Finally! Another trio of Tull remasters. Ian Anderson's liner notes were done months ago—last year, even. Still, these have been a while in the coming, just like the last batch. Along with the next two—1984's Under Wraps and 1987's Crest Of A Knave—The Broadsword And The Beast, from '82, didn't gain the same kind of momentum previous Tull albums had due to prog's pariah status since the advent of punk and new wave. But Jethro Tull still had plenty of loyals, there just weren't many new fans taking a stab.
As Ian had sacked his entire band, less Martin Barre, following Stormwatch, more personnel changes occurred immediately after the A Tour with the exit of Eddie Jobson and his drummer pal Mark Craney—a shame, as Craney would've been the best man to replace Barlow with. Throughout 1981 and 1982, Ian wrote a ton of songs on guitar, mandolin and a bunch of synths he'd accumulated post-Jobson. Dave Pegg was still hanging around, pulling double duty as bassman for both Tull and [his "other" primary band] Fairport Convention. To fill the space above the drum throne, Ian recruited Gerry Conway—in hindsight, an odd decision, considering Conway's leaden, straightforward style that was one hundred-eight degrees from the Barlow/Craney styles. If Ian wanted a drummer who would stay out of the way of the music, he certainly got the right man! (The only song he lets loose on is "The Clasp.") It's still this reviewer's opinion that Conway is easily the worst drummer to ever play in Tull (fortunately this was remedied on the Under Wraps tour with Doane Perry). Live, Conway's "fills" in the climactic section of "Aqualung" were hilariously bland and lacked the creativity and finesse with which Barlowe, Craney and then Perry endowed that song's pivotal apex. Another new face was keyboardist Peter-John Vettese; most of the synthetic colorations on Broadsword are actually Ian's, but other portions, and the piano parts, are Vettese's. Vettese's style was also more subdued than the Jobson attack, but he still fit the songs better than Conway.
And like Under Wraps, maybe Broadsword hasn't aged as well as most Tull recordings due to the new directions Ian was taking the music. Most of the songs from the '81-'82 period are great ones, they just didn't all make it onto the album. The album opens with a mighty swing, with the moderate rocker "Beastie" and the most excellent anthem "The Clasp," perhaps one of the best songs to ever emanate from Ian's muse—a clear favorite. After this, things get shaken just a little bit with the sappy "Fallen On Hard Times" and "Flying Colours." Not bad songs, just a little ordinary, that's all. "Slow Marching Band" is a sleeper song, with nicely symbolic lyrics and good playing. "Broadsword" kicks it all back into high gear as a great soundtrack-flavored "medieval rock" track that, in a twist, owes its success to being overwhelmingly electric—and Conway's restraint actually does aid the song's tone. Alas, the rest of Broadsword proper is lackluster and flat, and only palatable depending on the hour and day: "Pussy Willow" and "Watching Me Watching You" are instantly forgettable, trite pop-rock cues only distinguishable by the voice of Ian Anderson. Move along, there's nothing to see here, as we've all heard before. "Cheerio" is an afterthought, but it was intended to be.
Again, many songs were recorded in the twenty-plus months leading up to the decision-making process that sealed the deal on Broadsword's initial release. Eight of those songs appeared on the 20th Anniversary boxset in 1988, and others, like "The Curse," surfaced on the Nightcap 2CD. Ian's aim must have been off a little, because a number of these could have, and would have, made Broadsword the stellar release it should be. The eight from the first boxset are here as bonus tracks. Both "Jack" tracks still hold what is intrinsically Tull, and should have made the final cut, even if they do end a little abruptly (nothing that couldn't have been worked out). "Mayhem Maybe" is also short, but what a spirited ditty with its colorful flute jig! "Too Many Too," "Overhang," and "Rhythm In Gold" are concise, synth-heavy and in line with the direction Ian was taking at the time, and would have suited the album far better than dullish fare like "Pussy Watching You Willow Me" (pard'n me). "I Am Your Gun" is another midtempo rocker with (surprise) electronic drumming (or programming, but not as likely) and a good solo by "Le Barre." "Down At The End Of Your Road"—well done, not amazing, but better than anything about watching you watching him watching me, etcetera, etcetera.
The Broadsword And The Beast was the CD release that most direly needed a remaster—now it's done. Contentwise, the original rated three stars, max; to swap out at least half the songs for a few from the extra eight would yield a four star album, which is what I'm giving this remaster.
3. Fallen On Hard Times
4. Flying Colours
5. Slow Marching Band
7. Pussy Willow
8. Watching Me Watching You
9. Seal Driver
— Bonus Tracks —
11. Jack Frost And The Hooded Crow
12. Jack A Lynn
13. Mayhem Maybe
14. Too Many Too
16. Rhythm In Gold
17. I Am Your Gun
18. Down At The End Of Your Road
Tracklist – 68:06