Under Wraps

Jethro Tull

Chrysalis Records, 1984


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's safe to say that Jethro Tull was a band that was searching for its voice throughout a good portion of the '80s. The progressive rock glory days ( Aqualung, Thick As A Brick) were gone, as was the folk-rock period ( Minstrel In The Gallery, Songs From The Wood). Ian Anderson and crew even were labeled "metal", for which they won their first Grammy. (Sorry, NARAS, but that was a major blunder you guys made. Calling Jethro Tull metal is like calling Al Green a devil-worshiper.)

In 1984, Jethro Tull took their second dip into the electronic music pool with Under Wraps. Possibly brought on because of Anderson's recent solo effort Walk Into Light (which I haven't dusted off now in about 10 years), the recently-trimmed down band (in lieu of a drummer, Anderson handled the electronic drums) struggles again to find its voice - and while they do so on occasion, the disc overall disappoints. Maybe that's why this particular album seems to be out of print right now.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

I normally am bugged by the use of electronic drums, for the simple reason that they sound so sterile. No drummer ever hits a hi-hat cymbal or snare drum exactly the same way twice like synthesized drums capture. However, I am willing to grant a little slack to Anderson, for the simple reason that drums are not his instrument of note.

But I will not be so generous in noting that a strong guitar presence is often missed in this album. Martin Barre is not given nearly the chances he deserves to shine on the six-string, though when the spotlight is put on him, he delivers the goods. Bassist David Pegg and keyboardist Peter Vettese round out this particular Tull incarnation, both seemingly doing a good job (if not relying on Vettese too much).

It's interesting to note that the cassette version of Under Wraps features two songs that were not on the album, while I've seen track listings including songs that weren't on the tape. (I own the cassette, for the record, so it's not that I'm ignoring a track or two, it's just that I don't own them.) I sure hope the tracks I'm missing were better than "Astronomy" and "Automotive Engineering," the two bonus cuts on the tape. Anderson must have grabbed a college catalog for these, 'cause they're far from typical Tull.

However, tracks like "Lap Of Luxury" and the two versions of the title track do redeem things in my eyes. "Lap Of Luxury" easily could have been a hit single on rock radio, while "Under Wraps #2" is the superior version, returning to a more acoustic, folk-rock sound for a short time.

And it's not that Under Wraps is a failure. Songs lie "Radio Free Moscow," "Nobody's Car" and "Later That Same Evening" all shine, even if they sound a little too sterile due to overreliance on the electronics. However, other tracks like "Paparazzi" and "Saboteur" show reason for worry among the Tull fans.

If this album wasn't reason enough for hand-wringing, this is the last time on album that Anderson's vocals have sounded like the old days. He underwent surgery on his vocal chords that kept Tull on the sidelines for a couple of years - and, in the process, changed his voice to sound more harsh. So, it is good to hear the "classic" voice of Tull for one last time.

Under Wraps is not a terrible album by general standards, but it's hardly a great album by Jethro Tull's standards. For the die-hard Tull fan, it's still worth searching out, if only to say that you own it.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 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.