Chrysalis Records, 1969
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/27/1999
Jethro Tull is the kind of group that has so many albums that are undiscovered classics that it's not funny. I mean, for a group that enjoyed such popularity in the early- to mid-'70s, there are albums they released over their career that, today, most people probably haven't heard of. (One of these albums, their debut release This Was, we reviewed some time ago.)
Their follow-up album, 1969's Stand Up, also falls into this category -- so much so, in fact, that I don't believe the album is presently on the shelves. (At least CDNow didn't have a listing for this CD.) This album represented a major turning point for the band. Gone was guitarist Mick Abrahams, and in was newcomer Martin Barre -- who would become the second-longest running member of Jethro Tull next to founder Ian Anderson. Gone also was the blues that seemed to surround their first effort. Stand Up would dare to be more jazz-oriented than anything, and would even pull some foreign influences into the music.
Did Jethro Tull succeed? Two words: damn straight. While there is a little weakness thanks to the transition -- something that could have been anticipated, in truth - Stand Up remains an album that you've probably heard something from, but have never really heard.
First, a word about Barre's style. If you know This Was and Abrahams's guitar sound, you'll notice a difference almost immediately on Stand Up. Barre was not quite as confident with his tone as Abrahams, but he seemed to have more control of the guitar, and his jazz licks were impeccable. I don't want to slander Abrahams or his contributions to Jethro Tull, but moving to Barre at this point in their career seemed to be the right decision. Within one album, it would be like Barre had always been there.
Now, then. Chances are, if you're into classic rock, you've heard at least one of the four singles from this album. "A New Day Yesterday," the opening track, seems to merge the worlds of blues and jazz, allowing for a smoother transition into the next phase of what Jethro Tull was to become. It's an interesting combination, and the individual performances of Anderson, Barre, bassist Glenn Cornick and drummer Clive Bunker all seal the deal.
Singles number two and three, "Nothing Is Easy" and "Fat Man," are the ones you'll probably hear the most. "Nothing Is Easy" has a very solid rock 'n' roll core to it, possibly the first real attempt that Tull had made towards rock in their young career. Suffice to say, it works. "Fat Man" brings almost a Middle Eastern flavor to it, with Anderson slyly enjoying the benefits of being rail-thin. (Yeah, thanks a lot, Ian, for rubbing it in.)
The highlight of this album, for me, has always been Anderson's working of Bach, "Bouree". The interweaving of the flute, light jazz guitar and Cornick's killer bass work (I have yet to figure out everything he was playing) is simply magical, and does not cheapen the original work. If anything, "Bouree" makes classical music come alive again for the modern-day listener -- and this remains one of my favorite Tull songs of all time.
Of course, there are six other tracks on Stand Up that aren't readily heard, unless you own a copy of the album. Some of them, like "Look Into The Sun" and "Back To The Family," are such strong performances that I have to wonder why they're not more well-known. "Back To The Family" is an especially satisfying track, while "Look To The Sun" always makes me feel good anytime I hear it.
The only drawback -- and I use that term loosely -- to this album is that one or two tracks seem to get lost in the shuffle. These songs, "Reasons For Waiting" and "For A Thousand Mothers," aren't bad in any fashion, but after hearing stellar performance after stellar performance, it's almost like these just don't have the power to shine as brightly. Chances are, on another album, they would have been standouts.
Stand Up is another album that is waiting for you to discover it, as well as another part of Jethro Tull's history. Hopefully, this won't be a secret much longer.