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Jethro Tull: A (remaster) + Slipstream (CD + DVD)

"He's ready to make a full confession…"

Now I recall why A didn't ring so fondly in my memory banks. It wasn't necessarily because of that nondescript title, or due to the band's drastic lineup change. Dave Pegg was around for the Stormwatch tour because John Glascock (R.I.P.) was ill and passed away soon after the album was recorded. And you can't argue against Eddie Jobson's presence; his previous tours of duty included Curved Air, Roxy Music, Zappa, and U.K. — not to mention he was a mean mutha on both keyboards and violin! And since Barriemore Barlow and Ian Anderson weren't the best of chums during this period, the Anderson-solo-cum-full-Tull project made handy use of Jobson's drumming heavyweight bud, Mark Craney (the only American involved). With its electrified, keyboard-dominated sound, A directly contrasted the folksy, medieval, eclectic sound the previous three albums bore.

No, it's the album's tracking order…all wrong. The three worst songs are the first three you'll hear! A tribunal of three bland AORish tunes — "Crossfire," "Fylingdale Flyer," "Working John, Working Joe" — is what had lingered within my cranial expanse since I last heard A, years ago. By Tull standards, those songs sound so ordinary; queer, isn't it? (Not so much the lyrics as the music 'neath.) If you erased Ian's vocals, you could have the Fabulous Thunderbirds! However, I also remembered the fourth track in, "Black Sunday," which is where the real album begins: an infectious melody & deadly groove, a masterful piano break, Moonesque drumming, and brilliant stream-of-consciousness lyrics add up to one of the two heaviest tracks on the album — the other being the next in line, "Protect and Survive." Also a winner, courtesy of Ian's tardy flute lead and Jobson's electro-tones. A standout is the similarly flute-powered "The Pine Marten's Jig," the lone instrumental — this is Tull! "Batteries Not Included" and "4.W.D. (Low Ratio)" likewise contribute to the album's urban, pseudo-futuristic image. "And Further On" is a fine, low-key ballad that wouldn't be too out of place on Heavy Horses or Stormwatch.

Chrysalis has conveniently issued a bonus DVD of Slipstream at a moderate price increase (well worth it). Slipstream functions as a visual document of this one-off lineup; concert footage and some new videos (some made for older songs!) add up to one quick hour — too bad it's not twice as long. Perhaps the best video is the one for "Too Old To Rock 'N' Roll, Too Young To Die," with the band going through various costume changes and dealing with the song's theme of the rigors of advanced age. Jobson epitomizes the tall, gaunt, vampire look in his natural state, but he looks downright eerie as a middle-aged man with specs, neatly-parted short hair, and a pencil-thin prop 'stache. "Fylingdale Flyer," "Dun Ringill" and "Sweet Dream" also get new vids, with the latter featuring Ian as "The Count."

Concert footage includes a rousing "Black Sunday" with all of Ian's trademark stage posturing, a violin-enhanced "Songs From The Wood," and Teflon-coated renditions of "Heavy Horses," "Skating Away…," and "Aqualung." The rhythm section of Pegg & Craney gets a big two thumps up; while Jobson had reaffirmed his "special guest" (aka temporary) status, why Ian didn't at least try to continue to retain Mark's services is a genuine head-scratcher, as the lackluster Broadsword and the Beast would have greatly benefited from a better drummer!

Scores: A — ±3.5 stars ~ Slipstream — ±4.5 stars.

Track Listing:

1. Crossfire
2. Fylingdale Flyer
3. Working John, Working Joe
4. Black Sunday
5. Protect and Survive
6. Batteries Not Included
7. Uniform
8. 4 W.D. (Low Ratio)
9. The Pine Marten's Jig
10. And Further On

1. Introduction
2. Black Sunday
3. Dun Ringill
4. Fylingdale Flyer
5. Songs From The Wood
6. Heavy Horses
7. Sweet Dream
8. Too Old To Rock 'N' Roll
9. Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of The New Day
10. Aqualung
11. Locomotive Breath

Total time – (CD) 42:56
Total time – (DVD) ±60:00

Added: May 31st 2004
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Related Link: TULL Dot Com (Official Site)
Hits: 3878
Language: english

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