The sound of a bunch of consummate musicians playing very well.
Review by Gary Cordwell
Release date: 29 September 2014
Hot on the heels of Ian Anderson’s live Thick As A Brick CD comes this double live offering from Tull’s other lifer, guitarist Martin Barre. The reasons behind Tull’s fracture appear quite vague which makes it an interesting proposition to listen to these two albums, to scrutinise the differing interpretations of their back catalogue, hunting for clues. The Jethro Tull guitarist of 43 years was keen to respond to fans requests for a document of his live shows and so he and his band went into the studio, set up their live back line, stood in the same room as each other and played their live set list. And hey presto! One perfectly recorded document – signed, sealed and delivered.
The band kick off with the first track from Barre’s first Tull album (‘New Day Yesterday’) and he immediately sets out his stall – namely, da blooze! Barre’s guitar (excuse the bad poetry) is front and centre and the track is given a surprisingly heavy, Joe Bonamassa-style makeover. Stripped back simplicity seems to be the game plan here and, for the most part, it works. Much of this album rocks! ‘Fat Man’ gets re-tooled as a Thin Lizzy blues rocker while the swampy slide guitar of ‘Song For Jeffrey’ is less folk blues and more early Zep.
There are also a handful of deftly executed blues standards – after being wrong footed by its mandolin intro, their take on ‘Crossroads’ turns into a much rockier affair than Cream’s and Bobby Parker’s ‘Watch Your Step’ gives the band members an opportunity to step forward and shine. When it works it really works! ‘Teacher’ transposes folk to blues beautifully and shows that their roots lie in a very similar soil. ‘Still Loving You Tonight’ is, for me, the albums high point. It’s spare and emotive, its acoustic rhythm and delicate electric lead weave gorgeously in and out of each other, recalling Richard Thompson at his best.
However, there are misfires. Richard Beesley’s sax solos sail worryingly close to 80’s AOR at times while Dan Crisp’s vocals also seem more comfortable in the AOR zone than when he’s trying to fill Mr. Anderson’s pointy shoes. His melodic yet somewhat generic voice often struggling to interpret the Tull vocalists odder lyrical journeys. Classics ‘Minstrel In The Gallery’ and ‘Thick As A Brick’ suffer…they need a dose of quirk, intricacy and madness that this band simply cannot supply.
This is the sound of a bunch of consummate musicians playing very well… if a tad safely. They swing with a slick expertise, changing gears and evoking emotions with a flawless fluidity. However, Tull were Tull for very distinct reasons, Barre needed Anderson’s humour, showmanship and eccentricity as much as Anderson needed Barre’s virtuosity and grounding influence and perhaps this album should have been recorded live – an enthusiastic audience to feed off may have just given the performance that slight edge it needed.
7.5 out of 10
- New Day Yesterday
- Watch Your Step
- Minstrel In The Gallery
- To Cry You A Song
- Steal Your Heart Away
- Thick As A Brick (Excerpt)
- Sweet Dream
- Song For Jeffrey
- Rock Me Baby
- Still loving You Tonight
- Locomotive Breath