Review Summary: A bit too much like a dance, but the fact that this side of Ian Anderson's musical focus hadn't been heard for almost two decades makes Divinities an interesting proposition at least.
Ian Anderson's solo career has been, up until the last decade or so, pretty inconsistent. The first album ever released under his own name, 1983's synth-worshipping Walk Into Light
was practically a response to the (then) new direction that Jethro Tull were heading into with Broadsword and the Beast
. Then, we hear nothing about Anderson's solo material for another 12 years. 1995's Divinities: Twelve Dances with God
is thus a better albeit safer solo effort from Anderson, though unfortunately sounds dated now, over two decades after its release.
is a thoroughly instrumental album, but its constant likeness to the cheesier moments of a Disney soundtrack already gives out warning signals. Thankfully, the album doesn't give you a headache until the second half, where the lack of inspiration begins to creep in. "In a Stone Circle", "In Sight of the Minaret" and "In Maternal Grace" are probably the best examples of how Anderson finely tunes his flute to the orchestral leanings of all other members, instruments such as the oboe, clarinet and violin amongst others demonstrating a clearly classical influence. However, it's often the case that the arrangements for these wistful-sounding instruments tend to be lost in what is generally an inconsistent, flawed songwriting structure. It's very admirable that songs such as those aforementioned sound nice and flowery, even spiritual if you want a more specific adjective, but trying to focus your attention on their particular musical arrangements will eventually prove headache-inducing. This can be seen as a minor flaw however, especially when you compare the overt, unapologetic cheese of "In a Black Box" and "In Defence of Faiths".
These two songs are simply two examples of where the orchestral arrangements give way to an almost Disney-like production, when Anderson's influence is barely heard: or if it is heard, it doesn't seem very relevant. The songs in the second half of Divinities
generally drag until the run-time finishes not only because of the previous point, but also due to the sheer montonousness of it all. A tried and tested formula can only be rolled out for so long before it gets tiring, and eventually shut off in favour of something more adventurous. The progressive, experimental brilliance of "At Their Father's Knee" regains more of what makes Anderson in this album a compelling character, and for almost six minutes it's easy to appreciate his immense songwriting talent when he can be bothered.
probably marks more of an identity crisis for Ian Anderson's solo career than an actual attempt at staying relevant, but it is nice to hear how the man embarked on a more orchestral soundscape. Indeed, not since the mid 70s had Ian Anderson taken part in anything which sounds like the material on Divinities
, and since the album's release the man's preference has veered more towards progressive, folksy musicianship. In that sense, Anderson's second solo album proper is something of a success, but a flawed record at the same time.