The Best Of Acoustic

Jethro Tull

They may be lumped in with the mallet heads because of “Aqualung” and “Locomotive Breath,” but Jethro Tull and their gift for tendering a song with the proper aural blend and mix of instrumentation is what sets them apart from so many of their contemporaries. This is ever more apparent in their acoustic numbers that incorporate a smorgasbord of strings, horns, keys, and percussive embellishments — basically the armory of a small and powerful orchestra. For lack of new material to fan the flames (or is that flame the fans?), the current display of Tullian bedazzlement is an EMI CD making the rounds with the pragmatic title of The Best Of Acoustic, a 24-song collection of the group’s most beatific, acoustical performances.

While Jethro Tull/Ian Anderson acoustic songs don the rags of folk, the classic orchestral glow that dances and dips around each crescendo is not something you find in your typical acoustic-based song. To drive that point home, sample something like “Life Is A Long Song,” or “Skating Away (In The Thin Ice Of The New Day),” and you'll get far more than what you bargained for. In addition to Anderson’s trusty and compact Andy Manson Traveler acoustic guitar, there’s a little flute, piano, glockenspiel, accordion, and a few lingering strings to tie the arrangements together. When you add Anderson’s inimitable voice, the songs become undeniably unique, almost magical in their spell-binding musicality.

Beyond style is the vast assortment of acoustic songs that reside in the canon — some from recent Anderson solo albums; others tactfully slotted in between Tull's more thunderous tunes. If you own the original albums, you know how comforting it is to be able to bash your head to “Minstrel In The Gallery” before moving onto the taciturn resolve of “Cold Wind To Valhalla” and “One White Duck/010 = Nothing At All.” Aqualung, with the aforementioned title track, “Locomotive Breath,” and “Hymn 43” — aka the rockers — sprouted its sea legs with the inclusion of “Cheap Day Return,” “Mother Goose,” and “Wond’ring Aloud” — aka the softies — making it either less comprehensible or simply a piece with loads of variety — a maneuver that makes the group the musical chameleons they are. And so it goes as The Best Of Acoustic, smothered in layers of tuneful delicacies, offers yet another dimension of the multi-faceted creature known the world over as Jethro Tull.

~ Shawn Perry

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