyle was clearly reflected in these albums. The album, packed with startlingly good tunes, hailed the band’s return to folk, a kind of folk that was true and recognisable.

The farm and folky vein in Heavy Horses offered quite a setting, far removed from the world of concrete and machines, mathematics and solid state theories. It spoke of mouse, mountains, moths and horses. It had the lightness of touch combined with great arrangements and superb playing. There’s great rhythm section interplay here and wonderful percussion throughout that adds to the complexity of the songs.

‘Acres Wild’ seemed to be Celtic folk and rock, a combination that works well. A supremely constructed composition, it was full of stellar playing from all involved.

I’ll make love to you in all good places

under black mountains in open spaces.

By beep brown rivers

that slither darkly

through far marches

where the blue hare races.

Come with me to the Wingled Isle

Nothern father’s Western child

Where the dance of ages is playing still

Through far marches of Acres Wild.

Side one had the hard hitting No Lullaby… a lengthy track. It opened with a big rock guitar, with more of it as the song progressed. It’s call was heard loud and clear :

” Keep your eyes open

and prick up your ears –

rehearse your loudest cry.

There’s folk out there

who would do you harm

so I’ll sing you no lullaby.

“There’s a lock on the window;

there’s a chain on the door:

a big dog in the hall.

But there’s dragons and beasties

out there in the night

to snatch you fall.”

The dramatised message played out well, with just the right musical support and vocals that modulated exactly :

” So come out fighting

with your rattle in hand.

Thrust and parry. Light

a match to catch the devil’s eye.

Bring a cross of fire to the fight.

And let no sleep bring false relief

from the tension of the fray.

Come wake the dead with the scream of life.

Do battle with ghosts at play.”

Moths, one very pleasing track followed. It ends with :

” The leaded window opened

to move the dancing candle flame

And the first moths of summer

suicidal came

to join in worship

of the light that never dies

in a moment’s reflection

of two Moths spinning in her eyes.”

The last track on side one, Journeyman, is a major highlight though frequently lost among the two epics and other stellar performances.

Spine-tingling railway sleepers —

Sleepy houses lying four-square and firm

Orange beams divide the darkness

Rumbling fit to turn the waking worm.

Sliding through Victorian tunnels

where green moss oozes from the pores.

Dull echoes from the wet embankments

Battlefield allotments. Fresh open sores.

In late night commuter madness

Double-locked black briefcase on the floor

like a faithful dog with master sleeping

in the draught beside the carriage door.

To each Journeyman his own home-coming

Cold supper nearing with each station stop

Frosty flakes on empty platforms

Fireside slippers waiting. Flip. Flop.

Journeyman night-tripping on the late fantasic

Too late to stop for tea at Gerard’s Cross

and hear the soft shoes on the footbridge shuffle

as the wheels turn biting on the midnight frost.

On the late commuter special

Carriage lights that flicker, fade and die

Howling into hollow blackness

Dusky diesel shudders in full cry.

Down redundant morning papers

Abandon crosswords with a cough

Stationmaster in his wisdom

told the guard to turn the heating off.

The song has a lovely bass line and a medieval feel to the song. It has a magnificently lyrical word play from one of the true masters of the art form. The vocals are superbly rendered, conveying the ” rumbling,” “sliding,” ” howling,” and the turn of wheels as they bite into the midnight frost. The ” spine tingling ” performance vests in a very mundane subject – late night train travel on a cold English night – with mystery and romance. Often overlooked, it seemed to be one of Ian Anderson’s best.

Side two of the album has two very poetic sketches : Rover and One Brown Mouse. Eminently enjoyable. The Rover, a simple free soul who is aware of the endlessness in his search, is in intimate conversation with his environment. In parts, it has Zappa-esque percussion :

I chase your every footstep

and I follow every whim.

When you call the tune I’m ready

to strike up the battle hymn.

My lady of the meadows —

My comber of the beach —

You’ve thrown the stick for your dog’s trick

but it’s floating out of reach.

The long road is a rainbow

and the pot of gold lies there.

So slip the chain and I’m off again —

You’ll find me everywhere. I’m a Rover.

And the Mouse was simply delightful, hilarious and joyous, accompanied with soft melodious music at which Ian excels :

Smile your little smile —

take some tea with me awhile.

Brush away that black cloud from your shoulder.

Twitch your whiskers.

Feel that you’re really real.

Another tea-time — another day older.

Puff warm breath on your tiny hands.

… …

Do you wonder if I really care for you —

Am I just the company you keep —

Which one of us exercises on the old treadmill —

Who hides his head, pretending to sleep?

Smile your little smile —

take some tea with me awhile.

And every day we’ll turn another page.

Behind our glass we’ll sit

and look at our ever-open book —

One brown mouse sitting in a cage.

But the two soft tracks on side two were only preparing us for the title track, an epic of 9 minutes. It is a brilliant, stirring performance addressed to draught horses, and certainly very special.

Iron-clad feather-feet pounding the dust

An October’s day, towards evening

Sweat embossed veins standing proud to the plough

Salt on a deep chest seasoning

Last of the line at an honest day’s toil

Turning the deep sod under

Flint at the fetlock, chasing the bone

Flies at the nostrils plunder.

A couple of main melodic threads weaved throughout, strings that really enhanced the piece with merged sophistication. It’s a song that went round in circles, stretching in bursts and taking pause for breather at the same time the listener needed it. We could delve in and out of the tune, as we pleased. The entire contruction was quite clever for something that sounded relatively straightforward.

Let me find you a filly for your proud stallion seed

to keep the old line going.

And we’ll stand you abreast at the back of the wood

behind the young trees growing

To hide you from eyes that mock at your girth,

and your eighteen hands at the shoulder

And one day when the oil barons have all dripped dry

and the nights are seen to draw colder

They’ll beg for your strength, your gentle power

your noble grace and your bearing

And you’ll strain once again to the sound of the gulls

in the wake of the deep plough, sharing.

In common with the entire album, the song has progressive rock tunes. There are plenty of complex rhythms, Ian flutes away and the lyrics are intriguing and well constructed.

In these dark towns folk lie sleeping

as the heavy horses thunder by

to wake the dying city

with the living horseman’s cry

At once the old hands quicken —

bring pick and wisp and curry comb — thrill

to the sound of all the heavy horses coming home.

‘Weathercock,’ the last song on side two, has more flute, solid bass and drums along with great lyrics.

Good morning Weathercock : how did you fare last night

Did the cold wind bite you, did you face up to the fright

When the leaves spin from October and whip around your tail

Did you snake from the blast, did you shiver through the gale?

… …

Good morning Weathercock : make this day bright.

Put us on touch with your fair winds.

Sing to us softly, hum evening’s songs

Point the way to better days we can share with you.

After my graduation in 1980, I lost touch with the band, in fact with all international music. But the impact of what I had already heard from Tull has lasted a lifetime. Jethro Tull were largely quiet through the 80s. Later works had prominent use of synthesisers, which contrasted sharply with the established ” Tull sound.”

But the band returned strongly in 1987 with Crest of a Knave. It won the 1989 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock / Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental, beating the favourite, Metallica. In 1989, the band released Rock Island, but the 1991’s Catfish Rising was a more solid album. Following the 1992 tour, Anderson had re – learned how to play the flute after his daughter, who took up the flute classes at school, discovered that her father often uses the wrong fingering. He’d begun writing songs that heavily featured world music influences.

In 1995, Anderson released his second solo album, Divinities : Twelve Dances with God, an instrumental work composed of twelve flute – heavy pieces pursuing varied themes with an underlying motif. The album was recorded with Jethro Tull keyboard player Andrew Giddings and orchestral musicians. Anderson released two other song – based solo albums, The Secret Language of Birds and Rupi’s Dance in 2000 and 2003, respectively.

In 2001, Anderson reunited with Cornick, Bunker and Abrahams, for small pub dates. It was the first time the original four members had played together since 1968. ” Living With The Past ” includes a documentary that features the band on tour, in Britain and America, in 2001. 2003 saw the release of The Jethro Tull Christmas Album, a collection of traditional Christmas songs together with old and new Christmas songs written by Ian Anderson. The album became the band’s biggest commercial success since the 1987 Crest of the Knave. An Ian Anderson live double album and DVD was released in 2005 called Ian Anderson Plays the Orchestral Jethro Tull. In addition, a DVD entitled Nothing Is Easy : Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 and a live album Aqualung Live, recorded in 2004, were released in 2005.

Included on ” Nothing is Easy ” is footage from the 1970 Isle of Wight festival, considered by many Tull fans to be a classic Jethro Tull performance. Ian Anderson performed a version of the song “The Thin Ice,” on the 2005 Pink Floyd tribute album Back Against the Wall. 2006 saw the release of a dual boxed set DVD ” Collectors Edition, ” containing two DVD’s “Nothing Is Easy” and “Living With The Past”.

Bassist Jon Noyce left the band in March 2006. Giddings quit the band in July 2006 citing constant touring and less time for family. They were replaced by David Goodier and John O’Hara respectively. March 2007 saw the release of The Best of Acoustic Jethro Tull, a 24-song set of Tull and Ian Anderson acoustic performances taken from various albums. In September 2007, Jethro Tull released CD/DVD Live At Montreux 2003. The concert was recorded on 4 July 2003 and featured, among others, “Fat Man”, “With You There To Help Me” and “Hunting Girl”.

In February 2010, the band were commemorated with a Heritage Award by PRS for Music. A plaque was erected on a Catholic church in Blackpool where the band performed their first ever gig. In 2011 while on the Aqualung 40th Tour, Anderson mentioned in an interview that Jethro Tull will be recording a new album this fall/winter with a potential release date set for Spring 2012. This will be their first new studio album in 12 years. Their last studio album of new material was J-Tull Dot Com in 1999.

2011 also marks the 40th Anniversary of Aqualung. This new re-issue will be a fresh remix of the album and include a DVD and unreleased songs. Anderson previously felt Aqualung hadn’t been mixed properly and he’s always wanted to improve it.

Ian Anderson and Martin Barre remain at the centre of a group of sometimes changing but highly capable – indeed excellent – musicians. Currently, Doane Perry, veteran Tull drummer of some 24 years, together with John O’Hara on piano and accordion, and David Goodier on bass guitar are to be found in the line-up, delighting audiences and continuing the legacy of Tull’s music with its rich variety and depth of expression wherever fans, young and old, want to hear Rock, Folk, Jazz and Classical-inspired music for grown-ups.

Widely recognized as the man who introduced the flute to rock music, Ian Anderson remains the crowned exponent of the popular and rock genres of flute playing. So far, no pretender to the throne has stepped forward. Ian also plays ethnic flutes and whistles together with acoustic guitar and the mandolin family of instruments, providing the acoustic textures which are an integral part of most of the Tull repertoire.

Anderson has so far recorded four diverse solo albums in his career: 1983’s “Walk Into Light”, the flute instrumental “Divinities” in 1995 which reached number one in the relevant Billboard chart, and the more recently recorded acoustic collections of songs, “The Secret Language of Birds”, and “Rupi’s Dance”.

Ian’s hobbies include the growing of many varieties of hot chile peppers, the study and conservation of the 26 species of small wildcats of the world, and collecting mechanical watches and vintage Leica and other cameras. He reluctantly admits to owning digital cameras and scanners for his work on the photographic promotional images related to Tull as well as his solo career.

In 2006, he was awarded a Doctorate in Literature from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, the Ivor Award for International Achievement in Music and, in the New Years Honours List 2008, an MBE for services to music.

Ian owns no fast car, never having taken a driving test, and has a wardrobe of singularly uninspiring and drab leisurewear. He still keeps a couple of off-road competition motorcycles, a few sporting guns and a saxophone which he promises never to play again. He declares a lifelong commitment to music as a profession, being far too young to hang up his hat or his flute, although the tights and codpiece have long since been consigned to some forgotten bottom drawer.

Thank you, Jethro Tull !  Thank you, Ian Anderson ! !

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2 thoughts on “Journal : Dec 23, 2011 : 5.30 AM : Ode To Jethro Tull

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