Rick’s Retroarchy: Songs from the Wood by Jethro Tull

By Richard Krueger

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The Hand.

Retrenching after the thwarted theatrical ambitions of A Passion Play, War Child and Too Old to Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die, Ian Anderson moved from London to Buckinghamshire in 1976.  The Jethro Tull album that followed Anderson’s country retreat, Songs from the Wood, showcased a fruitful new path for both the writer and the band.

With Anderson’s withering cynicism relaxing (ever so slightly) into amused, skeptical acceptance of human folly, David Palmer’s energetic keyboard counterpoint refreshing the group’s core sound, and a focus on traditional British folklore and festivity (courtesy of PR guy/manager Jo Lustig and Anderson’s production work with Steeleye Span), the surprising results included increased record sales, higher chart positions, and expanded tour dates, especially in America.  Parlophone’s latest reissue box, released for the 40th anniversary of Songs from the Wood, ably showcases this incarnation of Tull’s appeal.

Continue reading “Rick’s Retroarchy: Songs from the Wood by Jethro Tull”

Let me bring you strings from the crypt

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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.

JT2With 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.

Continue reading “Let me bring you strings from the crypt”

Progarchy Radio (March 2017)

 

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Over two of music and minimal commentary.  Featuring music by Arjen Lucassen in his many incarnations and manifestations.  Also, music by Big Big Train, The Tangent, Blodwyn Pig, Jethro Tull, Hans Zimmer, My Bloody Valentine, the Sundays, Tears for Fears, Vertica, Sixpence None the Richer, Roswell Six, Matthew Sweet, ELO, Spacehog, and Newspaperflyhunting.

Progarchy Radio, Episode 14

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Part I, 2010.

Our first show since Halloween!  Lots of great music on this one.  Four thirty-minute sets with only minimal talking on my part.  A restrained DJ am I!  Promise.

Set I

  • The Fierce and the Dead, Parts I-III

Continue reading “Progarchy Radio, Episode 14”

soundstreamsunday: “Velvet Green (live)” by Jethro Tull

songsfromthewoodBy 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.

soundstreamsunday playlist and archive

Tom Woods Promotes Steven Wilson!

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A great show by a great man.

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!

The Woman Who Erased Herself

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.

If you’re intrigued, grab yourself a copy.

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.

The way forward:

http://www.SupportingListeners.com

2015: It Was The Best Of Prog…..

2015 continued the trend of the past few years of providing tremendous offerings for lovers of prog.

For starters, Best Reissue:

Minstrel in GalleryThe number of exciting and revelatory reissues of prog classics is growing at an exponential rate. The best one of 2015 is La Grande Edition of Jethro Tull’s Minstrel In The Gallery. Ian Anderson was at his peak, songwriting-wise, at this point in his career, and this lavish set (including a new 5.1 surround mix) does one of the band’s best albums true justice.

 

 

And now for some new music:

Heart Is A Monster8. Failure: The Heart Is A Monster

A great Seattle band of the ‘90s that never received the acclaim it was due. They have reunited 20 years later. They are all older and much wiser, and it shows in their music. It’s still tough, melodic, and full of energy, while exhibiting a confidence and ease that is very gratifying.

 

 

Night of Demon7.Gazpacho: Night Of The Demon

A very nice live set that provides a good sample of Gazpacho’s output. The band is incredibly tight while performing some demanding pieces. This is an excellent introduction to a band whose music is often enigmatic.

 

 

 

deluxen6. Dave Kerzner: New World

Technically, this is a 2014 release, but the expanded double album came out this year, so I’m including it in this list. Strong Pink Floyd/Genesis influences which Kerzner uses to springboard into new territory. This is a concept album with an intriguing storyline – a stranded astronaut has to make it back to civilization on a planet. This is the most “classically prog” rock I’ve heard in a long time, and it’s tremendously appealing.

 

La Strada5. Kevin Keller: La Strada

Kevin Keller is a classical pianist and composer who loves Rush in general and Neil Peart in particular. His compositions are melodic yet challenging, and his production values are top-notch. His latest album is the perfect accompaniment to a relaxed Sunday afternoon.

 

 

 

Lonely Robot4. Lonely Robot: Please Come Home

Before 2015, I knew nothing of John Mitchell; this year I immersed myself in his work, listening to Frost*, It Bites, and above all his solo project Lonely Robot. This is prog with a pop orientation that never disappoints. He is an incredibly talented guitarist and vocalist, and I hope this is the first of many Lonely Robot albums.

 

3. Glass Hammer: The Breaking Of The World

Wow. Ode To Echo was an amazing album, and “The Breaking Of The World” tops it. Carl Groves is the best vocalist they’ve ever had, and he’s no slouch in the lyrics department. His voice works perfectly with Susie Bogdanowicz, as you can experience on their other fine release of 2015, “Double Live”. On this album, the band is fire, powered by Steve Babb’s endlessly inventive bass and Fred Schendel’s keyboards.

Neal Morse Grand Experiment2. Neal Morse Band: The Grand Experiment

Neal Morse continues his streak as one of the most prolific artists in prog, and this time he offers up a true group effort, with all the band members sharing songwriting credit. “New Jerusalem” may be the best short-form song he’s ever been involved in, while “Alive Again” ranks up there with his finest epics. The band tore down the house when they performed these songs live; here’s hoping this is more than a one-time experiment.

Riverside Love, Fear, etc.1.Riverside: Love, Fear, and the Time Machine

For their sixth full-length album, Riverside has tightened up their sound to deliver their best set of songs ever. Mariusz Duda marries the ambience of his Lunatic Soul project to a definite ‘80s sound – Discard Your Fear would be right at home on a Tears For Fears album, while Duda’s bass work has Peter Hook’s influence all over it – and the result is the most beautiful album I’ve heard in years. I listen to it two or three times in a row, I put it aside for a while, and I bring it back out. I have yet to tire of it. Be sure to read Erik Heter’s excellent and illuminating interview of Duda.