This Was

Jethro Tull

Chrysalis Records, 1968

REVIEW BY: Riley McDonald


Jethro Tull have definitely been one of the more progressive acts throughout the decades. Known for their use of the flute, their thought-provoking lyrics, and the stage antics of frontman Ian Anderson, they've become one of the more eccentric bands in the pantheon of rock. But before the 30-plus minute songs, before the blending of progressive and folk elements, and even before the famous guitar licks of Martin Barre, there was this.

It's quite obvious that the group was a definitely a blues band at this point in their career. And in being one, the flute wasn't a very accepted instrument in the genre, and that's why less of it is heard when compared to other Tull albums (though it's still prominent throughout the album, on songs like "Beggar's Farm" and the mostly all-flute instrumental"Serenade to a Cuckoo").my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

However, it is compensated by Mick Abrahams' talent on the guitar. This man is one of the best blues guitarists around, and it's unfortunate that he was only on this album (not to say that Barre is a lesser guitarist, but that it would've been interesting to hear how Abrahams would sound on later albums). His brilliant riffs in "Dharma for One" and "Cat's Squirrel" are some of the best guitar lines ever written in rock and roll.

"A Song for Jeffery" is the only track that most casual Tull fans are able to remember from this album. It's unfortunate that other, better tracks are neglected, but the aforementioned song still sounds quite good, even after all these years.

The crowning achievement (at least to me) is easily "Dharma for One," which starts out with a powerful flute and guitar attack, which then leads into a drum solo that bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath probably drew on for inspiration. It also showcases Clive Bunker's talent behind a kit, and has a wicked little Abrahams solo overlapping Bunker's frantic skin-pounding right near the end.

One thing that I just never cared for on this album is Anderson's harmonica. I know it was a very common instrument to accompany the guitar in the blues genre, but after all these years, it seems a little dated. The only time I can say I enjoy it is in the ultra-bluesy "It's Breaking Me Up."

When looking at the whole of the Tull discography, this album certainly sticks out as being quite different from the rest. Much more raw and bluesy, it still however retains most of its desired power from when it was first released. I still believe it to be one of the better efforts by Anderson and co., and when one is finished listening to the album, it becomes clear that This Was awesome.

Rating: A-

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© 2004 Riley McDonald 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.