Review Summary: By adding touches of various genres to their music and experimenting, Jethro Tull move one step closer to progressive rock and ten steps away from mediocrity.
Jethro Tull’s first album, This Was
, was certainly an admirable debut and a very enjoyable listen. It served its purpose and established the band as a strong blues quintet. However, the album lacked diversity and, aside from Ian Anderson’s flute, not much separated Jethro Tull from the multitude of other competent blues ensembles. This, of course, was forgivable for the debut album, but it became clear that the band would have to establish their own distinctive, original style if they wanted to stand out amidst the hordes of other performers. And so, Anderson and his fellow troubadours began to experiment with a large variety of styles, while still remaining firmly rooted in blues-rock. This soon gave birth to the eclectic Stand Up
, a fantastically multifaceted and lighthearted album that marks Jethro Tull’s pinnacle as a blues band.
Indeed, Stand Up
’s songs are mainly divided into two distinct categories: pure, unadulterated hard-rockers and more unorthodox compositions. The former category consists of raw, boisterous tunes such as A New Day Yesterday
and Driving Song
. Filled with infectious, assertive riffs and jaunty flute leads, these tunes thrill and excite with ease. Martin Barre, the recently-initiated guitarist, adds a heavier and grittier edge to the bluesy songs, giving the band newfound vitality, and these upbeat tunes contain impossible amounts of energy and charisma.
And yet, Stand Up
’s most interesting portions are those in which the band toys with various styles and tries to inject the tired and true blues formula with some vitality and originality. Innovative songs such as Fat Man
, which sees the band flirting with lively sitars and Indian motifs, and Sweet Dream
, with its tempo changes and breathtaking orchestral arrangements, see the band pushing their compositional and musical abilities to the very limits. Also worth noting is Bouree
, a jazzy, wild reinterpretation of a piece by J.S. Bach that soon became a staple of the band’s live show and is still constantly performed to this day.
Only one song doesn't quite fall in either of the aforementioned categories: We Used To Know
, the album’s most melodic and mournful tune. Wistful and nostalgic, it is one of Anderson’s finest folk songs, and features the singer’s best performance thus far, along with two majestic, electrifying guitar solos courtesy of “Le Barre”. On a historical note, The Eagles liked this song so much that they would record a (largely inferior) cover of it, changing the title to Hotel California
On their second album, Jethro Tull draws inspiration from a wide spectrum of genres, ranging from classical, to blues, folk, and even Indian music. And yet, despite the sharp contrast between these influences, the album always never comes across as disorganized or disjointed-a fine achievement.
The next year, the band would release Benefit
, which would see the band adopting a more serious and cynical tone and almost fully embracing folk music, and so Stand Up
would be Anderson’s last blues project for a period of almost twenty years. The band would release a few more hard-rock albums in the 1980's, but, unfortunately, those offerings would never surpass the daring, eclectic Stand Up
, which can safely be viewed as the band’s essential blues release.
We Used To Know
A New Day Yesterday