Jethro Tull: The String Quartets
No stranger to classical arrangements and the fuller sound that an orchestra or string quartet can bring to his music, former Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson and long term collaborator John O’Hara having seen the Carducci Quartet decided to get together with them and rearrange a selection of classic Tull songs for string quartet, with Ian Andersons instantly recognisable flute weaving through some of the tracks, and John O’Hara playing piano on a couple of them, Ian even adds his distinctive vocals to a few of the tracks as well.
With the striking artwork this splendid addition to the canon is released on 24th March.
Some of you out there might think that releasing an album of old material slightly rearranged is a holding exercise (or a cynical exploitation exercise), after all Ian’s last album Homo Erraticus was released in 2014, and whilst he’s taken his Ian Anderson/ Jethro Tull live show on the road, there’s been no new material since then.
This however is no holding exercise or quick buck compilation and this is so much more than just a rehash of old material, by rearranging (and indeed retitling the songs) it shows them in a fresh light, removing some of the big band sound really brings out the beauty in material like a wonderful opener In the Past (Living in the Past), Songs & Horses (which is a delicate and intelligent ‘mash up’ of Songs from the Wood and Heavy Horses) whilst the trio of songs from Aqualung get the full quartet treatment Only the Giving (Wond’ring Aloud), Loco (Locomotive Breath) & Aquafugue (Aqualung) which closes the album.
Of interest as well is the fact that the youngest song on here Farm, The Fourway (Farm on the Freeway) is 30 years old, coming from the album Crest of a Knave it’s the only Tull track post ’78 represented on here.
Whether there’ll be a second quartet album that gives us a different perspective on the post ’78 stuff would be interesting, as I would love to hear songs like Slow Marching Band, Under Wraps, She said she was a Dancer and Another Harry’s Bar revisited, mind you I would also like to see the quartet tackle Too Old to Rock ‘n Roll, too young to die in it’s entirety as well.
The skill the Carducci quartet bring to these songs is unrivalled as they are one of the finest string quartets in the business, and the recordings here done organically in the crypt of Worcester cathedral and St Kenelms church in Sapperton Gloucestershire, really allows the warmth and intimacy to shine through and makes this an excellent addition to the Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull repertoire.
I am a massive Tull fan, and know that Ian Anderson is never afraid to do something slightly different and enjoys reworking older material into a different style, his musical palette is expansive, and by working with the Carducci Quartet and John O’Hara on this album, they’ve created an album that is quite special and has a unique charm of it’s own.
I highly recommend it, and after having heard how this works so well, with real charm and skill, if you can get round to recording Too Old to Rock ‘n Roll, Too Young to Die with a string quartet Ian, then you can take my money now!