Original Masters

Jethro Tull

Chrysalis, 1985


REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


Jethro Tull is a very prolific band. Therefore, they have created much fodder for record companies. Record companies like compilations and greatest hits packages. Since they are typically previously recorded material, they often completely bypass any studio costs, and often, the responsibility of paying royalties to the artists. So, they have become a big cash cow for record companies.

Original Masters is a fine compilation, and is a good choice for a fan that wants to have a respectable set of Tull music without buying 10 different albums. It would also be an excellent introduction for a new fan. However, it's also a double-edged sword. On one hand, every song on the disc deserves its place here -- on the other hand, it completely ignores the bands first three albums. Perhaps their intent was to capitalize on the latter part of the bands career to date, as much of their earlier material is included in their first compilation, Living In The Past. Odder still, two of the songs on this disc were unreleased tracks that originally appeared on, oddly enough, Living In The Past. The logic of this escapes me, but then, the wankers that run record companies generally don't know Shinola about good music, and often even less about their stable of artists. One saving grace, they are both excellent songs, so the more exposure they get the better.

The material they do present here is among the best of Tull's career. The ubiquitous "Aqualung" and "Locomotive Breath" are here of course. Along with "Songs From The Wood," that trio probably represents the most popular songs in the Tull catalog. At least, those are the ones that are staples on classic rock radio. Alongside those tracks (which are all great songs, and anything I say about them would be pointless hyperbole), there are some lesser-known gems, and some other well-known classics.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Staring off the disc is "Living In The Past." This track is a great showpiece of the band's early style. The combination of subtle blues and jazz elements, a distinctly Tull-ish rhythm, and Anderson's flute weaving in and out of the melody perfectly display the disparate elements that come together in stellar synchronicity. Listening to this track for the unknown-thosandth time, it's no mystery why Tull got as big as they are. This song alone can appeal to many different tastes on many different levels.

Two pseudo-semi-autobiographical songs make nice additions to this set. "Minstrel In The Gallery" stars off with a medieval-flavored acoustic treatment, and by the time end of the track is a blistering shred-fest feast featuring Martin Barre's masterful guitar work. "Too Old Too Rock 'N' Roll: Too Young To Die" is another overlooked classic. The story of the aging rocker trying to make a graceful transition between his greaser roots and his country-club future, and be at peace with both facets of himself, is both humorous and rather touching as his aging biker hero sets off for one last ride.

The creepiness of "Sweet Dream," an early track also culled from Living In The Past, has always been a personal favorite, and it's inclusion here is well deserved. The lyrics of Anderson's tale of clandestine seduction has just the right quality of dark romance and menace, as Anderson entices his lover away from her watchful family: "You'll hear me calling in your sweet dream / Can't hear your daddy's warning cry." Like every parents worst nightmare, Anderson coaxes "Get out and get what you can / While your mummy's at home a-sleeping / No time to understand / 'cause they've lost what they thought they were keeping." Perfectly paired with menacing instrumentation, this lost classic has been sadly overlooked.

Another lost gem, and one of my favorite Tull tracks ever, is the clever "Witches Promise." The dreamy acoustic arrangement and Andersons' cryptic lyrics combine to make another showpiece of Tulls style. Perfectly combining folk and rock elements like only they can. This song would have slipped perfectly into Songs From the Wood, even though it was written a decade earlier.

Two songs from War Child make an appearance. "Bungle In The Jungle" is often overlooked as a novelty song, but a careful listen will reveal a subtle Orwellian lyrical twist, and a surprisingly complex instrumentation. The beautifully arranged "Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of A New Day" is a staple of the Tull live catalog, and one of their most charming songs.

An excerpt from "Thick As A Brick" is a great intro to this lengthy masterpiece, and should give the casual listener an enticement to investigate the rest of the album. "Life's A Long Song" is another excellent acoustic number that showcases the lighter side of the band, and their knack for creating a softer song that still has power.

The exclusion of most of their earlier works is a shame. The addition of some of early tracks like "Nothing Is Easy," "Teacher" or "Song For Jeffrey" would make this a much better, more rounded collection. However, in combination with the earlier compilation Living In The Past, the two together make an excellent record of the first two decades of the bands career. It's still a great set, and if you're looking to add some classic Tull to your collection, this is a fine choice.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B



© 2004 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Chrysalis, and is used for informational purposes only.