Jethro Tull | Bursting Out (The Inflated Edition) – Live Release Review


When it comes to the great live albums of the 1970s, you typically see lists with At Fillmore East by the Allman Brothers Band and The Who’s Live At Leeds. There’s never been much fuss made about Jethro Tull’s 1978 double live offering, Bursting Out. Maybe it’s because Tull released so many magnificent studio albums in the 70s, that a live album wasn’t really going to be a necessary gamechanger — which it was for so many others like Peter Frampton and KISS. These days, Tull’s studio output has been the focus of box sets featuring extra tracks, video, and Steven Wilson remixes, so It was a pleasant surprise when an “Inflated Edition” of Bursting Out was announced. After playing through it, you have wonder why it’s not considered one of the best live albums of the 1970s.

Presented over three CDs and three DVDs, the set not only includes fresh remixes of the original Bursting Out, but also soundchecks with previously unreleased tracks, along with footage of Tull’s 1978 Madison Square Garden concert. A 96-page book with a Q&A from Ian Anderson and Martin Webb, an article on ‘the making of’ with engineers, and images from the original sleeve and live photographs fill in the middle of the packaging, which, it should be pointed out, provides significantly better storage for the six optical discs than previous releases.

It’s no secret that Jethro Tull was an especially thrilling live attraction in the 1970s, so Bursting Out, their first full live set release, was an exciting double-record set for the group’s fans. With 11 studio albums under their belt at the time, there was a lot of material to choose from, which enabled the group to mix it up with a little bit of everything from their catalog. Touring behind Heavy Horses, they start up with a rocker from the album called “No Lullaby” with some biting guitar work from Martin Barre. His playing across the whole set is nothing short of brilliant. The rest of the band falls in before Ian Anderson comes in, vocally at the top of his game, his flute fluttering in the breaks before the whole track takes off. Afterwards, a hard-rocking “Sweet Dream” picks up the momentum and runs in for a touchdown.

There’s a few others from Heavy Horses like “One Brown Mouse” and the previously unreleased “Heavy Horses,” both masterworks in how Tull’s special acoustical and electrical mix translated easily into a live setting. Along with Anderson and Barre, bassist John Glascock, keyboardist John Evan, multi-instrumentalist Dee Palmer and drummer Barriemore Barlow come together like a well-oiled machine, hitting their marks on this then-new music.

Between the light tinkles of “Skating Away (On The Thin Ice Of The New Day)” or the soulful, heartfelt “A New Day Yesterday,” Tull demonstrates an innate ability to push the music to theatrical dimensions. Anderson’s flute solo, accompanied by an undercurrent of Palmer’s orchestral maneuverings with occasional slatherings from Evan and Barre is other worldly, and the instrumental passage of “Living In The Past” that leads into dazzling harmonies of ‘Songs From The Wood” is simply this classic lineup of Jethro Tull at their very best as a live band. The “Part 1” of the set also includes some odd soundcheck tracks like the never released “Botanic Man” and “4.W.D,” which would show up later on 1980’s A album.

The second CD is “Part 2,” and it goes big on Tull’s mightiest tunes. “Thick As A Brick” remains a staple in any Jethro Tull setlist, so its inclusion is almost expected. “Hunting Girl” from Songs From The Wood is quite the live spitfire, while “Too Old To Rock N’ Roll, Too Old To Die” has the audience clapping along before it’s swallowed by the uproarious instrumental, “Conundrum,” which finds Barre, Barlow, Evan, Palmer, and Glascock assuming the mantle among world-class progressive rock bands of the 1970s. Barre gets further due on the blazing “Minstrel In The Gallery.” Then the whole dam bursts under the weight of Aqualung.

A manic flute jig flies us into an edgy “Crossed-Eyed Mary,” which apparently finishes off the main program. Then Barre starts up with a jig of his own called “Quatrain,” and the entire ensemble steps up to deliver up the one-two punch of “Aqualung” and “Locomotive Breath.” This particular combo would continue be part of the final segment of Jethro Tull shows for years to come. Perhaps the most anticipated as well as those two songs define what Jethro Tull is all about. “The Dambusters March” brings it all to close, with more soundchecks to follow.

A third live disc comprises 16 songs, most of everything that’s on Bursting Out, from a show at Madison Square Garden. It’s a 50-minute slice of an exemplary performance, which was originally broadcast live via satellite on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test TV show. The addition of “My God,” paired with “Crossed-Eyed Mary,” is likely intended to stir the loins of anxious Tull fanboys hiding out in the Midwest. Previously released footage of the concert appears on one of the set’s three DVDs. The other two feature high-resolution Steven Wilson remixes of Bursting Out, including a 5.1 DTS mix. Like all the other Wilson surround mixes of Tull albums, this one is a fully immersive dive into the Jethro Tull live experience. Bursting Out (The Inflated Edition), like its box set predecessors, successfully shines a new light on and appreciation for classic Jethro Tull. One can only speculate which pearl is next in line for an upgrade.

~ Shawn Perry

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