Minstrel In The Gallery is a fairly unique album by a very distinctive band. Having said that, while there are a couple of very strong tracks, it is not among my favorite Jethro Tull albums.
Many of their releases have any underlying theme but other than Ian Anderson’s reaction to his divorce, the music travels in a number of directions. While not a bad album, it is just not consistent and if I plan on listening to some Tull, this is not an album I would choose. When I gave this album a couple of spins in preparation for this review, it was probably the first time in decades I had listened to it from beginning to end.
One of the best line-ups in the group’s history remained intact for the fourth studio album in a row. Ian Anderson as the songwriter, lead vocalist, and flutist, Martin Barre on lead guitar, drummer Barriemore Barlow, keyboardist John Evan, and bassist Jeffrey Hammond all returned. There were fewer instruments listed in the credits as the band members stuck to basics. David Palmer was also back to co-ordinate the orchestral arrangements.
The tracks that have attracted me down through the years are the albums first two. The title song and “Cold Wind To Valhalla” both begin acoustically but switch to all an out rock mode as they progress. If I created a best of Martin Barre album these tracks would appear on it. He has always been one of rocks somewhat under rated superstars but here he demonstrates why he is one of music’s premier musicians.
“Black Satin Dancer” follows in the same vein but is not as strong overall. It has a melodic quality and a lot of orchestration. The fourth and final track on the first side of the original vinyl release, "Requiem," is all acoustic and is slow, quiet and sedate.
“One White Duck” begins side two and is another acoustic piece but the lyrics are very obscure and the track never really takes off.
The sixteen minute “Baker St. Musse” medley of five songs has never been a favorite of mine. It is autobiographical, sexual, crude, and contains some self parody.
In The final analysis Minstrel In The Gallery is an acquired taste. It would be an unusual stop for Jethro Tull as they would continue to move in new directions as the seventies progressed.