Stand Up

Jethro Tull

Chrysalis Records, 1969

REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


Jethro Tull is a band, damn it!

Sorry, I had to say that, as I once again recently had a well-meaning fan say "Oh yeah, Jethro Tull, he's cool!" He probably thinks Pink Floyd is a cool guy too. It's nice that you're a fan, but get it straight. The guy with the flute is multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire and gentlemen farmer Ian Anderson; Jethro Tull is the name of the band.

Jethro Tull emerged in the late sixties as a hard-edged blues band, who could have easily gone the stylistic route of Cream, John Mayall or the early Fleetwood Mac. Their debut This Was is a textbook of British electric blues. As the Summer Of Love was fading into our collective memories, these bluesmen made a significant turn that probably helped make them the world-renowned icon they are today. One reason for this turn was the departure of original guitarist Mick Abrahams, whose hard-core blues stylings help to form the sound that was the impetus for Tull's initial success. Replacing him was the amazingly talented Martin Barre, who is still with Tull 35 years later. Barre's inclusion on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Stand Up would herald the seed that would make them known as progressive rock's folksy standard-bearer. Tull would make better use of acoustic stringed instruments and woodwinds than just about any other their peers during the 70s.

Along with Anderson and Barre, Glen Cornick (bass) and Clive Bunker (percussion) made up Jethro Tull when Stand Up was released in 1969. Barre is nowadays, legendary among classic rock guitarists. Cornick and Bunker, are to this reviewer, among the unsung heroes of rhythm in my book. During their short stint together (Cornick would leave Tull 2 years later, Bunker the year after that), they would lay down some of the most solid rhythm you'll ever hear. Note for note, I'd put these two up against any rhythm section you want to throw down.

Along with the inclusion of Barre, Tull began a turn away from the blues, towards a more folk-influenced sound. Also, they made their first steps toward the influences of jazz and classical music, most notably the spectacular "Bouree," an improvisation based on a Bach composition for lutes. Not that they abandoned their roots altogether. "Nothing is Easy" retains more than a nuance of the blues. The opening track "New Day Yesterday" is a soulful blast of throaty blues delivered with power and gutty intensity. "New Day Yesterday" is a classic, and one of the few from this era, along with "Bouree," that is still part of their live show.

Their new musical direction is heard quite clearly on "Jeffrey Goes To Leicester Square," and also on "Fat Man," which features Anderson wailing away on a balalaika. The wistful "Reasons For Waiting" is another standout track that showcase their turn towards English folk stylings.

My favorite track from this disc is one you will never hear alongside the Tull classics. "Back to the Family" features the now-familiar juxtaposition of folksy acoustic ballad and hard-driving rock that would become Tull's trademark. With suggestions of things to come, "Back To The Family" is reminiscent of many of the best-known cuts that Tull would later create, most notably "Thick As A Brick" and "Aqualung."

All said, this is a great album, from a band that made A LOT of great albums. Heralding a time of change and transformation, from blues to quasi-folk-progressive rock. For a taste of things to come, and close look at the music that would help transform an obscure blues combo into one of classic rocks most recognizable bands, Stand Up is a treat for all Tull fans, from diehards to neophytes.

Rating: A

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© 2004 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Chrysalis Records, and is used for informational purposes only.