To Cry You A Song: A Collection Of Tull Tales

Various Artists

Magna Carta Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/01/1998

I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to covers of original songs that I've either grown up with or have become very familiar with. In my mind, there will never be a version that will top the one that I've come to know and love. Even when the same band makes changes to the song (as Tonic did with "If You Could Only See"), it just doesn't sound right.

So there was a bit of apprehension on my part going into To Cry You A Song, a 1996 tribute album to British progressive folk-rockers Jethro Tull. And while a few performances do fall a tad flat, the overall mood is quite good and is very enjoyable.

This album features the original Jethro Tull rhythm section of guitarist Mick Abrahams, bassist Glenn Cornick and drummer Clive Bunker for the first time since Abrahams had left the band in 1968. Their contributions to a handful of songs makes them sound more authentic.

What I tended to notice on To Cry You A Song was if the vocalist had a certain amount of grit to their delivery, the cover sounded that much better. In the case of Magellan's cover of "Aqualung," they captured the spirit musically, but vocalist Trent Gardner just doesn't have the roughness or the humor in his voice to push the song over the edge. (I do, however, like the extended ending they put on the song.) On the other hand, Leif Sorbye captures the mood almost perfectly on "Mother Goose," and does so again later on the album with his band Tempest's cover of "Locomotive Breath".my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

I will admit that John Wetton (of Asia fame) doesn't have a gritty voice, but he was an excellent choice for "Nothing Is Easy," which features the flute work of Ian McDonald (formerly of King Crimson). And while Dave Pegg's vocal is gritty (partially thanks to a nasty case of the flu he had), he just doesn't capture the magic on "Life's A Long Song" - though I do like the sudden ending to it.

It was good to hear from old folkie Roy Harper again - his version of "Up The Pool" was stylistically different than Ian Anderson's original, but if anyone was qualified to cover a Tull song, it is Harper. And this version does grow on you after a few listens. The same can't be said for the version of "Living In The Past", featuring Keith Emerson on bombastic organ. Sorry, Keith, but this one called for spastic flute work, not over-the-top organ noodlings. And try though I might, I can't get used to hearing "A New Day Yesterday" turned into heavy metal thanks to the shrieks of ex-Deep Purple vocalist Glenn Hughes.

In the overall picture, To Cry You A Song is a fitting tribute to Jethro Tull, but the greatest criticism I would have would be the selection of songs. Of all the numbers here, maybe only Echolyn's cover of "One Brown Mouse" or the inclusion of "Cat's Squirrel" are surprises. The rest of the numbers are pretty well-known. I would have liked to hear someone pick a Tull song like "Black Sunday" from A, "Dun Ringill" from Stormwatch, or even the title track from Songs From The Wood. Why not pick some of the Tull numbers that are just as progressive, but not as well known? (Memo to my friends at Magna Carta: Think sequel . I'll be glad to write the liner notes for you - one step closer to voting membership in NARAS.)

To Cry You A Song is meant for the older Tull fan, but should be taken with a grain of salt. Not everything is going to be the same way you remember it to be from albums like This Was or Stand Up; these are modern interpretations. If you keep an open mind about a lot of it, not only will you appreciate most of the versions, but you'll find yourself getting interested in some younger, up-and-coming artists. This one might take some searching for, but it's worth it.

Rating: B

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen 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 Magna Carta Records, and is used for informational purposes only.