Review Summary: Living in the Past received critical acclaim from both professional critics and fans, and still stands as one of Jethro Tull's stronger releases.
Jethro Tull had existed only four years, yet they were well-known among many communities. The bluesy This Was
was released in 1968 with generally favorable reviews and sold well. However, in 1969, they would release an ever better record called Stand Up
. less bluesy, more folky. This record would boost their reputation and fan base, as it reached number one on the UK album chart.
Living in the Past
is largely built up by Singels, EP songs and previously unreleased material. Same year as this, 1972, the groundbreaking Thick as a Brick
was released with astounding, but divided results. Intended to be a parody of bombastic and "pretentious" songs by prog groups such as Yes's monstrous "Close to the Edge". Some praised it witfullness and complexity, others slammed it for hanging onto and copying other prog groups. On Living on the Past
however, prog traces are rare to be found. You can find odd time signatures and unusual instrument usage many places, but this compilation album is not intended to blow you back and make you exclaim "wow!" in the same manner as Genesis' "Supper's Ready" or Jethro Tull's own TAAB.
What's so great about this album is that it show cases Jethro Tull's ability to spread over a great deal of musical territory. Genres such as folk, prog, blues, pop, rock, and dare I say classical, is touched throughout the 87 minute long album. Split between four sides, each side covers different parts of their sound. Side one contains many UK singles such as the popular self titled song, which alone reached number three on the UK top singles chart.
This album doesn't really have many clear stand out moments, however, it's very consistent with lots of great songs tucked in between each other. Most songs can make you jam along because it's not so insanely complex, the tunes are more laid-back with catchy and reflective melodies and lyrics. If there's something dear old Ian Anderson can make you do, it's getting you singing along his gorgeous and warm-hearted delivery of text and chords with his surprisingly clear and focused acoustic guitar and flute.
In midst of all the commercially potential singles, unreleased rare Jethro Tull songs you've probably never heard can be found. Side three consists of two lengthy live songs. One of them is largely a solo piano piece by John Evan. This song is quite enjoyable the first few minutes, unfortunately, it tends to drag a bit later on. Keeping a solo piece interesting for 10 minutes is quite hard, especially if you're not as good as legends such as Rick Wakeman or Tony Banks. On the other hand, the live version of "Dharma For One" is good. The band keeps a good chemical balance between each other, and plays it without mistakes. It also includes a drum solo delivered excellently by original drummer Clive Bunker.
Side four is probably my favorite off this. Songs from Tull's 1971 EP takes up most of the space here, save for the classic "Locomotive Breath" and the wonderful extended version of "Wond'ring Loud" called "Wond'ring Again". The other songs are Jethro Tull at its finest, delivering fresh tunes, one after another. Most of them are acoustically focused, with Martin Barre's electrical guitar scarcely used. "Dr. Bogenbroom is a fine number. In only three minutes, the whole band gets everything right, everything from the strange, but elegant keyboard play or guitar effect (not sure which). The album is wrapped up very nicely with an acoustic piece, much reminiscing other Tull work such as "Cheap Day Return" or "Slipstream" from Aqualung
If you're thinking of getting your hands on this album (which I think you should), don't expect 22 minute pieces of complex music, but rather delicate sing-along songs which everyone can enjoy and appreciate.
Living in the Past