Jethro Tull - The Best of Jethro Tull

Year of Release: 1999
Label: Chrysalis
Catalog Number: 0946 3 26001 2
Format: CD
Total Time: 150:27:00

Well, this is less a review and more a commentary about Jethro Tull and this release, The Best of Jethro Tull - The Anniversary Collection. The production is great, the packaging informative without being extensive. Sure, a written retrospective accompanying the package would have been great, maybe commentary as to why these are the best, not just the most well known, Tull tunes. But from this, you can go to the source albums, discover the gems not included, and give your self a rather fine library of music.

Now, I cannot claim to be a Jethro Tull fan from way back - way back being 1968 (I was all of a year old or thereabouts). But, from first hearing the oft-played Aqualung, both album and song, I have, over the past twenty years or so, developed a great appreciation for Jethro Tull.

Released in 1993 to commemorate their 25th Anniversary (re-released now for their 30th), The Best of is almost as complete a retrospective as possible given the time frame in which it is working. Anyone who only knows Jethro Tull from either just Aqualung or from their more recent fare - the music of the harder rocking Crest Of A Knave or Rock Island say, might be surprised by the earlier material, being as bluesy as it is. Of course, by the mid to late 70s, blues had become folk as far influence and style. It's odd then that many of the recent Tull influenced bands - Red Jasper, for one - have taken a cue from late 80's Tull. Certainly, there's a Celtic influence to Red Jasper, too, but it is latter Tull that also informs their music.

And yet, hearing that in contrast to their most recent, J-Tull Dot Com, you realize that the more understated aspects of that album actually harken back to their roots.

Like so many English bands in the late 60s, the American Blues provided a great deal of influence on their music, so from that perspective, it isn't so surprising that Jethro Tull are in that category.

All of their output over the previous 25 years is represented, though not in true chronological order. Here it based more on feel, how one track plays off or complements the next. Two of the most well known Jethro Tull tracks have to be "Aqualung" and "Locomotive Breath" if only by dint of being classic rock radio staples. Add into that "Thick As A Brick," "Bungle In The Jungle," and "Living In The Past." Basically, this is the period of 1970 - 1972, the beginnings of the progressive rock movement. In these tracks you hear a slight shift away from blues and toward rock. Many of these well worn favourites are sequenced together and Aqualung and Living In The Past make up the bulk of disc one.

Disk two is more spread out, only two or three songs from each album versus the 5 or so each for Aqualung and Living... alone.

All of this detail, which may seem superfluous, is by way of telling you that this is really a true representation of Jethro Tull. As said before, each album gets at least one track in, and truly shows the development that Tull has made over the years. And with all the band changes over the years, it is still distinctly Anderson's voice - literally and figuratively - that ties it all together. There are no sharp turns, no unexpected moves from Jethro Tull, once seen in this context. Their career has flowed in what I perceive as a natural way. Sure they aren't going to write classics each time out, aren't going to create a masterpiece each time out, but there is a progression in/to their music that is audible here. For far too many bands, a "best of" package usually signals two things: their career is over and the hits package is a means to revive it, and two, that they have essentially rewritten the same hit over and over. I can't name names, and maybe I'm overstating the issue.

I have been playing this disk almost endlessly over the past week or so, disc 1 more than disc 2, but not for any reason except that disc 1 was such a joy to listen to, disc 2 has hardly a chance to get into the player.

If I were discovering past Tull for the first time, this is the "Best of" package that'd sell me on them. Anderson has such a warm voice equally at home in gentle and harsh settings. Not to take away anything from the myriad of players who have been, are, or are again members of Tull: Martin Barre, Jeffery Hammond-Hammond, Dave Pegg, Doane Perry, Mick Abrahams, among others. Otherwise Anderson would be just (!) a singer-songwriter with a voice and flute and placed in an entirely different category of music. Well, as a "solo" artist, he is categorized in another style ... but ... because Anderson is the lyricist, vocalist, and focal point, the main character Jethro Tull is his.

My favourite Tull tracks have been "Teacher," "Bungle In The Jungle," and "Aqualung" (of course) from the early period, and "Farm On The Freeway" from the latter period, though I must admit, too, I love the muscular punchiness of "Steel Monkey." Living in the car culture that is California, it has the perfect arrangement for cruising (speeding?) down the highway. "Farm..." has such a US/midwest feel about it, but I'm sure the same thing was happening in the UK as well (and I think of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide...).

If you are a Tull fanatic, have all the albums, and have them memorized, this may not be the release for you. If you're like me, know Tull, like Tull, but don't know them, or if you are just a newbie to the Tull thing, this has is the perfect introduction.

Disc 1: A Song For Jeffery (3:18) / Beggar's Farm (4:17) / A Christmas Song (3:06) / A New Day Yesterday (4:08) / Bour?e (3:45) / Nothing Is Easy (4:22) / Living In The Past (3:20) / To Cry You A Song (6:13) / Teacher (3:59) / Sweet Dream (4:00) / Cross-Eyed Mary (4:07) / Mother Goose (3:51) / Aqualung (6:35) / Locomotive Breath (4:24) / Life Is A Long Song (3:18) / Thick As A Brick (extract) (3:00) / A Passion Play (extract) (3:46) / Skating Away (On The Thin Ice Of The New Day) (3:52) / Bungle In The Jungle (3:34)
Disc 2: Minstrel In The Gallery (6:10) / Too Old To Rock'n' Roll (5:39) / Songs From The Wood (4:54) / Jack In The Green (2:28) / The Whistler (2:28) / Heavy Horses (3:32) / Dun Ringill (8:55) / Fylingdale Flyer (2:40) / Jack-A-Lynn (4:31) / Pussy Willow (3:53) / Broadsword (3:53) / Under Wraps II (2:14) / Steel Monkey (3:33) / Farm On The Freeway (6:28) / Jump Start (4:52) / Kissing Willie (3:29) / This Is Not Love (3:53)

Mick Abrahams - guitar and vocals
Ian Anderson - flute, guitar, and vocals
Barriemore Barlow - drums
Martin Barre - guitar
Clive Bunker - drums
Gerry Conway - drums
Glen Cornick - bass
Mark Craney - drums
John Evan - keyboards
Andy Giddings - keyboards
John Glascock - bass
Jeffery Hammond-Hammond - bass
David Palmer - keyboards
Dave Pegg - bass
Doane Perry - drums
Peter Vettese - keys

This Was (1968)
Stand Up (1969)
Benefit (1970)
Aqualung (1971)
Thick As A Brick (1972)
Living In The Past (1972)
A Passion Play (1973)
War Child (1974)
Minstrel In The Gallery (1975)
M.U. The Best Of (1976)
Too Old To Rock 'N' Roll: Too Young To Die (1976)
Songs From The Wood (1977)
Repeat - The Best Of Jethro Tull Vol 2 (1977)
Heavy Horses (1978)
Bursting Out - Live (1978)
Stormwatch (1979/2004)
'A' (1980)
The Broadsword And The Beast (1982/2005)
Under Wraps (1984)
Original Masters (1985)
Crest Of A Knave (1987/2005)
20 Years Of Jethro Tull (1988)
Rock Island (1988)
Catfish Rising (1991)
A Little Light Music (1992)
The Anniversary Collection (1993)
25th Anniversary Box Set (1993)
Nightcap (1995)
Roots To Branches (1995)
J-Tull Dot Com (1999)
The Very Best Of (2001)
Living With The Past (2002)
The Jethro Tull Christmas Album (2003)
Classic Masters (2003)
Stand Up/This Was (2003)
Essential (2003)
Nothing Is Easy: Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970 (2004)
Aqualung Live (2005)
Jethro Tull/Ian Anderson (2005)
Extended Versions (2006)
Live At Montreux 2003 (2007)
The Best Of Acoustic Jethro Tull (2007)
Living With The Past/Nothing Is Easy (2008)
This Was (expanded) (2008)
Nothing Is Easy - Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970 (2004/2008)
The Anniversary Collection/A New Day Yesterday (2008)
Live At Montreux 2003 (2008)
Live At Madison Square Garden (2009)
Christmas Album (2009)
Live In Switzerland 2003 (LP) (2014)
A Passion Play - An Extended Performance (2014)
War Child - 40th Anniversary Theatre Edition (2014)
Minstrel In The Gallery - 40th Anniversary La Grande Edition (2015)

Living With The Past (DVD) (2002)
A New Day Yesterday: 1969-1994 - The 25th Anniversary Collection (VID/DVD) (1994/2003/4)
Nothing Is Easy - Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970 (DVD) (2005) Live At Montreux 2003 (DVD) (2008)
Jack In The Green - Live In Germany (DVD) (2008)
Live In Bethlehem, PA, 2003 (DVD) (2008)
Their Full Authorized Story (DVD) (2009)
Live At AVO Session 2008 (DVD) (2009)
Live At Madison Square Garden (DVD) (rec 1978, rel 2009)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: October 1st 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1093
Language: english


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