A Second Look at Jethro Tull

As someone who's obsessed with just about everything rock and roll related, occasionally I find some time to scour the Internet for interesting artists. I find lots of new music and compile something of a mental list of bands, both new and old, to eventually look into further because either a song, an interview, a review, a video or something has intrigued me a little. So far the list is pretty long and growing enough by the day to make me wonder when I'm going to get the time to check out all this "new to me" music.

Many bands get permanently stuck in the list and I never actually get around to, (or just hesitate for whatever reason) seeking out more than whatever initially intrigued me. Occasionally though, a band interests me enough to take the plunge and start digging deeper. A lot of the bands that have sparked this type of continued interest end up really having an impact on me and leave me wondering why I was so hesitant to check out their music in the first place? (I don't wonder long though as I quickly remember some horrible impulse album purchases that have since been stricken from my music collection)

A few of the groups/artists that I was hesitant about that have since really had an impact on me include: the Clash, the Velvet Underground, the White Stripes, Johnny Winter, Roy Buchanan, Frank Zappa, even the Who many many years ago, and most recently: Jethro Tull.

Jethro Tull is certainly no new band having debuted back in 1968, but I'd only heard a few snippets (not even of "Aqualung" though) over the years and so they were/are new to me...sort of.

I'd known about the band for quite some time, probably since I first began really listening to classic rock, but was doubtful of how good they could be... I mean how rockin' can a group be with a flute player who stands on one leg and wears a codpiece?

So, I resisted, but after catching a quick online video of the band playing what may be their most infamous song: "Aqualung", on YouTube, I decided to do a little more research and check out this unique progressive band a bit further. Then I caught them on the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus and a bit later I was picking up a few Jethro Tull albums for my collection.

After hearing so much about the unique blend of progressive folk infused hard rock that the band was known for, I had a set idea in my head of what they might sound like. I expected something a little progressive, a bit classical with flute, a bit folksy and a bit hard rock. Well, the group certainly is a bit of all of those things, but I don't find them nearly as pretentious as I thought they would be. There is a little more sense of good fun rock and roll, even in some of the deeper tracks that I have heard, and I like that. Their music definitely blends folk and hard rock in a way similar to other bands of the same time, Led Zeppelin comes to mind, but in a way that is not as much blues based. It is a bit more earthy but true to traditional folk and mountain music, just in an entirely different way than early blues. It hearkens to a very early time in music with some songs having something akin to a little medieval feel that is definitely very English as so many of the reviews I've read have pointed out. Combined with intriguing lyrics that can be a little pretentious yes, but still have that subtlety that I think is necessary to really make people think, makes for some good progressive rock, if you want to use that term to describe it. Most surprising for me was how much the flute solos really drive the music giving it a bit of a jazz flair as well as enhance the regal, majestic and certainly epic feel that some of their songs are already pretty heavy with. Those flute solos are some of my favorite parts of these songs. I'm also fond of the changes in mood, the lyrical style/content and of course the guitar work.

As I said, I expected the band to be far more classical based and a bit more pretentious than the tracks I've heard, but they're not, and I like that. Progressive rock is one of those formats that can at times forget that it is "only a rock and roll song", and I figured Jethro Tull would end up being a good example of that for me, but I find their music far easier to relate to than I expected.

I definitely feel I had not really given them a fair shake before, and am glad I checked them out a bit more. From what I have heard from this band already, I think I'm pretty interested and consider them one of the bands all have at least a few albums from in my collection.

If you're new to Jethro Tull, and had some of the same first impressions that I had, I think you deserve to give them another chance. I started with the Aqualung album myself, as it is probably one of their most well known albums. I do kind of wish I had started with their debut as I like "A Song for Jeffery" from their first album a lot too and have heard that their earlier work is a little more blues based, which sounds right up my alley. Plus, had I started at the beginning I could have listened to how the band progressed throughout the years on my first listen, which would have been interesting. Still, Aqualung is probably as good a place to start as any as the title track is what originally sparked my (and probably a lot of other people's) interest.

So, I guess Jethro Tull is another example of how bands really shouldn't be judged at first glance, a reason I should get around to listening to more of the bands on my "To Check Out" list sooner and proof that the Internet is a great place for discovering music whether it was out in 1967 or 2007.

Check out some of the Jethro Tull videos on YouTube, there are a few great ones that I've seen.

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