The Best Of Jethro Tull: The Anniversary Collection
Chrysalis Records, 1993
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/14/2000
Every once in a while, I am "gifted" in this job. That is, I receive in the mail something that I neither had asked for nor ever expected, but is most welcomed as I have been wanting to listen to it. Unfortunately, these incidents are rare -- and, no, that's not a subtle hint for more CDs. God knows my "to be reviewed" pile has gotten too big of late.
Picture this: a stressful week at work, where I have nearly broken several laws (as well as a few of the Commandments) due to my stressed-out state of mind. Then, Friend Anne sends me a package containing The Best Of Jethro Tull: The Anniversary Collection, a two-disc set from 1993. This, as we say in the business, is a sight for sore eyes -- look, two hours of stress relief!
After the disappointment of the 25th Anniversary Box Set (which I purchased several years ago), a smaller, more concise package seemed to be the answer for many Tull fans -- maybe without the bells and whistles of rare releases, but a nice collection of the essentials. (Memo to Ian Anderson: I'm still pissed that Tull decided against releasing that boxed set of "alternative" performances.) And while there are some songs and albums that are glossed over, this is a well-constructed collection of 36 tracks sure to satisfy.
To the band's credit, every single album up to that point in their history is represented within the two CDs -- enough of an education for the casual fan to quite possibly awake their interest in some of these forgotten classics such as This Was. (The only missing album I can find is the live set Bursting Out.) And all of the favorites are here, from "Aqualung" to "Teacher" to "Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of A New Day", so even if all you know of Jethro Tull is what you've heard on the radio, you'll still have a level of comfort.
Where this collection truly succeeds is in its ability to draw attention to some of the not-so-well-known songs. "Dun Ringill" off of Stormwatch is quite possibly the prettiest song Ian Anderson and crew have ever done, and this set puts it into the light it deserves to be seen and heard in. Likewise, the overlooked classic Songs From The Wood gets royal treatment with three of its songs featured. Even A, the 1980 almost-solo album is rightfully saluted with the inclusion of "Flylingdale Flyer" -- but "Black Sunday" was just as worthy of a song, and its exclusion is sorely missed.
Yet there are a few minor (and I do mean minor) holes in the quilt. The excerpt from "Thick As A Brick" is the same one featured on M.U.: The Best Of Jethro Tull, but it could have honestly been padded a little more, as the more you hear patched together, the tastier it becomes. (There are quite a few "custom" radio mixes of this song out there these days.) And while Crest Of A Knave is noteworthy because of its Grammy Award-winning status (don't get some people started on this one), I never considered it to be their strongst effort, so including three songs off of it is a bit of a mystery. All of that said, it is refreshing to see that Tull's post-1983 history is fairly represented here, as most casual fans wouldn't recognize material from the band after, say, 1975.
The Best Of Jethro Tull: The Anniversary Collection won't hold many surprises for the die-hard Tull fan, but it's still noteworthy enough to make it a must-own disc -- especially if you plan to own only one Jethro Tull disc. (Listen to this the whole way through, though, and tell me you don't feel the need to purchase any more of their albums... you just can't do it.) This set has all of the magic that the box set from the same period has, at a fraction of the price, and is well worth the investment. Nicest gift I've received in ages, Anne.