Review Summary: Jethro Tull proves that, if anything, they’re not too old to rock ‘n’ roll.
Since the dawn of time, music has been used as a means to tell tales and legends. From the ancient, long-forgotten songs of Greek bards, praising heroes of old, to the ballads of recent folk singers, such as Bob Dylan, story and melody were always intertwined. And yet, albums unified by one idea were quite a rarity in rock music, that is until the release of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
, which pushed the notion of a concept album into the mainstream. Jethro Tull soon followed the example set by the Fab Four and released a group of three (some say four) concept albums, the last of which was Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young To Die!
. One of Jethro Tull’s most straightforward 70’s offerings, the rock opera is certainly entertaining and pleasant, but despite moments of sheer genius, never becomes essential.
The album, which is, in all probability, at the least slightly autobiographical, tells of an aging rock star struggling to remain relevant among changing times. He sees how the music of him and his peers falls out of favor, and begins to fall into obscurity. Convinced that he is nothing more than a relic of past times, the man decides to commit suicide by getting into a motorcycle accident. As fate has it, the old rocker falls into a coma, only to reawaken during a revival of his music, in which he rises back to stardom.
Not unlike the protagonist, Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll
certainly seems like a bit of an anomaly in Jethro Tull’s catalogue. Released at the time that Ian Anderson penned some of his most ambitious output and reveled in lengthy, multifaceted compositions, the straightforward, predominantly hard-rocking tunes of Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll
certainly sound out of place. Jethro Tull sounds much more showy and self-confident than ever before on songs like the sanguine Pied Piper
and the genuinely heavy Taxi Grab
, and, unlike the somewhat ill-fated War Child
, it never sounds forced.
Indeed, the main components of Jethro Tull’s sound are present, so the folky melodies, charming flute leads, bouncy bass lines, and the agreeable acoustic strums are still abundant, but they all sound much more boisterous than before, and the acoustic guitars are often joined by Martin Barre’s scorching electric leads. Even the softer numbers, such as the impossibly beautiful Salamander
, are uncharacteristically energetic, with the sole exception being the painfully lethargic From A Dead Beat To An Old Greaser
Unfortunately, despite the unexpected vigor found throughout Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll
, very little is as exciting as the band’s previous highlights. Aside from Salamander
, along with the sweeping, monumental title track and the transcendent The Checkered Flag (Dead Or Alive)
, with it’s awe-inspiring string crescendos, very little is as memorable as the material off of Aqualung
or Thick As A Brick
. Additionally, the middle third of the album ends up sagging and meandering, with almost all of the most invigorating songs found towards the beginning or end of the album.
Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll
is by no means perfect, and is not essential, but remains a fun listen that is let down by a small amount of filler. At the least, it proves that Jethro Tull, then nine years old, sure as hell wasn’t too old to rock ‘n’ roll.
The Checkered Flag (Dead Or Alive)
Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll, Too Young To Die