Jethro Tull have released a new song, “Sad City Sisters,” off their upcoming album, The Zealot Gene, which is set to be released on January 28, 2022. Ok, I have a little trouble calling Ian Anderson’s band Jethro Tull without Martin Barre contributing, but that’s what Anderson is going with now. I have nothing against Joe Parrish-James or Florian Opahle, who play guitar on the album. In fact I think Opahle is a fantastic guitarist (I’ve hot heard Parrish-James’ work). I’ve seen Opahle live twice with Ian Anderson’s band on the Thick As A Brick tour in 2012/13, and he was great. But I see this as an Ian Anderson solo album, not Jethro Tull.
With that said, I quite like this little ditty. It has a bit of the folkish aspects of late 70s Tull, and Ian Anderson’s vocals sound way better than I was expecting. Like way way way better. Obviously he’s singing in lower key, but still. The song also prominently features longtime keyboardist John O’Hara’s accordion, which has become a bit of a staple in the live shows and on Anderson’s solo albums. Longtime drummer Scott Hammond and bassist David Goodier join on the album as well. Any way you slice it, this is Jethro Tull’s first official album since 2003’s The Jethro Tull Christmas Album.
Robby Steinhardt, Not In Kansas Anymore, 2021 Tracks: Tempest (1:41), Truth 2 Power (Only Truth Can Change The World) (3:48), Mother Earth (Is Calling You) (4:42), Rise Of The Phoenix (5:22), The Phoenix (4:06), Prelude (1:54), Dust In The Wind (5:43), Pizzacato (A Slice For Baby Boy Flynn) (2:37), Tuck Tuck (6:10), Not In Kansas Anymore (4:40), A Prayer For Peace (Bonus Track) (3:15)
It was only a few months ago that we mourned the loss of Robby Steinhardt, but out of that sadness we found out that his very first solo album was just about finished. The album release was delayed because of his death, but Not In Kansas Anymore was released a week ago. It is far better than I could have imagined. In many ways it sounds more like Kansas than Kansas does these days. The hard rock, the unique touch Robby had on the violin, the beautiful vocal harmonies – Not In Kansas Anymore has it all.
The album was produced by Michael Thomas Franklin, who produced Jon Anderson’s 1000 Hands a few years ago, for which Steinhardt played violin on one song. Franklin pulled together a cast of literal rock stars for this record, including Ian Anderson (flute on Pizzacato), Steve Morse of Deep Purple/Dixie Dregs/Kansas/Flying Colors, Billy Cobham of Mahavishnu Orchestra, Bobby Kimball of Toto, Chuck Leavell of The Rolling Stones, Liberty Devitto (Drummer on Billy Joel’s hits), Jim Gentry, Pat Travers, Billy Ashbaugh (Moody Blues/Pat Benatar), Lisa Fischer (longtime vocalist for The Rolling Stones), and more.
The record opens with a brief instrumental before pounding into a classic Kansas sound with “Truth 2 Power.” It has a glorious intro of vocal harmonies that screams late 70s Kansas. The lyrics deliver a message of, well, truth about the necessity of speaking truth even when it is derided. The line “only truth can change the world” seems Livgren-esque in a lot of ways, seeing as the world-changing power of truth as personified in Jesus is central to Christianity and the Bible. I don’t know what Steinhardt’s spiritual background was or whether or not he was a Christian, but these lyrics certainly spoke to me in that regard.
The album features an ode to the earth, which is another theme that ran through Kansas’ lyrics back in the day. Musically and lyrically “Mother Earth” reminds me a little bit of “Cheyenne Anthem.” We get a bit of western imagery in the middle of the album, and there or subtle lyrical nods to the Wizard of Oz, which is most blatant in the beautiful cover art by Tom Lupo. “Rise of the Phoenix” is an instrumental track that is pure Kansas. The guitar, bass, drums, and violin all blend perfectly in a driving track that sets the stage for “The Phoenix,” which is another track reminiscent of Kansas.
I was surprised to hear something that reminded me of Big Big Train on this record. The sixth track, “Prelude,” is a brief introduction to a beautiful cover of Kansas’ “Dust In The Wind.” The prelude blends aspects of the Kansas sound with distinctly Big Big Train movements, including a brass band towards the end and the way the musical action steps down towards the end before morphing into “Dust In The Wind.” Perhaps it wasn’t intentional, but it sounds great all the same. “Dust In The Wind” is mostly true to the original, with the song building into harder rock territory as it goes along. It also adds more symphonic elements to the track. All along it retains the Kansas sound.
Ian Anderson’s flute stands out immediately on “Pizzacato (A Slice For Baby Boy Flynn),” which is a folk instrumental rather than a rock piece. Robby’s violin blends well with Anderson’s flute, and it makes you wonder what an entire album of their collaborations could have given us. Both men strike me as being rather similar in a lot of ways, at least when it came to their stage presence back in the 70s.
“Tuck Tuck” is a rather touching ode to the forgotten people of society – the hookers, beggars, and downtrodden of the cities. Steinhardt reminds us that those who have absolutely nothing matter just as much as anybody else. He reminds us that they all have stories – backgrounds of where they came from. He calls them “a royal family / lords and ladies of the evening.” He tells us of Nancy, a girl who excelled in her youth but had to leave home at 17 because of abuse at home, and sadly now she is on the streets. He tells of a young man who came back home from serving in the military and who couldn’t find any work. Now Joey is living in a cardboard box on the streets. Both are “downtown royalty.” Musically the song is a blend of styles with elements of a laid-back country song mixed with more a more traditional ballad. Lyrically I find the song quite moving.
The losers and twenty-four hour girls The street corner boys and the underworld Holding court in city streets Everyone’s seen downtown royalty
Steinhardt’s vocals really shine on the album. I wasn’t sure how he would sound after so many years on the road as well as so many years away from the industry and the health issues he dealt with over the last decade. But he sounds just like you would remember, albeit with a bit deeper tone. It’s a warm and comforting voice that I have missed in the milieu of modern prog.
Robby Steinhardt’s Not In Kansas Anymore is one of the first albums in a little while that made me sit up and take notice. I wasn’t sure which direction this record would go – if it would be more rock, more classical, folk, or what. Robby had been mostly retired for a long time, but that time away clearly didn’t impact his talent as a musician. The most tragic part of this record is how it now represents a new beginning cut short. It was Steinhardt’s first, and sadly last, solo album. He was excited to get on the road and tour starting this past August, but unfortunately he got sick in May and never fully recovered. Thankfully we will have this record by which to remember him, in addition to his years of brilliant work with Kansas.
This album is definitely one to check out, especially if you’re a Kansas fan. It has the special touches that I think have been missing from the last two Kansas records.
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.
Years ago, when I was 16 I found an organization that helped with my curiosity about progressive rock, it was called the Classic Rock Society, they were based in Rotherham (a short bus ride away from the small village I lived in at the time) and they met on a Wednesday night in a pub. Beer and prog, all within a short distance from my front door, what was not to like?
One night at the pub talking about prog music in 1995 a friend lent me an album by a band I’d never heard of called No-Man, the album was Flowermouth, and it’s mix of shifting sounds and emotive vocals was my first introduction to the works of Mr Steven Wilson and Mr Tim Bowness, and I was hooked.
Luckily I got to see Porcupine Tree not so longer afterwards, but despite following No-Man and Tim Bowness solo work, it took me slightly longer (nearly 20 years in fact) to see Tim live, with Henry Fool at Eppyfest in 2014, followed quickly by seeing him at the Louisiana in Bristol in 2015.
By 1977 Jethro Tull was beginning to wear out its welcome in punk-crazed Britain, but the band was still in its prime creative period. Since 1971’s Aqualung, Tull had been working toward a singular brand of progressive rock, fusing its blues and jazz leanings with the sound and presentation style of traditional songs to create, in the hands of Ian Anderson and his cracked, acerbic writing and vocalizing, an often wickedly pointed baroque folk songbag. Songs from the Wood gave full voice to Tull’s rural idylls, and provides a kind of bookend to what the Incredible String Band began with 1968’s The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter: a freeform referencing of traditional song without going all trad arr (leave that to the Fairports and Steeleye….). The lyrical and electrical possibilities had ripened as Dylan‘s revolution took a turn towards more European forms, and Tull’s often exaggerated English-ness pervaded both songwriting and production: if Traffic’s “John Barleycorn” gave the impression that the band was plugging directly into the Yorkshire dales, Jethro Tull’s entire catalog depended on the conceit that you might see them — grubby around the edges — performing as a troupe on any given corner of any given English village on any given May Day. Disturbing. Liberating. And when Martin Barre goes to eleven on his Les Paul, thundering.
The live version of Songs from the Wood‘s “Velvet Green” was not included on 1978’s concert album Bursting Out, even though it was performed during that same tour, but was one of the many lovely additions that made the boxset Twenty Years of Jethro Tull (1988) so fascinating and worthwhile. If the band was ever in better form live, they were never captured so well as here on “Velvet Green,” a tune of some finessing, with all members of the band playing multiple roles. Part morris dance, Bach concerto, and dazzling 70s progressive musicianship, the song is a reverie of countryside and sex, rendered in the film without, ironically, Anderson’s trademark flute-between-the-thighs histrionics (his hands here are perhaps, um, full enough, with actually playing said flute and a Martin slot head acoustic). It is one of their finest moments, and as performances go — sympathetic to the song and to the strengths of its players (even though Barre doesn’t even get near a guitar!) — hard to think of a comparison.
Famed American commentator, historian, economist, and man of letters, Tom Woods, is promoting Steven Wilson’s latest album, HAND.CANNOT.ERASE. What a great thing for the prog world to be given this kind of place of prominence! Woods has had such greats as Ian Anderson and Steve Hogarth on his show. Let’s hope he gets Wilson next!
When Joyce Carol Vincent died in December 2003, no one noticed for over two years.
Was she a lonely old lady nobody knew? Not even close. She was an attractive young woman with friends and family. And slowly but surely, she simply melted away in the anonymity of the city (London, in this case).
Steven Wilson, a musician I like very much (and who has worked closely with Tom Woods Show guests Ian Anderson and Steve Hogarth), was struck by her, and based his 2015 release Hand. Cannot. Erase. loosely around her life.
When I first listened to it, I didn’t like it at all. I didn’t think there was anything there.
Was I ever wrong.
I can’t stop listening to it now. It’s beautiful, brilliant, and emotionally captivating. I’m listening to it as I write this.
The character in Wilson’s story makes the deliberate decision to disappear from society by moving to London. Sounds strange: you’re going to move to a big city to disappear? But as Wilson notes, the strategy makes sense. You could never accomplish this in a small town, where everyone knows you and someone would check in on you.
On the other hand, with masses of people all around, you can simply…disappear.
Be warned: you’ll need to devote some time to this. These aren’t pop songs you hear on the radio. At first you just won’t see it — well, if you’re like me, anyway. But suddenly you’ll become aware of the beautiful melodies, the evocative turns of phrase, the emotional intensity, all of it.
In the past I’ve given out free CDs of music I like. As a surprise, I told my supporting listeners they could have an album of Tom-approved music if they just asked for it. I sent a $20 double album out last year.
Wilson’s album is selling for just under $10 on Amazon as an mp3 download. If you’re a Tom Woods Show supporting listener at the Silver, Gold, or Platinum levels, just use my contact form to send me your mailing address if you’d like one.
This offer expires March 15, 2016.
If you become a supporting listener at one of those levels between now and then, you’re eligible, too. Just send me your address.
When they go on tour these days, most artists of Ian Anderson’s age might slot in a couple of new songs into their act, but mostly keep to a standard-issue “greatest hits” setlist. Anderson, clever fellow that he is, however, got audiences on his most recent tour to sit through a full hour of new material, by the rather brilliant stratagem of writing an album-length sequel to Thick as a Brick (entitled, creatively, Thick as a Brick 2) and then performing the two records back-to-back. And you know what? It was a really good record – no match for the original, certainly, but without question some of the best music Anderson has made since the late 70s.
This year he’s at it again, offering a sequel to that sequel in the form of Homo Erraticus(2014) (and touring it, in toto, alongside a “Tull’s Greatest Hits” setlist…
Ian Anderson’s new album, Homo Erraticus, is out today, according to his website. According to iTunes, it comes out tomorrow. Today, tomorrow, whenever it is, this is a must have album. I have had a chance to listen to it a couple of times over the past few days, and I am thoroughly impressed. Ian Anderson proves, yet again, that he is a master of modern cultural critique. He is not just some old guy playing music. He is clearly aware of the world of today, and he does a masterful job of commenting on it in a humorous way.
I wish I could give you a full review of the album right now, but professors have this strange policy of wanting papers turned in on time. Weird, right? Briefly, the album covers basically all of British history, from Roman times, through today, and predictions for the future. Ian Anderson and company (which is essentially Jethro Tull, just not called that because of the absence of Martin Barre) wonderfully meld together history with cultural critique. I particularly enjoyed the backhanded reference to his son-in-law, who plays the lead role in the hit AMC TV show, Walking Dead.
The line up for the band is the same as it was on Thick as a Brick 2: Ian Anderson (vocals, flute, acoustic guitar), David Goodier (bass), John O’Hara (keyboards and accordion), Florian Opahle (guitar), Scott Hammond (drums), and Ryan O’Donnell (backing vocals). I noticed that they lowered the key of the music, so Ian Anderson sounds a lot better on this album than he did on TAAB2. O’Donnell also provides excellent backing vocals, sometimes singing lead. The instrumentation is amazing, as you would expect from anything produced by Ian Anderson. I am even more astounded by Florian Opahle’s guitar playing. As my friend and fellow progarchist, Connor Mullin, pointed out to me, his style of playing is more akin to King Crimson than it is to Martin Barre. This is not all that surprising considering Opahle toured with Greg Lake before joining Ian Anderson. His playing is simply fantastic.
In the end, Homo Erraticus should certainly be added to any prog rock collection. Ian Anderson has proved that you are never too old to rock and roll.
A new song, called “Enter the Uninvited,” from Ian Anderson’s new album, Homo Erraticus, has been uploaded to YouTube by Kscope music. The album is due out on April 14th, and is Anderson’s first since 2012’s Thick as a Brick 2. If this song is any indication of how good the rest of the album is, this is going to be a fantastic album. Plus, the lyrics were written by Gerald Bostock. Enjoy.
I had the great privilege of speaking with one of America’s foremost political commentators yesterday, Tom Woods, about progressive rock. It turns out that Tom is a huge progger. I shouldn’t be surprised. I think we’re both the younger brothers of Neil Peart. We really had a field day talking about CLOSE TO THE EDGE, SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND, THICK AS A BRICK, PASSION PLAY, IN ABSENTIA, and THE FINAL CUT.
We talked “third wave prog,” too.
Tom was especially interested in the founding and purpose of progarchy. And, for what it’s worth, Tom is as smart and insightful as he is kind. A true gentleman. Here’s a link to our show yesterday. Enjoy.