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Music Review: Jethro Tull – Living In The Past

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I enjoyed this album when it was released during October of 1972 and I still enjoy it today. I estimate it is one of four Jethro Tull albums which have graced my stereo system the most times down through the he years.

Living In The Past was released betweenThick As A Brick and A Passion Play, providing welcome relief at the time from the long one song concept albums which surrounded it. The title perfectly describes the music as it reached back in time to present material that was very different from what Tull was producing in 1972 and 1973.

The material is an eclectic grouping of songs from their first four studio albums, outtakes, their five song EP “Life Is A Long Song,” and some live material. It would become a huge hit in The United States reaching number three on the Billboard Magazine album charts.

It would also contain their first American hit single. The title song was mellow, mesmerizing, and jazzy. While it was drawn from their past, it was representative of where their unique sound would go in the future.  It reached number eleven on the pop charts and remains their highest charting single effort to date.

Two long live tracks took up an entire side of the original vinyl release. “By Kind Permission Of” was a rare group track written by John Evan and not Ian Anderson. It was a jazz flavored piece where organ and flute shared the stage together and gives a nice picture of their concert act at the time. “Dharma For One” is extended out to close to ten minutes and allows flutist Anderson and lead guitarist Martin Barre time to improvise and stretch out a bit.

Other highlights include “Hymn 43” which is always welcome, the brilliant “Christmas Song,” plus “Sweet Dream,” and the short “Nursie.”

The original double disc vinyl release came in a leather-type jacket with a fourteen page booklet of pictures. Many of the subsequent CD reissues have eliminated songs due to timing issues for a single disc, so buyer beware.

Living In The Past remains one of the more unique compilation albums of the seventies. It provides a nice overview of the first part of their legendary career. It may be a hodge podge of material and not have the consistently of their studio albums but, nevertheless, is an excellent album which has held up well since its release nearly 38 years ago.

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About David Bowling

  • David, I never forget seeing Jethro Tull in concert at Shea Stadium (I think it was ’76 or ’77). They rocked the house that night.

    This article makes me want to dig my old 8-track tapes out of the attic, but I have nothing to play them on.

  • Although they often aimed at the “concept album” concept, Tull was often at their best when they simply recorded a a bunch of songs. Passion Play, Thick as a Brick and Too Old to Rock and Roll – three albums which could’ve been called collectively Too Old and Thick and not enough Passion for Rock and Roll. On the other hand, Songs from the Wood, War Child and Minstrel in the Gallery, although they had a theme, were really just albums made of pieces that complemented each other when packaged together – a much more satisfying experience than trying to understand how the whole was greater than sum of its parts.

  • I tend to agree. I rarely listen to their concept albums as it just takes too much effort and time. This one, Heavy Horses, and Songs From The Wood still receive regular airplay in my home.