(40th Anniversary Collector's Edition)
In 1968, Jethro Tull was just another British blues band trying to make their way to the top. Back then, there was some contention as to how well a band led by a flute-playing wild man would go over with blues aficionados. On This Was, the group’s debut, the blues and all of its variants are very much intact. If anything, Ian Anderson’s quirky antics gave the music a boast in the rear. Forty years later, a great revisiting of This Was, spread out over two CDs, exposes the rootsy, humble beginnings of one of the most unique assemblage of musicians to ever grace the earth.
Guitarist Mick Abraham, the group's blues mentor who left shortly after the release of This Was, is a dominant force on many of the record’s numbers. He lights the fire under the opener "My Sunday Feeling," with Anderson’s spunky flute riding shotgun. “Move On Alone,” Abraham’s own tell-tale composition, is somewhat simmered with a few lazy horns, but his steady and smooth blues-based fretwork is highlighted on "It's Breaking Me Up" and "Cat's Squirrel."
For all that Abraham offered, however, the sheer veracity of Anderson's talent as a singer, songwriter and instrumentalist gives This Was an incomparable quality. Throw in bassist Glen Cornick and drummer Clive Bunker, and the Jethro Tull of 1968 swings far and wide on such tunes as "Beggar's Farm," "Serenade To A Cuckoo," "Dharma For One," and the first of many songs about Anderson's friend and one-time Tull bassist Jeffery Hammond-Hammond, "A Song For Jeffrey."
As a two-CD set, the expanded 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition of This Was is a well configured package. Disc one features the whole album remastered in mono. Five additional tracks — all except “So Much Trouble” are from the original This Was — are taken from the BBC recorded for John Peel’s Top Gear program on July 23, 1968. The second disc includes a stereo mix of This Was, along with six bonus tracks, including two versions — one in mono, one in stereo — of “Love Story” and “Christmas Song,” and two additional Abraham tunes, “Sunshine Day” and “One For John Gee,” which apparently appeared as early A-side and B-side singles, respectively.
The set's booklet comes with written comments from all four original band members, who occasionally get together for a bash now and then. But “what’s now” for Jethro Tull is that of a dynamic touring band with a rich, 40-year-old legacy. All the more reason to recognize and appreciate the importance of This Was.
~ Shawn Perry