Review Summary: It's safe to say that 'Roots to Branches' is as essential as what Jethro Tull did before 1980.
Regarding the whole Jethro Tull's discography, something stable is easily retracable and unifying: The western concert flute of Ian Anderson and his charismatic, yet contagious personality. Frontman with nice Dire Straitish vocals, Ian is an accomplished songwriter/ multi instrumentalist. He is also helluvan energetic, confident stage performer. His sense of leadership leads him to mimic a chef d'orchestre at every opportunity. Jethro Tull are awesome 'live', if you take a look to 'Nothing is Easy' and the unforgettable 'Bursting Out'.
Their first three LPs were essentially some folkish blues. The effect was inspiring and as always, Ian kept on composing some well crafted music. Ian's determination gave to Jethro Tull a nice step ahead, and they soon expanded their horisons much further than blues rock. After a while, their famous bluesy songs like 'We Used To Know '(Notice its similitudes with 'Hotel California), 'Teacher', 'To Cry You A Song', 'A New Day Yesterday', 'Living In The Past' and 'Bouree' turned rapidly to an original and intricate soundscape defined by a rare sense of complex time signatures. And so they soon began to flirt with some more tasteful and ambitious music, to the extent of their talent.
Their second album 'Stand Up' (1969) was the real start into the new direction Jethro Tull took musically. Guitarist Martin Barre fulfilled the departure of Abrahams. Anderson and Barre did never quit the galley since then. Clive Bunker is replaced soon after the recording of 'Aqualung' by drummer Barriemore Barlow. The latter left the band shortly after he lost a friend in John Glascock, the Jethro Tull' bassist ('75 to'79) who died of a heart defect during the 'Stormwatch' studio process in '79. Barlow never got over it and he left the band in 1980. The arrival of Barriemore has been spot on to contribute in creating the ambitious progressive rock masterpiece 'Thick As A Brick'. This epic concept album came to revise some positions. They were forced to admit their undeniable facility to play whatever they wanted to play. This drive had rapidly powered them into stardom, and it was welcome since Ian have always wanted to push more and more the boundaries and to branch out into other forms of music. His dream quickly became reality.
With album 'Aqualung', Jethro Tull did a step ahead toward progressive rock. Songs like the title track, 'My God', 'Cross-Eyed Mary' and 'Locomotive Breath' are all some good indication to the brand new direction they took. Jethro Tull just turned their back from their three previous blues albums to sink into a more challenging rock. Before 'Roots to Branches', both 'Thick as a Brick', 'Songs From The Wood' and 'Heavy Horses' turned to some ambitious progressive rock. While keeping themselves on being faithful to their prog folk roots, they more and more brought progressive rock landscape, and 'Roots to Branches' is one of them.
In the 80's, the line up has changed pretty often. Among their best acquisitions, the drummer Doan Perry, a close friend to JethroTull's staff. In mid 80's, He startedto jam with the band. He covered couple of tracks on 'Crest Of A Knave' before joining full time. Doan had a lot of drum partitions to learn for being updated, and he greatly succeed. He is such a natural time-keeper, creative and very talented. However he always managed to keep his own identity within Jethro Tull's works. 'Roots To Branches
' could fit coast to coast with 'Songs From The Wood', the former being in some point similar in structures. They worked hard on 'Roots
' and it shows. Album was released in 1995, nearly out of nowhere, just between average albums Catfish rising and 'J-Tull Dot Com'. Have to mention that 'Roots
' is actually 18 years away from 'Songs From The Wood' (1977). I also need to praise 'Bursting Out'(1978), their famous Live album wich contains their very best line up, so it's easy to point out what makes it so appealing.
Album 'Roots To Branches'
is consistent and each songs flow into the other. Jethro Tull have molded their old british folk sound into a delectable middle eastern vibe, especially on its first half. The song 'Roots To Branches'
starts powerfully with a beautiful soaring guitar with perceptible eastern vibes to it. The song is seductive and it generously sets the table with conviction. It's a catchy, straight forward, and a good opener to the album. 'Rare And Precious Chains'
. is again very eastearn oriented, mixed with medieval lines. The song slows the previous motion a bit. It's driven by a quiet, predominant tribal rhythm enhanced with inventive percussives. It becomes more heavy when the chorus gets in. It then entirely turned into a melodic, yet heavy arabic-prog feel. Even if 'Out Of The Noise'
is short and overladen, it could've been more defined and polished. Effective rhythm section, inventive jazzy-prog arrangements, but song is not particularly memorable. I'd like to see this one performed live in an extended jam version, for instance. So much sufficient musically that vocals seemed out of place.
is a highlight wich reminds their old single 'Sweet Dreams' ('Living With The Past' DVD version) . Song is also reminiscent of previous 'Rare And Precious Chains'
. there's once again an evident 'prog-arabic' flavour and medieval feels. comparisons are ending here. Like the latter, 'This Freewill'
has its obvious eastern orientations, This time the song is much more refined and attractive. It's a heavy prog like song with an epic instrumental bridge. [b]This Freewill[b]
would not have been out of place on their prog-folk album 'Heavy Horses'. 'Valley'
is a somewhat improved version of 'Farm On A Freeway' from 'Crest Of A Knave' album. Mostly laid-back and folkish, with Dire Straitish vocals. Strong prog-rock display in its 2nd part. Ian sings in a narrator way. And all through his storytelling, one would say that the guy tried hard to be convincing and serious, but it sounds very ludic. If you are tempted to skip it, at least don't miss its second part.
is reminiscent of' 'Hunt by Numbers'(J-TullDot Com). The black sheep of the album. Very ferocious and imposing. maestro Perry delivers greatly. The song starts with sweet echoing percussives that sets the song very well, 'Beside Myself'
is a flawless piece of work. It begins with a sweet classic guitar intro. Nice melody, seductive strucure and toe tapping one. Orchestral arrangements are breathtaking. . Flutes had some serious times with keys on here, while the rhythm section got expressive throughout the song. 'Wounded, Old And Teacherous'
is one of the most elaborate song. It reminds me old good 'PFM'. At some degree 'PFM' meets Frank Zappa, because of its sort of spoken words. The song also has a sweet Jazz Fusion feel from wich Zappa would have been proud of. Now take note that 'PFM' have covered Aqualung' 'My God' (never heard that version). 'Wounded'
is quite complex. Song is like its title, long enough, clocking in at 7:50 min. Amazing instrumental debut. gorgeous complicity between flute snare and bass. It concludes with a beautiful dialogue between flute and electric guitar. Martin Barre really shines on here. Check out the interesting time signature between flute and drums at 6 min:02 sec.
'At Last Forever'
is a song that tastes and smells good. Basically mellow but intense. This song contains plenty of pure energy. It flows so well with the piano. Soft and clever playing, cool cymbal rides. Yes, 'At Last Forever'
is another piece of art on this album, and it's mostly based around flutes and piano. Would have been a great ending for the album. 'Stuck In The August Rain'
is a more ballad-like. A dark, sad and dramatic song, The brillant dynamics maintain our interest. Song is so honest, you may feel thar our buddy was really stuck in the august rain. Finally, 'Another Harry's Bar'
is the slowest and the most reflective song. A folkish one that once again sounds like some 'Dire Straits'. Anderson has fun to sing it. This is not a favorite of mine, but it's still enjoyable, especially its great finale where flutes and guit solo suits very well the keyboards. The very last 2 minutes are actually some of the best of the album.
You cannot go wrong with 'Roots To Branches'. Every songs have something special to offer. Musicianship and production are top notch.
_Track by track rating
1- Roots To Branches ------------ = 8.5/10
2- Rare And Precious Chain ----------- = 8.5/10
3- Out Of The Noise ----------- = 6.5/10
4- This Free Will ----------- = 10/10
5- Valley ----------- = 7/10
6- Dangerous Vails ---------- = 10/10
7- Beside Myself ----------- = 10/10
8- Wounded, Old And Teacherous ----------- = 9/10
9- At Last Forever ------------ = 10/10
10- Stuck In The August Rain ------------- = 8/10
11- Another's Harry's Bar ----------- = 7/10
ROOTS TO BRANCHES