Wednesday , February 21 2024
Much of Jethro Tull's second album still stands up, so to speak. The bright nasality of the hyperactive mandolin on "Fat Man," the blues-rock/progressive fusion of "Nothing is Easy," and the dark psychedelia of "We Used to Know" are all of their time, yet in the new mixes they leap urgently from the speakers. A 1969 Stockholm concert and a booklet packed with reminiscences and commentary help make this new edition something Tull fans will value.

Music Review: Jethro Tull – ‘Stand Up: The Elevated Edition’

jethro tull stand up elevated editionStand Up: The Elevated Edition, the latest Jethro Tull reissue in Chrysalis’s deluxe box set series, offers a newly remixed recording of the album, numerous extras, and a lavishly produced booklet with Ian Anderson’s own commentary on the songs and more. It also puts the 1969 album in musical and chronological context.

Stand Up was Tull’s second album, but its first with Anderson in the lead singer-songwriter role. As Anderson explains in the booklet, co-founder Mick Abrahams was more or less strictly a bluesman. As blues was very hot at the time in England, playing the style enabled a freshly formed band to get gigs, build an audience, and gain stage experience. But the blues wasn’t where Ian Anderson’s musical heart was, and when he, bassist Glenn Cornick, drummer Clive Bunker, and new guitarist Martin Barre went their own way without Abrahams, the music, while retaining a blues-rock side (“A New Day Yesterday,” “Nothing Is Easy”), took a more original turn, with folk and progressive flavors (“Fat Man,” “Look Into the Sun,” “Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square,” and the Bach-based instrumental “Bourée”). Stand Up is where Anderson’s inventiveness first really blossomed.

Much of Stand Up still stands up, so to speak. The bright nasality of the hyperactive mandolin on “Fat Man,” the blues-rock/progressive fusion of “Nothing Is Easy,” and the dark psychedelia of “We Used to Know” are all of their time, yet in the new mixes they leap urgently from the speakers as if to shout We must be heard, while “Reasons for Waiting” retains its liquid beauty.

Disc One of the three-disc “Elevated Edition” is a CD that includes Steven Wilson’s new stereo remix of the original album. The mixes sound as crisp and clean as I think one would want from a record originally mixed for vinyl, the high end notably more present but the flavor unchanged in any essential way.

Disc One also includes new mixes of three tracks associated with the album. “Living in the Past,” a standalone single released shortly after Stand Up, became the band’s biggest U.S. hit despite (or because of?) its unusual 5/4 time signature. “Driving Song,” a 1969 U.K. single, is here with its distinctive riff. Both songs are present in their original mono mixes as well. There’s also an alternate version of “Bourée” and mono recordings of four songs from sessions for the BBC TV program Top Gear.

The BBC tracks are in a middle ground between studio and concert, with a looser, more live feel than the album versions of the songs. For the Tull devotee, they reveal the musicians as the flawed human beings they were, taking us out of the bubble created by the iconic album recordings that we may have heard dozens or hundreds of times. (For example, for me at least, it’s fun to hear Cornick struggle a bit with the bass guitar cadenza on “Bourée.” These guys were top dogs in their day, but they weren’t machines.)

Things get really live on Disc Two, which is devoted mostly to the second of two concerts in Stockholm in January 1969 at which Tull opened for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Captured in painfully muddy sound, the bass guitar grit-your-teeth fuzzy, it offers a couple of songs that were never recorded in the studio.

“Martin’s Tune” is a fast-swinging instrumental that Barre brought to the band when he joined, though the 12-minute jam here is notable mainly for the extended, bluesy flute solo that shows just how stellar Anderson already was on the instrument he singlehandedly introduced into the rock vocabulary.

ian anderson jethro tull flute 1969On “To Be Sad Is a Mad Way to Be,” a real blues number that points back to the band’s earliest incarnation, Anderson shows off his harmonica skills. The riff feels like the root of the instrumental sections of the much better “Driving Song,” which is on Disc One and reappears here on Disc Two in its original mono single mix along with the same mix of “Living in the Past” (because why not?).

Bunker’s skillful drumming is featured on “Dharma for One,” much as it is in the much better-recorded Carnegie Hall performance that appeared on the Living in the Past compilation album a couple of years later, which had the benefit of John Evan on piano. “A Song for Jeffrey” from the band’s debut album This Was (secretly my favorite track from that release) points the way forward from the band’s blues beginnings.

The flute-duet jam that breaks up the extended drum solo here – yes, Barre played other instruments than guitar – is something the 1972 Carnegie audience didn’t get, though, and it must have been a hoot to hear in person, especially for those Swedes who were on mind-altering substances. “Nothing Is Easy” bloviates into a couple of dynamically diverse blues-rock jams, with one of Anderson’s infamous voiced flute solos a highlight.

Overall, the set improves as it goes on. It’s missing the unique tonal palette Barre went on to develop on the electric guitar, which rapidly became one of the signature elements of Jethro Tull in its prime, and missing Anderson’s exquisite acoustic guitar skills. Yet as it proceeds, you do slowly get the sense of the creative landscape Anderson and Company were painting that would ultimately give Tull its unique place in the rock pantheon.

The third disc is a DVD that contains mostly audio in additional formats: the Wilson remixes of the album and associated recordings in 5.1 Surround and 96/24 Stereo LPCM, and flat transfers of the original 1969 mixes of the same material. The former sound rich and spacious, even a little trippy, coming through my big old-fashioned Bose stereo speakers. No faithful remixing is going to give these old-fashioned tracks modern-day crispness, but they’re probably worth a listen in 5.1 Surround. The original mixes are nice to have for comparison.

The only video content is a pair of performances from the Stockholm concerts, “To Be Sad Is a Mad Way to Be” and “Back to the Family,” shot in black and white and without evidence of a crowd. They show Anderson’s agility on the harmonica and flute in turn, but also emphasize the starkness of the band’s arrangements at this early stage, without a keyboard player and Anderson’s acoustic guitar.

This box set may be a must-have for Jethro Tull completists, especially since the Stockholm concert material is different from (and earlier than) the Carnegie Hall performance featured on the 2010 “Collector’s Edition” set. The lengthy booklet is a well-written treasure trove of reminiscences, context, and Anderson’s commentary on each song.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Music, where he covers classical music (old and new) and other genres, and Culture, where he reviews NYC theater. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at where he is on a mission to visit every park in New York City. He has also been a part-time working musician, including as lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado.

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