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Music Review: Jethro Tull – The Broadsword and The Beast

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Beginning in 1968 Jethro Tull had released a studio album every year for thirteen straight years until 1981. Maybe Ian Anderson needed some time off to recover from the loss of four long term members of the group, or possibly needed to re-charge the engines after the less than stellar album A. Whatever the reason for the hiatus it was not until April of 1982 that he and the group returned withThe Broadsword and The Beast.

The group’s supporting cast contained some old and new faces. Group leader Ian Anderson and lead guitarist Martin Barre were still present. Joining them was bassist Dave Pegg, who had played on A, plus new additions Gerry Conway on drums and keyboardist Peter Vettese. Also of note was the fact that Ian Anderson did not produce the album but rather brought in Paul Samwell-Smith.

The music would continue to evolve and maintain an eclectic flavor. Hints from their folk influenced days were still present, but the band began moving in a harder edged direction. The songs themselves were also some of the most structured of their career which belied the different sounds of the music. It all added up to a good if not excellent release.

I find there are three superior tracks. “Fallen On Hard Times” has an almost Scottish folk melody. It features an acoustic base and contains a nice medieval flavor. “Slow Marching Band” is a rare Anderson composition that is a ballad about male/female relationships. It makes for an interesting and excellent track. “Seal Driver” features Martin Barre at his best. You can almost smell the ocean on this rock anthem.

I also find “Broadsword” somewhat amusing, as the lyrics find a man protecting his family and home. I can still envision Conan The Barbarian when listening to this tale.

Not all is good as “Flying Colours,” “Pussy Willow,” and “Watching You, Watching Me” are average 80’s rock.

The Broadsword and The Beast may sound a little dated in places today, but overall it holds up fairly well. It is not one of their better albums but is still very good in places. A nice, if non-essential, stop on Jethro Tull’s musical path of life.

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About David Bowling

  • http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=463156 JC Mosquito

    There’s a truckload of decent outtakes too from these sessions – always makes for good revisionist history.

  • redacted

    Speaking as a longtime (and admittedly intense) Tull fan, I say ‘spot on’ to this review, generally speaking.

    For me, the Tull of legend ended with ‘Stormwatch’ (technically, the last album I really loved was ‘Heavy Horses’, but I recognize the thread that connects ‘Stormwatch’ to the greater body of work). Most albums released since 1980 hit me the same way…. Some stand out tracks/moments every time, but overall a pale shadow or former compositions (a notable exception being the frequently un-Tullish ‘Crest’, which has held up rather well over the years despite the change in Ian’s voice and the Knophlerization of Barre’s guitar)

    Ian’s voice is now completely gone and there have not been any new Tull tracks in quite some time (though there have been several releases), nor will there be any to come. It’s heartbreaking that one of the most gorgeous, rich, evocative voices in ‘rock’ is now lost to us. Worth mentioning are the many exciting and excellent arrangements that make up for this loss on current tours… Ian and the lads still put on a fantastic live show.

    Having said all that, the Tull catalog is like no other. Brilliant, beautiful, and bloody eclectic (there will never be a better two album set than SftW and HH [actually, make it a hat trick… throw Minstrel in there as well, chronology be ‘darned’….To fellow Tull fans: I know it’s sacrilege, but I’ve always seen the real ‘trinity’ as being MitG-SftW-HH, rather than SftW-HH-SW]).

    While some of the tracks on ‘BatB’ are crucial (‘Cheerio’… ‘Slow Marching Band’…), new listeners are advised to stick to the 70’s. It is there you will find Anderson’s greatest works, on the official albums, the subsequent releases of previously withheld tracks, and the better quality boots. In that brief 10 year span Tull created some of the most beautiful music – and most perfect albums – ever released.

    Thx to Mr. Bowling for his writing of that most rare of creatures… An informed Tull review focused on the music itself.

    [and before I at last shut up I’ll second Jr Mosquito’s comment… The 20 year set (among other releases) features many fine outtakes from the ‘Broadsword’ sessions, some of which might cause you to wonder why they failed to win out over a few of the album tracks]