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Jethro Tull


Martin Lancelot Barre is one of the unsung heroes of Rock and Roll. As Tony Iommi’s replacement in Jethro Tull, he created and played some of the most recognizable riffs in the history of the electric guitar. I mean, who hasn’t marveled at the power of his opening salvo to “Aqualung” or the monstrous crunch of his work on “Locomotive Breath?” And, who can forget the epic, bone-crushing CREST OF A KNAVE, which won the first Grammy awarded for Heavy Metal Album? Standing stage left with Jethro Tull for more than 43 years, Mister Barre was Ian Anderson’s “left-hand man” and so much more. As Anderson was moving more toward a solo career in the early ‘90s, Martin branched out as well, finally having the chance to display his songwriting prowess on such albums as A SUMMER BAND (1993), STAGE LEFT (2003), and BACK TO STEEL (2014), alongside several live albums.

MARTIN BARRE (publicity photo)

Now, Martin Barre is bringing the music of Jethro Tull – AQUALUNG in particular – to the magnificent, intimate Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville for two nights, January 21 and 22. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Tull’s most well-known, most successful album (AQUALUNG, if you weren’t paying attention; actually, the record was released in 1971 but, you know… lockdowns and pandemics and such) and, since no one else was taking advantage of such an event, Martin and his band decided that they would. And, they aren’t coming alone… original Tull drummer Clive Bunker is appearing on (at least) the Midwest leg of the tour; keyboardist Dee Palmer, who was an integral part (as David Palmer) of the Tull machine for many years as an arranger, conductor and writer before having an actual “player” credit on SONGS FROM THE WOODS, has opted out of this tour due to health concerns amid the ongoing COVID scare. Martin declares that he and his group (vocalist Dan Crisp, bassist Alan Thomson and drummer Darby Todd) are more than up for the challenges presented by Ms Palmer’s absence. Clive, Dee and the Martin Barre Band can be heard (and seen) in all their glory on the latest release, a DVD called LIVE AT THE WILDEY, recorded during their 2019 tour. As far as other surprises this time around, Martin promised this writer – over a cup of tea and a telephone call – “Oh, there’s definitely surprises. Well, let me think… one, two, three, four… certainly four pieces of music that we’ve never played before. We swap it around… I mean, I always love throwing in something that’s really left of center. I really enjoy people being in shock.” It sounds like a great night of Rock and Roll,with plenty of Tull and an ample sampling of tunes from the Martin Barre Band, to boot!




Like that dotty old aunt that just refuses to go away, since the apparent demise of Jethro Tull, the band he’s fronted since 1967, our Mister Anderson has been a very busy lad (and clever, as well), releasing two albums in less than two years and launching at least a pair of world tours with another currently underway (for full details, go here: The first album, a sequel to Tull’s 1972 opus, THICK AS A BRICK, rather ingeniously titled THICK AS A BRICK 2 (or, for the acronymically advanced among us, TAAB2), prompted a solid round of touring, occasionally featuring a Jethro Tull Favorites set but – more often – a performance of the original TAAB album followed by the playing of TAAB2 (with an intermission between… our hero is, after all, no longer as spry a fellow as when this game was begun – but, then, who among us is?). The maestro absconded from the band he created with two then-current members, adding three new names to the credits section. This is the apt and able crew that toured with Ian on his most recent stage jaunts and who are here returned to the studio for the recording (and subsequent release) of HOMO ERRATICUS, a collection of tunes written by the man himself and the fictional wunderkind protagonist of the TAAB albums, Gerald Bostock.

Ian Anderson (publicity photo)
Ian Anderson (publicity photo)

As our boy Ian (with a sparse few exceptions) was the primary songwriting force in his previous engagement, it is no surprise that – but for the name on the label – this HOMO ERRATICUS could, in fact, be another installment of the Tull canon. Don’t think of this statement as a condemnation; it isn’t, just an observation. Besides, writing with a fictional entity about a non-existent tome written by an equally non-existent historian seems to have endowed the “laird of the manor” with a renewed vigor for the process. There hasn’t been a Tull record this well thought out and featuring such a strong set of songs from bow to stern since CREST OF A KNAVE (for which, no doubt in an effort to prove the point, they won a Grammy for Best Heavy Metal Performance). So, the premise – and there’s always a premise – of this newest of Mister Anderson’s recorded output is this: After a trip to Mathew Bunter’s Old Library Bookshop in Linwell, Gerald Bostock comes across a dusty, unpublished manuscript, written by local amateur historian Ernest T Parritt. The book is entitled “Homo Britanicus Erraticus.” Two years prior to his demise (the Year of Our Lord, 1926), Mister Parritt, after a fall from his horse during a hunt, “awoke with the overwhelming conviction of having enjoyed past lives as historical characters: a pre-history nomadic neolithic settler(“Doggerland”), an Iron Age blacksmith (“Heavy Metals”), a Saxon invader (“Enter the Uninvited”), a Christian monk (“Puer Ferox Adventus”), a Seventeenth Century grammar school boy (“Meliora Sequamur”), turnpike innkeeper(“The Turnpike Inn”), one of Brunel’s railroad engineers (“The Engineer”), and even Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria (“The Pax Britannica”). These past lives are revealed through the first portion of the album, subtitled “CHRONICLES.” The endangered Parritt’s delusions also extended to his prophesying events yet to come (the second part, “PROPHECIES”) and the fanciful possibilities of future Parritt lives (part the third, “REVELATIONS”). The poet Bostock then took it upon himself to render this Parritt’s lives in a more lyrical fashion. As with his award-winning entry of 42 years previous, the work was introduced to our Ian, who then reworked Mister Bostock’s reworking, adding his own musical flourishes. And, now, the hue and cry is heard the world over (or, at the very least, throughout several large cities in the industrialized nations): “Well, yeah… but is it any good?”

Ian Anderson (Scott Hammond, David Goodier, Ryan O'Donnell, Ian Anderson, Florian Opahle, John O'Hara) (photo credit: Carl Glover)
Ian Anderson (Scott Hammond, David Goodier, Ryan O’Donnell, Ian Anderson, Florian Opahle, John O’Hara) (photo credit: Carl Glover)

Yes. Yes, it is good. There are several differing versions of the “Ian Anderson sound” (and, by extension, the “Jethro Tull” sound) and most are on display at various junctures, nestled cozily amongst the fifteen tracks here presented. Oddly enough, the Tull-like “Doggerland” also features a very Ken Hensley-an (he of Uriah Heep fame) heavy Hammond organ sound (provided by Tull ex-patriate, John O’Hara) that is not unwelcome. Mister Anderson’s proclivity for Scottish, English and Celtic folk melodies is highlighted on “Heavy Metals,” featuring the hammer and anvil as sole percussive instrument. Two late 1970s and early 1980s Tull offerings, STORMWATCH and A, are evoked on “Enter the Uninvited,” which features a rather lilting, if forceful rhythm. Though the tune is driven more by the keyboards, there are some very nice guitar flourishes (by the aptly titled Florian Opahle), a quite nifty bassline (by another Tull refugee, David Goodier) and, of course, the very essence of Tullitude, the Laird Master Anderson’s unique and masterful excursions on the flute. As befits the song’s title and this particluar imagined pre-life of Mister Parritt, the introduction to “Puer Ferox Adventus” has a very churchy feel, with mantric chants (the Monking around of the clerics, no doubt), leading to remembrance by Brother Parritt before the song becomes a canticle with lyrics that recount the life of Christ as told in the Gospel of Luke. As a counter-balance to the lyrics, the music takes on a much harder edge. The piece is the longest on HOMO ERRATICUS – over seven minutes – and is a solemn, stately affair. If not the centerpiece of the album, it is certainly one of the best of a truly grand offering from Mister Anderson and his musical conspirators. “Meliora Sequamur” continues the Psalmic bent of the previous number, though from a decidedly different point of view. The song is far more pastoral than the previous and introduces the pipe organ and a monastic choir to great effect. Highlighted by a more powerful presence of both organ and bass, “The Turnpike Inn” also features an inventive guitar signature running throughout. There is also a very nice flute chart and just a hint of accordion bleeding through toward the end of the piece. The subject matter (Parritt, the Engine Driver) of “The Engineer” demands and receives a heavier, virtually metallic sounding guitar part over what is, essentially, a Celtic folk tune. The dichotomy, which should be quite jarring, is actually an asset. The final piece of “CHRONICLES” is one of those Ian Anderson specialties, where our man Ian experiments with the number of syllables that can be comfortably fit into a standard four bar blues. Bassist Goodier and percussionist Scott Hammond drive “The Pax Britannica,” with minimal obstruction from other instrumentation, outside the Laird’s flute and rather unobtrusive work from Opahle’s guitar and O’Hara’s keyboards. Lurking somewhere around the edges, I’m sure, is the vocalist Ryan O’Donnell.

Ian Anderson (Ryan O'Donnell, David Goodier, Scott Hammond, Ian Anderson, John O'Hara, Florian Opahle) (photo credit: ALEX PAVLOU)
Ian Anderson (Ryan O’Donnell, David Goodier, Scott Hammond, Ian Anderson, John O’Hara, Florian Opahle) (photo credit: ALEX PAVLOU)

The next three numbers encompass Parritt’s “PROPHECIES,” beginning with “Tripudium Ad Bellum,” an instrumental that is very reminiscent of the early (as in, Mick Abrahams early) progressive Blues of Jethro Tull. There is a certain jazzy feel to the near-apocalyptic proceedings as England (and, indeed, the world) is off to war, with the improvisational bon vivant himself, Ian, providing the lead instrument via the flute. “After These Wars” is an extension of the previous song, featuring many of the same musical themes. The setting is now a post World War II England, where the rebuilding of a continent has seen many a miraculous discovery (including television). The number has the lilt and bent of a folk song, but the muscular bass work and power-chording guitar (and subsequent solo) belie that folkiness. Skipping ahead ten years or so, “New Blood, Old Veins” finds a more stable, more adventurous England spreading wings and taking flight to discover the world about them, while inextricably moving toward a new “English Invasion” spearheaded by four fabulous minstrels, Liverpudlians by birth. Again, the themes of “Tripudium Ad Bellum” repeats here, with the jazzier aspects of Mister Anderson’s flute; the new elements introduced in “After These Wars” are also present, with forceful guitar work and a powerful rhythm section, highlighted by a slightly menacing organ. Whatever his presumed mental status, this imagined Parritt fairly well hit a nail or two rather solidly with his “PROPHECIES.”

Ian Anderson (seated: David Goodier, Ian Anderson, Florian Opahle; standing: Scott Hammond, Ryan O'Donnell, John O'Hara) (photo credit: CARL GLOVER)
Ian Anderson (seated: David Goodier, Ian Anderson, Florian Opahle; standing: Scott Hammond, Ryan O’Donnell, John O’Hara) (photo credit: CARL GLOVER)

As far as Parritt’s “REVELATIONS” go, the first two seem to be spot on, as they depict “future” occurrences from 2013 and 2014. For a gentleman that never existed, his fictional fortune-telling was on a par with Nostradamus or HG Wells. “In For a Pound” is, one supposes, the love story of HOMO ERRATICUS; it’s all our man, Ian, performing vocally and joining himself on the acoustic guitar with everything fitting in rather nicely at just over half a minute (proving, in fact, that love is fleeting). The problem of ever-widening urban sprawl amid growing societal and economic discord is addressed in “The Browning of the Green.” As more and more city-dwellers seek to “get back to the country,” they unfortunately drag all of the “comforts of home” with them, despoiling every acre of the idyllic rural landscape. The music has an edginess about it, not quite heavy metal but definitely leaning in that direction. Looking into our future another ten years, Parritt has a message from the stars: “We don’t like your kind ’round here, Earthman!” The spoken word piece is called “Per Errationes Ad Astra.” The final of Parritt’s “REVELATIONS” and the final musical offering is called “Cold Dead Reckoning.” The song leaps ahead another twenty years (to the year 2044) and foretells of the ultimate demise of the crumbling society of man and an eventual rebirth of humanity and spirituality, all to a pounding beat. About ten years ago (uh… from present day… that would be 2004), there was a television series called THE 4400, a science-fiction tale with very similar aspects to “Cold Dead Reckoning.” I mention this not only because of the similarities in theme, but also because, somehow, the melody of the song reminds me of the series’ theme song. Coincidence or… did our nonexistent Parritt have something to do with it? As he’s been gone these 86 years (longer, if you consider his fabricated existence), we may never know. The only certainty regarding his writings and the reworking there-of by the equally mythical Gerald Bostock – and by extension, their collaboration with Ian Anderson and his musical minions (who, I am told, are quite real) – they most assuredly make for an enjoyable listen! In fact, this HOMO ERRATICUS is the best music to come from the Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull camp since CATFISH RISING, more than 20 years ago. (There are several versions of HOMO ERRATICUS to choose from: a standard CD version, a CD/DVD version, a 2-CD/2-DVD version with a hardback book, a downloadable version at iTunes, and a double set of glorious vinyl… choose wisely! Going here: can help.)


(14 July, 2013; PEABODY OPERA HOUSE, Saint Louis, MO)

THICK AS A BRICK 2 (band photo by MARTIN WEBB)
THICK AS A BRICK 2 band (photo credit: MARTIN WEBB)

Three fifths of the (very likely) final incarnation of Jethro Tull descended upon the beautiful Peabody Opera House (formerly the Kiel Opera House, lo those many years ago) on this hot mid-July evening. Ian Anderson, whose latest solo outing is THICK AS A BRICK 2: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO GERALD BOSTOCK, is in full TAAB mode on the current US tour, performing the seminal Tull album in full, followed (after a short intermission) by a complete reading of the sequel. This is a move that a lot of “classic” acts have taken up quite recently and, while – more often than not – they don’t live up to the hype (or the album they’re trying to replicate), Ian and his five henchmen delivered everything that this enthusiastic crowd could have hoped for and more! For the record: It ain’t Tull, but it ain’t bad.

Ian Anderson and Ryan O'Donnell live in Berlin, 2012 (photo: MARTIN WEBB)
Ian Anderson and Ryan O’Donnell live in Berlin, 2012 (photo credit: MARTIN WEBB)

Ian’s band wandered onto the stage a few minutes late, dressed as a cleaning crew. They proceeded to sweep, dust and clean just about every surface on the stage before approaching their instruments and, looking over their shoulders to make sure the boss wasn’t watching, began to play “Thick As a Brick.” We’re not talking about that little edit that was released as a single in a few countries; we’re talking about the entire album-long song. They eventually got rid of the work smocks (or, maybe, they were “dirty Macs,” a la the “Thick As a Brick” single sleeve) as Mister Anderson appeared, stage left, strumming his acoustic and singing the opening lines of the nearly hour-long tune. Anderson’s vocal parts are now split with actor/singer/circus performer Ryan O’Donnell, giving Ian more time (and breath) to focus on his flute playing, which is as flawless as ever. O’Donnell’s voice is a softer, subtler version of Ian Anderson and is no less expressive. In theory, I suppose, Ryan is performing in the role of Gerald Bostock, the character created as part of the original THICK AS A BRICK album cover. This is a man who knows his way around a stage, a great performer and a lot of fun to watch.

Scott Hammond live in Berlin, 2012 (photo: MARTIN WEBB)
Scott Hammond live in Berlin, 2012 (photo credit: MARTIN WEBB)

The rhythm section of drummer Scott Hammond and former Tull bassist David Goodier bring a nice jazz vibe to the proceedings, while still maintaining the heavy rock underpinning of the original work. Hammond’s not-overly-long solo was imaginative and as impressive as any I’ve seen in a while. The other Tull expatriate, keyboardist John O’Hara, is as eye-catchingly expressive and verbose as Ryan O’Donnell. His parts seem to be the glue that holds the entire performance together. Guitarist Florian Opahle is a scary kind of flashy, kinda like Ian’s longtime band mate, Martin Barre. He just stands there and rips these amazing leads and solos, acting like the least likely guitar-hero of all time. For some odd reason, Florian’s stage presence reminds me of a younger Gary Rossington. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. The ensemble is “completed” via the video inclusion of violinist Anna Phoebe – who is busy at home recording a new album and raising a young daughter – during an instrumental break that happens in what would be “Side One” of the original album. The end of “Side One” has a cool fade, just like it did on the album, and leads into a serio-comic public service announcement warning men of a certain age to have regular medical check-ups to keep the plumbing clean. Though the message was entirely serious, it was a fun diversion that offered a much needed break for the musicians onstage. It also helped us geezers in the crowd (and we were legion!) put a mental stamp on where we were within the intricacies of the THICK AS A BRICK album.

Ian Anderson and Florian Opahle live in Berlin, 2012 (photo: MARTIN WEBB)
Ian Anderson and Florian Opahle live in Berlin, 2012 (photo credit: MARTIN WEBB)

Having considered the plumbing, Ian and his lads were back to rocking with “Side Two.” Since we’re still talking about the same song, it would be easy to say that the rest of the first set was very much like the first part. That, however, isn’t exactly true. The intensity of Opahle’s and O’Hara’s solos picked up, as did the theatrical aspects of the stage presentation. The pure musicianship and artistry of this band is an amazing thing to witness. Bringing the first album to a close, Ian announced a 15-minute break. The rapt crowd was on their feet, still reeling from the stunning performance we’d just experienced and abuzz with anticipation for THICK AS A BRICK 2.

Ryan O'Donnell live in Berlin, 2012 (photo: MARTIN WEBB)
Ryan O’Donnell live in Berlin, 2012 (photo credit: MARTIN WEBB)

Well… most of us, anyway. To be quite honest, I was a little – uh – underwhelmed by TAAB2 upon first listen. My one hope was that this band would be able to bring it to life onstage… instill it with the sense of fun that was exhibited in the first half of the evening’s show. What can I say? They did! Even the spoken word pieces (which I think gave me the most problems on the album) were good, given the inherent theatricality of Anderson’s stage persona and voice. O’Donnell’s vocals were more forceful here, due – I would guess – from the fact that he was now portraying a grown-up and more confident Gerald Bostock. The musicians were again turned loose, imbuing the sometimes pastoral tunes with a more vivid sonic life than they have on disc. The main difference, I believe, between the two albums (outside the obvious) is that TAAB2 is “songs” whereas the original is a single “song.” While there are technically no stops between the numbers, there is a certain sense of separation. This even minute respite offered the audience a nice give and take with the band that we didn’t have with the first set.

Ian Anderson and Florian Opahle live in Berlin, 2012 (photo: MARTIN WEBB)
Ian Anderson and Florian Opahle live in Berlin, 2012 (photo credit: MARTIN WEBB)

Nearly two-and-a-half hours after the “cleaners” took the stage, good-nights, thank yous and introductions were said and made. My friend, Bill, asked me if I thought there’d be an encore. Just about the time I was saying, “I don’t think so,” John O’Hara came out and began playing the introduction to “Locomotive Breath.” He was soon joined onstage by Scott Hammond, followed by the rest of the band. The crowd erupted as Florian played one of the most revered riffs in rock history and as Ian led the band through one of the most beloved songs in the Jethro Tull canon. I dare say that even the people in the $95 seats left feeling that they’d gotten their money’s worth. I know I did! Bill commented on the way out that he knew Ian couldn’t get away without doing a Tull song. I reminded him that he’d just done an entire Tull album, front to back. “Well, you got me there!” he said as we exited the lobby and headed for home.