Bursting Out

Jethro Tull

Chrysalis Records, 1978


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


What better way to celebrate ten years together as a band than to release your first live album? To fans of Jethro Tull in 1978, this might have seemed like a great gift the band would give the fans.

Bursting Out, unfortunately, is not the best portrait of Jethro Tull as a live act, though it might have been a frighteningly accurate one at the time.

Let's get the problems out of the way first. Number one: the tour they chose to base their live album from. At the time, they were touring behind Heavy Horses, an album it would be a stretch to call one of their best. One would have thought that Ian Anderson would have selected a different album to represent a live Tull show - after all, they had re-established themselves in the market one album previous with Songs From The Wood.

Second problem: the overall sound is occasionally murky. Maybe part of the problem is that I 'm reviewing this from my vinyl copy from deep within the Pierce Archives (I swear, we've meant to re-sign the lease...), and the CD could have a better sound. (The fact that there are actually censor's bleeps on this album trouble me... when was the last time you heard of such a thing on a commercial recording?) Third problem, which I don't think anyone knew at the time: Bassist John Glascock was seriously ill with a heart ailment. (He would die during the recording of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Stormwatch after surgery.) And although his playing seems solid enough, I won't make comparisons to people like Glenn Cornick or Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond under the circumstances.

Final problem, and the biggest to me: Why are some of the songs shortened? Shortening "Thick As A Brick" I can understand, but "A New Day Yesterday"? Cutting a verse from "Cross-Eyed Mary"? Sacrilege! Of course, I recognize I'm being a hypocrite here, as Tull has been doing this for some time - and if the time I saw them on tour in 1992 is any indication, they're not about to stop now. Still, I would have liked to hear the full versions of some of my favorite songs.

Oh, the classics are well-represented and performed on Bursting Out. "Songs From The Wood" shines as it always does, as do many of the selections from Aqualung. And the different instrumentation on "Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of A New Day" sounds completely natural - I wouldn't have thought these were not the normal instruments that people like Barriemore Barlow played every night.

In fact, the newer songs (in 1978 parlance) are not well represented here. "No Lullaby" is a flat way to open the show, while "Too Old To Rock 'N' Roll, Too Young To Die" suffers from Anderson's cutting it short - this is a song that is meant to be played in its entirety. Even "One Brown Mouse," a surprisingly gentle song off Heavy Horses, suffers in the translation to the stage.

However, a few surprises do lurk within. "Hunting Girl," quite possibly the kinkiest Anderson ever got lyric-wise, does stand out among the new songs. And "Jack In The Green" is not a bad rendition of the folk-flavored number from Songs From The Wood.

The true star of this album proves to be one of Jethro Tull's underappreciated talents: Martin Barre. His guitar work on Bursting Out is stellar, especially on concert-only pieces like "Quatrain" and "The Dambusters March".

I will admit that I liked Bursting Out nowadays a lot more than I did when I first bought the album back around 1987. In one sense, you can almost hear Anderson's voice beginning to get rougher in tone, much like how he sounds in modern-day Tull incarnations. I realize he wasn't the scraggly kid of olden days like This Was or Benefit, but it's still kind of sad to hear the passage of time.

Bursting Out is not a terrible album, and is still a prize for Tull fans to pounce on, as it remains their only mostly-electric live album. (They recorded A Little Light Music, an acoustic live album, back in 1994.) But many fans might listen with a sense of what could have been. It's not always pleasurable to see how much time changes things after 10 years.

Rating: C+

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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 Chrysalis Records, and is used for informational purposes only.