Martin Barre – 50 Years Of Jethro Tull: Album Review

Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre celebrates fifty years of the band with a selection of material given a new spin.

Release date:  out now

Label: The Store For Music

Format:   CD / download /Vinyl

Following a successful tour of theatre and festivals performing music from Jethro Tull’s 50 years extensive catalogue, Martin Barre has released an album showcasing his own interpretations of  Tull songs. It sees him often re-writing and re-inventing the music rather than regurgitating these classic numbers as we’ve heard them on their illustrious catalogue of recorded albums. 

What amazing surprises there are too and they come from the start with a jazzy My Sunday Feeling as if to make you aware that you are going to hear lots of your favourites but not as you know them. Throughout the album he lightens, rocks up, mellows and increases tempo; he adds guitar, mandolin and banjo where there were none, removes orchestrations where there were. All the time, in many glorious ways, new flavours are added to the familiar. Yet when he throws himself to the front we always hear that distinctive tone that is always recognisable as the Tull sound, with Martin Barre’s unique and accomplished style.

Martin Barre entrusts Dan Crisp to deliver most of the vocals in his own fashion. Wisely he has never tried to imitate Ian Anderson. His rendition of Hymn 43, already recorded on a previous Martin Barre Band release, exemplifies his confident powerful  voice.  On this  album Martin Barre lets loose too. For example, a slower tempo bluesy Love Story leaves us thinking, as with  many of the new versions, shouldn’t it have been done this way first time round?

Pleasing additions to the album are songs often shunned from previous Tull compilation albums. Sealion, Back To The Family, Nothing To Say and Hunting Girl are given an outing with the first CD concluding with a regular on the Martin Barre Band repertoire, A New Day Yesterday.

There is some similarity to acoustic originals as in Wondering Aloud,  Someday The Sun Won’t Shine For You, Life’s A Long Song and Cheap Day Return on which Martin’s warm classical acoustic playing is pure ear nectar.  A different perspective, however, is given to this quartet of songs, which open the second disc and also on Under Wraps, by excellent, rich vocals from  Becca Langsford and Alex Hart.

Selections from all the different eras of Tull are touched, even from the beginning when he wasn’t part of the band but obviously played live through the 50 years. Also included are some less familiar tunes: a beautiful instrumental Home , Slow Marching Band and a stunning vocal performance on The Waking Edge. A totally re-worked Locomotive Breath with banjo, only familiar by its melody and lyrics but fascinating.

Finally, we are treated to  4 live performances of Tull classics from the setlist over the years. On many an occasion, an intricate piano solo was played before emerging into Locomotive Breath. This time Warchild is given that treatment but the final trio – Bungle In The Jungle, Heavy Horses and  Songs From The Wood – are surprisingly not far removed from the originals. For once,  these bonus tracks are appropriately described as ‘bonus’ rather than different versions of tracks on the album. They are also a mouth-watering prelude to a future release of a  live DVD.

Martin Barre  describes the reaction from fans in 1969 when Tull changed its direction with his joining of the group – “slowly they got caught up in the beginnings of something they realised was very different and possibly very special.” This album also may be different but it is definitely very special.

Watch Martin and his band doing Tull’s Hunting Girl at the New Day Festival in 2018 here:

Martin Barre online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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