« Adobe buys itself a new license to price-gouge | Main | While I'm sitting at home feeling miserable... »

Jethro Tull remasters: Broadsword, Under Wraps, Crest

The Jethro Tull remaster program has now hit the 1980s! The latest batch consists of 1982's The Broadsword and the Beast, 1984's Under Wraps and 1987's Crest of a Knave.

In the new notes, Ian Anderson says this about Under Wraps:

To most Tull fans, the idea of us sounding like a cross between The Police and Thomas Dolby was a little bit of a stretch in credibity. The fact was, we did it rather well.

Damn right they did. Of course, Tull fans bought it but hated it, and the people who would have been interested in the music on offer didn't buy it because it was a Jethro Tull album. Anderson was also embroiled with the record company, Chrysalis, at the time, so promotion left a lot to be desired (more on that in a separate post). But the album was really rather good, as a piece of 1980s electro-rock. The songs, dealing lyrically with human relationships as seen through the prism of spy story concepts*) have a dark, mysterious feel to them which is well-complemented by the cool, clinical sounds of the synthesizers and the uncharacteristically cerebral, fusion-esque guitar work by Martin Barre. Anderson did some innovative work with the drum machines as well, freeing the playing from the limitations of a human drummer with only two arms, two feet and limited ability to separate the movements of his limbs. And the tunes are memorable. One to try out if you like the music of the 1980s, even if Tull's other music leaves you cold.

By contrast, The Broadsword and the Beast, recorded two years earlier, merely updated the style Tull had developed in the years between 1975 and 1977. The arrangements are leaner and simpler, and more space is given to synthesizers than on albums like Songs from the Wood but it's very typically Tull, with the same basic musical structures and the same ambivalence towards modern living in the lyrics. I like this album a lot, but it's very much for those who are into that sort of thing.
Broadsword is one of the few reissues where the bonus tracks, eight of them, are worth bothering with. Spurred on by keyboardist Peter-John Vettese's effortless creativity, the band recorded a double album's worth of material in 1981 and 1982, but kept only enough material for a very short album. All of the bonus tracks were included in a 1988 box set, but the ones that were kept off that box set and left on the shelf until 1993 are left out. This is a wise decision as the first batch of rediscovered tracks was notably better than the second.

Crest of a Knave was a sort of comeback album for the band, who didn't have much of a reputation left after the failure of Under Wraps. Back then, it was unusual for them to take three years between albums, and so it seemed like they were about to fade into obscurity. Crest was something of a return to the more organic sound of Broadsword with a mellow yet occasionally rocking sound that reminded many people of Dire Straits, but without the stigma of being bought by droves upon droves of snotty yuppies. It is a good album, probably the last one that was strong overall. The original release had one weak point, though, and that was the sound quality. I had no hope that anything other than a complete remix would rescue the record from its muted, echo-y, everything-lower-than-everything-else sonic dudditude, but I'm glad to say I was wrong! I'm actually hearing new detail in this remaster, and the whole thing sounds a lot punchier and not at all like it's being played in a different room. The record's strongest point, its acoustic and electric guitar parts have been refreshed almost as much as they've been refreshed on the remasters of earlier records like Thick as a Brick. Mind you, the real test will be listening to it on headphones.

By the way, all three CDs lack the dreaded Copy Control logo and the annoying sonic artifacts that came with the logo on other EMI recent EMI disks including the previous batch of Tull remasters. Could it be that EMI has come to its senses and started releasing Red Book compliant CDs again?

*) Much of Ian Anderson's lyrical work can be described as human relationships seen through the prism of X, where X can be work, religion, alienation, or just about anything.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 18, 2005 7:05 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Adobe buys itself a new license to price-gouge.

The next post in this blog is While I'm sitting at home feeling miserable....

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by
Movable Type 3.34