The Secret Language Of Birds
It's a bit of a misnomer Ian Anderson makes solos records; he is, for all intents and purposes, Jethro Tull. His first solo record was a deliberate attempt to remove himself from the Tull label. But 1983's Walk Into Light, an extraneous attempt at electro pop, failed miserably to capture the true essence of Ian Anderson. After that, he wouldn't leave Tull for another 12 years, picking up a Grammy for the band's Crest Of A Knave, the year's best Heavy Metal record (?) Unlike other musicians of his generation, Ian Anderson can grow old and still retain a sense of dignity and cool. In 1995, he released a second solo record, Divinities: Twelve Dances With God, a classical-based jaunt that found him more in line with his renowned style. Now Ian Anderson has finalized his transition from the over-coated tramp and wandering minstrel to country squire - one who is greeted on his lavish farmland by a dawn chorus he has coined The Secret Language Of Birds.
Acoustically-based, Ian Anderson's third solo album receives lots of ample support from Andrew Giddings, Tull's present keyboardist and a collaborator on Divinities. Between Anderson's skipping acoustic guitar patterns, flowing flute solos, angelic-like words of imagery, and Giddings' keyboard and orchestral ornamentations, The Secret Language Of Birds is a rich tapestry of pastorals and paintings interwoven with such locales as Bombay and Panama. From the first notes of the title track, the CD assumes a low-key Tull-like ambiance. Still, Anderson hasn't sounded this focused since Stand Up. At times, the CD wavers into Eastern-styled passages with Celtic overtones. "A Better Moon" is almost like "Budapest" in its tone, filled out nicely by Gidding's percussion painlessly stroking the lush instrumentation. "Set-Aside" is a personal aside by Anderson, who has seen British farmlands neglected in the favor of governmental interest.
The reprise of the title track, which sounds like it could have been a throwaway from Warchild (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), finds Anderson at his ripest. Then, just to show that he still pledges his allegiance to the spirit of Jethro Tull, Anderson brings in longtime Tull guitarist Martin Barre to inject some of his trademark fretwork into the mix -- most noticeably on "Boris Dancing," an instrumental nod to former Russian president Boris Yeltsin. Then Anderson goes one better by attaching hidden bonus tracks at the end of the CD. First, there's an untitled instrumental romp that obviously features Barre on electric guitar and Giddings on everything from glockenspiel to piano. This is capped off by an updated and abridged version of "Thick As A Brick," which undoubtedly finishes off the entire CD on a bright note. It just goes to show what a Grammy and a little trout farming can do for a man.
~ Shawn Perry