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Jethro Tull - The String Quartets

  by Lisa Torem

published: 3 / 4 / 2017

Jethro Tull - The String Quartets
Label: BMG
Format: CD


Ian Anderson, John O’Hara and the Carducci Quartet celebrate and reimagine some of Jethro Tull and Anderson’s most beloved original songs in an extraordinary collaboration

Ian Anderson, the vocalist/multi-instrumentalist and producer with Jethro Tull, has said about the origins of the ‘The String Quartets’ project: "A couple of years ago, I came up with the idea of recording a dedicated string quartet album in a contemporary but 'Classical' setting with brief appearances from myself.” The idea was exciting, but pulling it off required major collaboration. Fortunately, Tull/Anderson keyboardist/arranger John O’Hara, had also been smitten with the concept, but, however they needed to find the right ensemble. As luck would have it, when the two musicians saw the Carducci Quartet, which includes Matthew Denton on violin, Michelle Fleming on violin, Eoin Schmidt-Martin on viola and Emma Denton on cello, at the London Symphony Orchestra’s St. Luke Cathedral, they were “mesmerized by the group’s symbiotic relationship” and invited them to take part. Anyone who has followed Anderson’s solo career and the Jethro Tull discographies will truly love what has been accomplished here. Some of the selections are so familiar that many loyal fans may have forgotten how innovative and timeless the various tonalities, rhythms and themes actually are. Anderson has always had his fingers in many pots, so it’s really no surprise that he poured his nergies into the classical genre in such a committed manner, but what really comes across is the seamlessness of the final result. With the exception of the ‘Aqualung’ lyrics, by Jennie Franks, the whole album is based on popular Anderson originals, and embellished by O’Hara’s lush orchestrations. But note that they’ve even gone so far as to do a kind of “mash up” with J.S. Bach’s ‘Prelude in C Major’ . Each song is delightfully unique. The first, ‘In the Past’ (‘Living in the Past') is initially punctuated by dark strings, which escalate into an airy pizzicato. Anderson’s flute solo is bright and inviting. ‘Sossity’ features an extended, lush introduction by the strings, O’Hara’s fine piano skills and Anderson’s romantic vocals. ‘Bungle in the Jungle’ retains its classic, rhythmic force, but surprises the listeners with some exciting accents. ‘We Used To Bach’ shows off Anderson’s gift for phrasing and how consistently well he works with O’Hara. ‘Farm, The Fourway’ (‘Farm On The Freeway’) features Anderson’s evocative flute, and ’Songs and Horses’ (‘Songs From The Wood’/Heavy Horses’), which is tackled solely by the Quartet is laden with masterful textures. You can practically hear the horses gallop — you’ll hear them solo again on ‘Velvet Green’. Fans will be delighted to know that Anderson’s demonstrative, finger style picking on the Celtic-inspired arrangement of ‘Only the Giving’ (‘Wond’ring Aloud’) was not replaced. This also allows for the lyrics to be fully savoured—it’s one of his most intelligent set. O’Hara’s classic piano introduction to ‘Loco’ (‘Locomotive Breath’) was replaced by the Quartet, however, it was beautifully done. The Quartebut, t even managed to add a bluesy swagger. To break up the rich strumming and lush strings, they included ‘Pass the Bottle’ (‘A Christmas Song’), to which, one could easily raise a pint. ‘Velvet Gold’ (‘Velvet Green’) and ‘Ring Out These Bells’ (Ring Out, Solstice Bells’) are stately and incredibly fluid. On the latter, you’ll even hear a robust male chorus. The finale is ‘Aquafugue’ (‘Aqualung’). It’s a bit weird to hear lyrics about snot and lechery combined with the pristine Celeste, rather than the traditional blast of electric guitars and drums, but nevertheless, it is a massively creative arrangement. The independent movements of the key instruments enthrall and would probably make Bach very, very pleased.

Track Listing:-
1 In the Past (Living In the Past)
2 Sossity Waiting (Sossity: You're a Woman / Reasons For Waiting)
3 Bungle (Bungle In the Jungle)
4 We Used to Bach (We Used to Know / Bach Prelude C Major)
5 Farm, the Fourway (Farm On the Freeway)
6 Songs and Horses (Songs From the Wood / Heavy Horses)
7 Only the Giving (Wond'ring Aloud)
8 Loco (Locomotive Breath)
9 Pass the Bottle (A Christmas Song)
10 Velvet Gold (Velvet Green)
11 Ring Out These Bells (Ring Out, Solstice Bells)
12 Aquafugue (Aqualung)

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Interview (2018)
Jethro Tull - Interview
Lisa Torem speaks to Jethro Tull frontman and solo artist Ian Anderson about Jethro Tull's forthcoming 50th Anniversary upcoming UK tour, his favourite autograph and the curse of collaboration.
Interview Part 1 (2010)
Interview Part 2 (2010)

live reviews

Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, Illinois, 20/6/2010
Jethro Tull - Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, Illinois, 20/6/2010
At the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park near Chicago, Lisa Torem watches Jethro Tull play a crowd-pleasing, exuberant set of their best known tracks and songs

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Nothing is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 (2013)
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