Years: November 1967 – 2012; 2017 – present
Styles: Art Rock, Blues Rock, Classic Rock, Folk Rock, Hard Rock, Progressive Rock, Symphonic Rock
Glenn Cornick - Bass Guitar, Hammond organ (in band: 1967 - 1970)
Clive Bunker - Drums, Percussion (in band: 1967 - 1971)
Mick Abrahams - Backing vocals, Guitar, Lead vocals, Nine-String Guitar, Vocals (in band: 1967 – 1968)
Ian Anderson - Acoustic guitar , Balalaika, Bass Guitar, Bouzouki , Cymbal, Drum Programming, Drums, Electric mandolin, Fairlight CMI, Flute, Guitar, Hammond organ, Harmonica, Keyboards, Lead vocals, Mandolin, Mouth organ, Percussion, Piano, Piccolo Flute, Saxophone, Trumpet, Violin, Vocals, Whistle (in band: 1967 – 2012; 2017 – present)
Tony Iommi - Guitar (in band: 1968)
Martin Barre - Acoustic guitar , Classical guitar or Spanish guitar, Flute, Guitar, Lute, Mandolin, Recorder (in band: 1968 – 2012)
John Evan - Accordion, Harpsichord, Keyboards, Mellotron, Organ, Piano, Synthesizer, Vocals (in band: 1970 - 1980)
Jeffrey Hammond - Bass Guitar, Double bass, Recorder, Vocals, Voice (in band: 1971 - 1975)
Barriemore Barlow - Bells, Drums, Glockenspiel, Marimba, Nakers, Percussion, Timpani (in band: 1971 - 1980)
John Glascock - Backing vocals, Bass Guitar, Vocals (in band: 1975 – 1979)
David Palmer - Keyboards, Organ, Piano, Pipes organ, Synthesizer (in band: 1977 - 1980)
Dave Pegg - Acoustic bass guitar, Backing vocals, Bass Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals (in band: 1979 - 1985)
Mark Craney - Drums (in band: 1980 - 1981)
Gerry Conway - Drums, Percussion (in band: 1982)
Peter-John Vettese - Backing vocals, Keyboards, Piano, Synthesizer, Vocoder (in band: 1982 – 1986)
Doane Perry - Drums, Percussion, Vocals (in band: 1984 - 2012)
Maartin Allcock - Guitar, Keyboards, Mandolin (in band: 1988 - 1991)
Andrew Giddings - Accordion, Acoustic bass guitar, Hammond organ, Keyboard Bass, Keyboards, Piano (in band: 1991 - 2007)
Jonathan Noyce - Bass Guitar, Percussion (in band: 1996 - 2007)
John O'Hara - Accordion, Celesta, Keyboards, Piano, Vocals (in band: 2007 – 2012; 2017 – present)
David Goodier - Bass Guitar (in band: 2007 – 2012; 2017 – present)
Florian Opahle - Acoustic guitar , Guitar (in band: 2017 – present)
Scott Hammond - Drums (in band: 2017 – present)
Jethro Tull was formed in Blackpool, England, in 1967 when Ian Anderson (vocals, flute) and Glenn Cornick (bass) – members of a visiting Blackpool blues group, John Evan’s Smash – became acquainted with Mick Abrahams (guitar, vocals) and Clive Bunker (drums).
Abrahams’ colleague in local attraction McGregor’s Engine, completed the original line-up which named itself after an 18th-century agriculturalist and made its debut in March the following year with Sunshine Day. This commercially minded single, erroneously credited to Jethro Toe, merely hinted at developments about to unfold.
Jethro Tull was very much a blues band on their debut album, vaguely reminiscent of the Graham Bond Organization only more cohesive, and with greater commercial sense. The revelations about the group's roots on This Was -- which was recorded during the summer of 1968 -- can be astonishing, even 30 years after the fact.
Original lead guitarist Mick Abrahams contributed to the songwriting and the singing, and his presence as a serious bluesman is felt throughout, often for the better: "Some Day the Sun Won't Shine for You," an Ian Anderson original that could just as easily be credited to Big Bill Broonzy or Robert Johnson; "Cat's Squirrel," Abrahams' big showcase, where he ventures into Eric Clapton territory; and "It's Breaking Me Up," which also features some pretty hot guitar from Abrahams.
Roland Kirk's "Serenade to a Cuckoo" (the first song Anderson learned to play on flute), their jazziest track ever, is one of the best parts of the album. The drum solo on "Dharma for One" now seems like a mistake, but is understandable in the context of the time in which it was done. The one number here that everybody knows, "A Song for Jeffrey," almost pales amid these surroundings, but at the time it was a superb example of commercial psychedelic blues. This would be the last album of its kind by the group, as Abrahams' departure and the lure of more fertile inspiration tugged them toward English folk music.
Mick Abrahams left in November 1968 and formed Blodwyn Pig. When future Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi proved incompatible, Martin Lancelot Barre joined Tull for Stand Up, their excellent chart-topping second album.
The group's second album, with Anderson (vocals, flute, acoustic guitars, keyboards, balalaika), Martin Barre (electric guitar, flute), Clive Bunker (drums), and Glen Cornick (bass), solidified the group's sound. There is still an element of blues, but except for "A New Day Yesterday," it is far more muted than on their first album, as Mick Abrahams' blues stylings are largely absent from Martin Barre's playing. The influence of folk music also began to manifest itself ("Look Into the Sun").
The instrumental "Bouree," which could've been an early Blood, Sweat & Tears track, became a favorite concert number, although at this point Anderson's flute playing on-stage needed a lot of work; by his own admission, he just wasn't that good. Bassist Cornick would last through only one more album, but he gets his best moments here, on "Bouree." As a story song with opaque lyrics and jarring tempo changes, "Back to the Family" is the forerunner to Thick as a Brick.
Benefit, the last outwardly blues-based album, duly followed and this period was also marked by the group’s three UK Top 10 singles, "Living In The Past", "Sweet Dream" (both 1969) and "The Witch’s Promise" (1970). Cornick then quit to form Wild Turkey.
Anderson invited Jeffrey Hammond to replace Cornick, buying a new bass for this purpose. However, Hammond had not played an instrument since going to art school shortly after his time in the John Evan Band, and was chosen more for his social compatibility with the other band members than for his musical skills. This line-up recorded Aqualung in late 1970, releasing it in 1971.
The album was split into two sides, subtitled 'Aqualung' and 'My God', and featured Anderson's opinions about organised religion. Recording the album was problematic because of technical issues in the studio and Hammond's rusty musical skills. On "Locomotive Breath", Anderson recorded the backing track on his own, singing along to a hi-hataccompaniment, which the rest of the band recorded on top of later. Despite Anderson's concerns that it may have been "too radical" compared with the band's previous albums, Aqualung was the first Jethro Tull album to reach the top ten in the US, peaking at No. 7. It sold over one million copies, earning it a gold disc by the RIAA in July 1971.
Because of the heavy touring schedule and his wish to spend more time with his family, drummer Bunker quit the group after the Aqualung album in May 1971, and was replaced by Barrie Barlow, who Anderson rechristened "Barriemore". Barlow had first recorded with the band for the five-track EP Life Is a Long Song. Except for Barre, the line-up of Jethro Tull now consisted entirely of former John Evan Band members from Blackpool.
Jethro Tull's first LP-length epic Thick as a Brick is a masterpiece in the annals of progressive rock, and one of the few works of its kind that still holds up decades later. Mixing hard rock and English folk music with classical influences, set to stream-of-consciousness lyrics so dense with imagery that one might spend weeks pondering their meaning -- assuming one feels the need to do so -- the group created a dazzling tour de force, at once playful, profound, and challenging, without overwhelming the listener. The original LP was the best-sounding, best-engineered record Tull had ever released, easily capturing the shifting dynamics between the soft all-acoustic passages and the electric rock crescendos surrounding them.
1972 also saw the release of Living in the Past, a double-album compilation of remixed singles, B-sides and outtakes (including the entirety of the Life Is a Long Song EP, which closes the album), with the third side recorded live in 1970 at New York's Carnegie Hall concert on 4 November 1970. The album was successful, as it allowed new fans to catch up with early singles, particularly in the US where they had not been popular on initial release. New Musical Express called Jethro Tull one of "Britain's most important and successful 2nd generation progressive bands"
Jethro Tull's second album-length composition, A Passion Play is very different from -- and not quite as successful as -- Thick as a Brick. Ian Anderson utilizes reams of biblical (and biblical-sounding) references, interwoven with modern language, as a sort of a rock equivalent to T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland. As with most progressive rock, the words seem important and profound, but their meaning is anyone's guess ("The ice-cream lady wet her drawers, to see you in the Passion Play..."), with Andersonas a dour but engaging singer/sage (who, at least at one point, seems to take on the role of a fallen angel).
It helps to be aware of the framing story, about a newly deceased man called to review his life at the portals of heaven, who realizes that life on Earth is preferable to eternity in paradise. But the music puts it over successfully, a dazzling mix of old English folk and classical material, reshaped in electric rock terms. The band is at its peak form, sustaining the tension and anticipation of this album-length piece across 45 minutes, although the music runs out of inspiration about five minutes before it actually ends.
Even as the band's popularity with critics began to wane around this time, their popularity with the public remained strong, as evidenced by high sales of their follow-up album, 1974's War Child. Originally intended to be a companion piece for a film, it reached number two on the US Billboard charts and received some critical acclaim, and produced the radio mainstays "Bungle in the Jungle" (#12 on the US singles chart) and "Skating Away (On the Thin Ice of the New Day)". It also included a short acoustic song, "Only Solitaire", widely thought to be aimed at L.A. Times rock music critic Robert Hilburn, who had written a harsh review of the A Passion Play concerts at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. However, Anderson said the song was written before Hilburn's review and was aimed at music critics in general. The War Child tour also featured a female string quartet playing along with the group on the new material.
Minstrel in the Gallery was Tull's most artistically successful and elaborately produced album since Thick as a Brick and harked back to that album with the inclusion of a 17-minute extended piece ("Baker Street Muse"). Although English folk elements abound, this is really a hard rock showcase on a par with -- and perhaps even more aggressive than -- anything on Aqualung. The title track is a superb showcase for the group, freely mixing folk melodies, lilting flute passages, and archaic, pre-Elizabethan feel, and the fiercest electric rock in the group's history -- parts of it do recall phrases from A Passion Play, but all of it is more successful than anything on War Child.
Martin Barre's attack on the guitar is as ferocious as anything in the band's history, and John Evan's organ matches him amp for amp, while Barriemore Barlow and Jeffrey Hammond hold things together in a furious performance. Anderson's flair for drama and melody come to the fore in "Cold Wind to Valhalla," and "Requiem" is the loveliest acoustic number in Tull's repertory, featuring nothing but Anderson's singing and acoustic guitar, Hammond bass, and a small string orchestra backing them. "Nothing at All" isn't far behind for sheer, unabashed beauty, but "Black Satin Dancer" is a little too cacophonous for its own good.
"Baker Street Muse" recalls Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play, not only in its structure but a few passages; at slightly under 17 minutes, it's a tad more manageable than either of its conceptual predecessors, and it has all of their virtues, freely overlapping hard rock and folk material, classical arrangements (some of the most tasteful string playing on a Tull recording), surprising tempo shifts, and complex stream-of-consciousness lyrics (some of which clearly veer into self-parody) into a compelling whole.
1976's Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die! was another concept album, this time about the life of an ageing rocker. Glascock made his first appearance on this album, contributing harmony and second vocals in addition to the bass lines. Palmer continued to arrange, and he recorded as a guest on two songs. For the 1976 tour, Jethro Tull became one of the first bands to use giant projection screens for the larger stadium shows. Although Too Old... did not sell as well as the other 1970s albums, the 1976 compilation M.U. - The Best of Jethro Tull, achieved Platinum Album in US and Gold record in UK. A television special was recorded showing the development of the album's concept in a live show with the band (fully dressed in the most rock-hard-tongue-in-cheek outfits), but the programme was never officially released.
In the late 1970s, Jethro Tull released a trio of folk rock albums, Songs from the Wood (1977), Heavy Horses (1978), and Stormwatch (1979). Songs from the Wood (1977) was the first Tull album to receive generally positive reviews since the release of Living in the Past (1972).
The band had long ties to folk rockers Steeleye Span (Tull were the backing band on Steeleye Span front woman Maddy Prior's 1978 solo album Woman in the Wings as a way of repaying her for contributing vocals on the Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die! album) and with Fairport Convention (Fairport members Dave Pegg, Martin Allcock, Dave Mattacks and Ric Sanders have all played with Tull at one point or another, as well as folk drummer Gerry Conway who became a Fairport member after playing with Tull). Although not formally considered a part of the folk rock movement (which had actually begun nearly a decade earlier with the advent of Fairport Convention), there was clearly an exchange of musical ideas among Tull and the folk rockers. By this time, Anderson had moved to a farm in the countryside, and his new bucolic lifestyle was clearly reflected in his songwriting, as in the title track of Heavy Horses (1978), a paean to draught horses.
Jethro Tull's 11th studio album, Heavy Horses, is one of their prettier records, a veritable celebration of English folk music chock-full of gorgeous melodies, briskly played acoustic guitars and mandolins, and Ian Anderson's flute lilting in the background, backed by the group in top form. This record is a fairly close cousin to 1977's Songs From the Wood, except that its songs are decidedly more passionate, sung with a rough, robust energy that much of Tull's work since Thick as a Brick had been missing, and surpassing even Aqualung in its lustiness.
"No Lullaby" is the signature heavy riff song, a concert version of which opened Bursting Out: Jethro Tull Live. Anderson sings it -- and everything else here -- as though they might be the last lines he ever gets to voice, with tremendous intensity. The band plays hard behind him throughout, with lead guitarist Martin Barre (most notably on "Weathercock") and bassist John Glascock showing up very well throughout. Anderson's production and Robin Black's engineering catch their every nuance without sacrificing the delicacy of his acoustic guitar and mandolin playing. "Acres Wild," "Rover," "One Brown Mouse," "Weathercock," and "Moths," the latter featuring some of David Palmer's most tasteful orchestral arrangements, are among the loveliest songs in the group's entire repertory. Curved Air's Darryl Way plays violin solo on the title track -- a tribute to England's vanishing shire horses, which doesn't really take off until Way's instrument comes in on the break, with a marked tempo change -- and on "Acres Wild."
In 1980 Anderson began a projected solo album, retaining Barre and new bass player Dave Pegg (ex-Fairport Convention), but adding Eddie Jobson (ex-Curved Air and Roxy Music) on keyboards, and Marc Craney (drums).
Long-time cohorts Barlow, Evan and Palmer were left to pursue their individual paths. The finished product, A, was ultimately issued under the Jethro Tull banner and introduced a productive period that saw two more group selections, plus Anderson’s solo effort, Walk Into Light, issued within a two-year period.
Since then Jethro Tull have continued to record and perform live, albeit on a lesser scale, using a nucleus of Anderson, Barre and Pegg. Catfish Rising in 1991, although a disappointing album, was a return to their blues roots. Roots To Branches and the terribly named J-Tull.Dot.Com peddled the standard Jethro Tull progressive rock, full of complicated time changes, and fiddly new age and Arabian intros and codas.
2003 saw the release of The Jethro Tull Christmas Album, a collection of traditional Christmas songs together with old and new Christmas songs written by Jethro Tull. It is the last studio album of this band. It became the band's biggest commercial success since the 1987 Crest of a Knave. An Ian Anderson live double album and DVD was released in 2005 called Ian Anderson Plays the Orchestral Jethro Tull. In addition, a DVD entitled Nothing Is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 and a live album Aqualung Live (recorded in 2004) were released in 2005.
In September 2017, Anderson announced plans for a tour to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of This Was, and a new studio album in 2018. The band line-up includes Anderson, Hammond, Opahle, O'Hara, and Goodier (all musicians of Anderson's solo band since 2012), with Barre absent from the lineup.
On June 1, 2018, Parlophone Records released a new (50-track) career collection celebrating the band's 50th anniversary featuring all 21 Tull albums, named 50 for 50. In the notes of the 50 for 50 booklet it is said that the new album scheduled for 2019 will be a solo record by Ian Anderson and not a new album by Jethro Tull.
1. Source: http://nostalgiacentral.com/music/artists-a-to-k/artists-j/jethro-tull/
2. All Music Guide to Rock. The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. 3rd Edition 2002. Edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Published by Backbeat Books, page 587 - 588, Bruce Eder
3. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jethro_Tull_(band)
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