This Was

Jethro Tull

Chrysalis Records, 1968

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Back when I was in the process of discovering Jethro Tull (which I did in 1988), I began searching out some of the band's earlier efforts. It was one thing to own the albums with the hits; it was another to hear the band being born and go through its growing pains.

This Was is more than the birth cry, it gives the listener a slap on - no, change that, a kick in the ass that you won't soon forget. A mixture of hardcore blues, go-for-broke rock and progressive jazz, this might still be Ian Anderson and crew's finest recorded moments.

The only album featuring original guitarist Mick Abrahams (who left to form Bloodwyn Pig), Jethro Tull bursts forth onto a developing musical scene (around the same time, Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer and King Crimson were coming up) with a thundering "hello." Anderson does triple duty on the flute (I think at that time it was unheard of to use such an instrument in rock), harmonica and vocals. Glenn Cornick's bass work shows why he might be one of the most underrated bassists ever, while Clive Bunker does his best Keith Moon-on-speed drum work. Exhibit "A": "Dharma For One," featuring a drum solo that leaves my jaw hanging almost ten years since I bought this tape. Bunker sounds like he's having a seizure and an orgasm at the same time - there has never been a moment so fine in rock.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The blues often comes into play on This Was, from "Someday The Sun Won't Shine For You" and its gentle approach, to "It's Breaking Me Up" and its slightly harder edge - even to the slide guitar work on "Song For Jeffrey", Anderson and crew show that they're quite adept at this genre.

But wait, there's more. "Cat's Squirrel" is a balls-out rocker that serves as a showpiece for Abrahams - guess the guitar vamping with sparse instrumentation otherwise was the thing to do those days (it worked for Black Sabbath). "Move On Alone" takes a gentler, folksy approach, but is still quite powerful.

And just when you thought it was over, This Was branches off into jazz. The album closer "Round" is one I wish was longer just to see what Jethro Tull would have done with it. Once you get a taste of "Serenade To A Cuckoo" and see how well they cover that song (complete with flute work and grunts from Anderson), your mouth will be watering.

I don't want to sound like I'm knocking Martin Barre's guitar work since 1969, nor do I want to trivialize other Jethro Tull albums. But This Was definitely qualifies as a "forgotten classic," awaiting the discovery of the newly-initiated fans to keep its spirit alive. My advice: pick this one up now, slap it into the CD player, crank up the volume and discover Jethro Tull in a whole new light.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1997 Christopher Thelen 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.