The Zealot Gene

Jethro Tull

InsideOut, 2022

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I don’t know what was in the drinking water over the past few years, but suddenly a number of bands who were considered long gone have come back. Abba did it in 2021 with Voyage, and in 2022, Ian Anderson resurrected Jethro Tull after 23 years, albeit without long-time guitarist Martin Barre for the first time since 1968’s This Was. (I’m aware I’m not including The Jethro Tull Christmas Album in this timeline; J-Tull Dot Com was the last album of original compositions.)

After listening to The Zealot Gene, I have to wonder whether it was worth it. Once a band that dared to cross musical styles and genres, Anderson seems to not quite know where Jethro Tull fits in with today’s music scene, resulting in an album that is weak in vocal delivery, songwriting and instrumental performance.

Recorded partially during the COVID lockdowns, the inability to get drummer Scott Hammond’s participation in the studio does create a bit of a throwback to the my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Songs From The Wood and Heavy Horses era, with more of a folk sound to tracks like “Three Loves, Three” and “In Brief Visitation.” And, with no disrespect meant to Hammond, had Anderson followed this particular path, the album might – just might – have been an interesting creation.

Unfortunately, the overall songwriting style seems to try to cram too much information into short pop songs, leaving the end result a bit of a mess. Tracks like “Shoshana Sleeping,” “Jacob’s Tales” and “Mine Is The Mountain” all leave the listener scratching their heads to wonder, “Is this really Jethro Tull?”

While I have no doubt that Barre’s involvement in the project might have been an improvement, it can’t be said that either his absence or the presence of guitarist Florian Opahle (who has since left the band) were necessarily negatives. Opahle does a decent enough job, but the overall songwriting doesn’t really give him a chance to make any of the material his own.

I understand I should also be thankful that Anderson has been fronting Jethro Tull for 55 years. But Anderson’s voice is definitely showing his age, as it no longer has the power and spark it did in the ’70s and ’80s. Even on the album’s stronger cuts such as the title track, you find yourself constantly waiting for that famous vocal bite of Anderson’s to come to the forefront and push the lyrics into the stratosphere—but it never happens.

There are, however, moments of hope on The Zealot Gene. Tracks like “Where Did Saturday Go?” reflect on past efforts like “Life Is A Long Song,” and the gentler touch on the material actually complements the songs. Likewise, “The Fisherman Of Ephesus” gives the listener hope that Anderson and crew were back on track stylistically (even if I thought the keyboards of John O’Hara were relied on too heavily). Too bad that this was the final track on the album, and its cold ending leaves the listener waiting to see if Jethro Tull could deliver further on the promise this song held out.

Why Anderson decided to resurrect the Jethro Tull name after 23 years, I don’t know. But The Zealot Gene doesn’t make up for that extended gap, nor does it really suggest that there’s much gas left in the tank.

Rating: D+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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