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Ian Anderson: Classic Jethro Tull and New Solo Releases

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JETHRO TULL: A Passion Play (double CD on Rhino Records)

Originally released in 1973, this 2014 CD reissue features 45 minutes of classic rock music. The bonus disc features 60 minutes of material from "The Chateau d'Herouville Sessions."

The band for this release was: Ian Anderson (on vocals, acoustic guitar, flute, and saxophone), Martin Barre (on guitar and narrator), John Evan (on piano, organ, synthesizer, and narrator), Barriemore Barlow (on drums, timpani, glockenspiel, and marimba), and Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond (on drums and narrator).

Keyboards abound, contributing shimmering layers that swim in sinuous paths through the mix, conjuring portions of the melodies. The keys generally exhibit a crisp twinkle.

Strident guitars are responsible for the other percentage of the melodies; together, keys and strings generate a luscious flow of strong riffs that urge the listener closer and closer to the edge of their seat. Both electric and acoustic guitars are resent; the electric tending to the rock-out moments, the acoustic handling more tender passages.

Flute offers a lively presence here. The woodwind strains bounce and cavort with carefree whimsy, lacing the tunes with a pastoral glory that is heavily steeped with a jovial sensibility.

Horns are also employed, strengthening the music's stately demeanor.

The basslines maintain a durable undercurrent.

Percussion naturally provides a steady stream of locomotion with rhythms that are complex and insistent.

Anderson's lead vocals possess a distinct regal quality, producing lyrical content seasoned with a friendly touch of authority.

The compositions here are wonderful examples of classy Seventies rock: the hooks are generous, the flow is constant, the emotions run deep and infectious. While there are identifiable songs throughout the album, things flow together and often revert to thematic melodies. It is a concept album, after all, displaying the beauty of a seedy British theatre show, complete with the amusing "Tale of the Hare's Lost Spectacles" midway through the album—which serves as a launching point for a particularly memorable stretch of quite amiable-yet-urgent tuneage.

"The Chateau d'Herouville Sessions" disc is a tasty dose of live Jethro Tull from the Seventies. The selection of songs concentrate on the band's material from around the Passion Play period.

The sweetly growling guitar belts out locomotive chops that often glisten with molten fervor.

Prominent keyboards contribute deliciously melodic sweeps and sultry twists. Keys are banged away with frantic enthusiasm, creating riffs of an emphatic character. At times, a glockenspiel provides a churchy twinkle.

The percussion is versatile, from sturdy drums to tinkling chimes, but always perfectly on the mark.

The flute lends a certain agitated energy with shrill passages.

The combination of acoustic guitar strumming and Anderson's croon conjure a subtle Celtic flair. And yet, on another occasion, the guitar's meticulous plucking takes on a Spanish flavor.

There are a number of electronic effects employed here that the band never applied to their material.

These tunes are already great, and the energy of a live performance enhances them with wondrous result. The music's animation quotient is very high.

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IAN ANDERSON: Homo Erraticus (CD on K Scope)

This release from 2014 features 52 minutes of modern rock music based on an obscure manuscript by Ernest Parritt chronicling the evolution of society in Great Britain, from to the past to the present and beyond.

Ian Anderson (on vocals, flute, and acoustic guitar) is joined by: John O'Hara (on piano, Hammond organ, keyboards, and accordion), Florian Opahle (on electric guitar), David Goodier (on bass), Scott Hammond (on drums), and Ryan O'Donnell (on additional vocals).

The guitar possesses a particular squeal that is common in rock music, and adapts nicely to capturing this centuries-spanning tale. The instrument's presence is often delightfully integral.

The keyboards delineate lush threads that undulate throughout the mix. Their crisp lilt sweeps like a refreshing cascade drenched with sparkling succor.

The percussion is versatile, switching style to fit the song's period, yet maintaining a delicate touch when necessary, and yet is ready to explode with thundering rhythms when that's what called for.

Flute plays a vital role here, yet its presence rarely evokes a pastoral flair, instead contributing a spry resonance that transcends conventional modes. The instrument's strains exhibit an invigorating animation, belting out riffs rich with buoyancy, and thus are accorded the opportunity to flourish during several highlight passages.

Anderson's articulately gruff vocals are masterful as they outline the tale of England's sacred history. His voice has a rich quality that earnestly communicates enthusiasm mixed with cynicism.

These compositions mark a superb balance between modern and classic styles, injecting an accessibility to progressive territory and delivering tunes that will interest young and old.

A 32 page booklet offers lots of background material. Another edition exists of this release that includes a DVD featuring the 24-bit audio master and the video visuals which accompany the stage presentation; also included is a live performance of "Enter the Uninvited" and extensive video material of Anderson explaining the origin and making of the live show.

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