One hardly ever hears Jethro Tull anymore, or even hears them talked about. But the band was one of the best to come out of the British “art rock” movement of the 1970s, right up there with Genesis. And listening again shows that the music hasn’t lost a sixteenth-note of power, elegance, and grace.
The art-rock tag isn’t exactly fair. Tull was, like many of the best bands, not very classifiable. Built on a bluesy broth, its musical stew thickened and took on layers of flavor year by year. Founder Ian Anderson had a fascination for medieval tunes and rhythms, but never overplayed them. He also never ignored virtuosity, fronting with rock’s best-known flute but also slinging a very well-played acoustic guitar. Martin Barre, the grit-chord guitarist with the edgy sound on lead, looked at various times like a mentally tilted character from Monty Python, but raised roof after roof on every Tull album but the first one.
But amid all that, Tull’s main strength may have been Anderson’s writing. No one did a better job of stringing together what seemed to be unfinished song fragments into provocative headphone-only pieces that do not allow you to get distracted. Case in point: “Baker St. Muse,” from the 1975 album Minstrel in the Gallery. Plug in, click the link, and hand over 17 minutes to this one, earbuds in, and enjoy. Keep in mind the vaguely defined section titles: “Baker Street Muse,” “Pig-Me and the Whore,” “Nice Little Tune,” “Crash Barrier Waltzer,” and “Mother England Reverie.”♦
© 2013 Adam Barr