Blodwyn Pig was guitarist Mick Abraham’s response to Ian Anderson’s more pop and folk-friendly inclinations for Jethro Tull, the group they both helped found at the start of the blues-based music boom of the mid-60s. Leaving Anderson in charge of the soul and future direction of the group, Abraham put together a credible if short-lived outfit producing two very good albums that struck a chord with record buyers of the day.
Blodwyn Pig was a rare example of an off-shoot band whose commercial appeal came close to rivaling that of its parent group; Tull’s Stand Up topped the charts in July ’69, Ahead Rings Out made it to number nine the following month.
It was always going to be Abrahams’ beast and unsurprisingly it stuck to the formula expressed on Tull’s debut, This Was. However the secret ingredient that gave them an edge was wind player and multi-instrumentalist, Jack Lancaster.
A more assured and robust soloist than Anderson, Lancaster’s playing moved between King Curtis or Coltrane as occasion demanded. The throwaway opener “It’s Only Love” is lifted by his sparkling, punchy horn arrangement, whilst “The Modern Alchemist” enables Lancaster to jazz it up large.
Featuring exemplary backing from Andy Pyle on bass and drummer Ron Berg, the album sits firmly in the long-coated underground brigade camp that stretched the blues, if not quite to snapping point, then at least into some interesting shapes and occasionally humorous squeezes. “The Change Song”, with its mockney ‘boy done good’ monologue shows the irony of white boys getting rich by singing the blues wasn’t lost on Abrahams.
“Leave It With Me” or “Sing Me A Song I Know” are pure Tull – close your eyes and it could easily be the cock-legged Anderson belting through those changes. Such similarities may help account for Blodwyn Pig’s commercial appeal which was consolidated on tours in both Europe and America ensuring their excellent sequel, Getting To This, charted at number eight when released in 1970.
Unlike its previous outing on the BGO label, this new collection gathers non-album singles on CD for the first time, including the Tull-heavy “Same Old Story”. Though such additions are welcomed the original running order has been tampered with. "Backwash", the short and sweet pastoral set-up / sucker punch for the aggressive blasting of “Ain’t Ya Comin’ Home Babe?”, is relegated to an almost-ran slot as the end of the album, replaced by a chronologically out of place “See My Way” from their follow-up album.
A now minor footnote in the Jethro Tull story, this reissue reminds us just how forceful and effective Blodwyn Pig were at their particular brand of jazz-tinged blues that never forgot to rock. Bracing stuff.