Schingle's Blog

August 20, 2017

JT Rankings #1

Filed under: Folk tales and songs — Tags: , , , , , , , , — schingle @ 4:06 pm

#1 Warchild


Undoubtedly, this will be an unpopular choice for number one.  Granted, this is certainly one person’s sentimental pick as it was the album that turned him on to the group, as a whole.  The critics from “Rolling Stone” panned it immediately, but the record still jumped to a number one rating in the album charts, even with RS’s admonitions.  Even hard core Tull fans will likely have a problem with the choice, but it is what it is.  And where does one begin to categorize this disc into a genre?  There are some acoustic moments, but one couldn’t use the term “folk” accurately.  “Bungle in the Jungle” was a top 40 hit, but to label the album “pop” would be unfair.  (Again, just ask the folks at “Rolling Stone”).  There are enough saxes and other horns as to give this an almost 40’s style big-band sound, but anyone would disagree that the album is of that genre.  In short, this album is all over the map.  Perhaps that’s the reason it was disliked by the critics at the time.  Oddly, in addition to “Bungle” the song “Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day” also got some air play on, what was then called, “underground” stations and today would be called “alternative.”  With the exception of the “Aqualung” LP, the group almost never got two songs from the same album to get radio play.  The title song opens the album and is kind of a slow one but sets the tone with, as always, intelligent lyrics (“No unconditional surrender: no armistice day; each night I’ll die in my contentment and lie in your grave”).  “Queen and Country” almost sounds like a war era song and tells the story of pirates who risk life and limb to bring gifts to her majesty.  “Ladies” is an acoustic song which deals with the world’s oldest profession.  “Only Solitaire” is Anderson’s retort to the critics who had, by this time, turned against the group with razor sharp teeth, while only three years previously lavishing them with praise.  “The Third Hoorah” reprises some of the lyrics from the title song, but has a more upbeat, almost march-like, rhythm.  The disc closes with the tune “Two Fingers,” which was, reportedly, an outtake from “Aqualung” with slightly revised lyrics and tune, and deals again with Anderson’s views towards organized religion.  This was the band’s third album in a row with the same personnel:  Ian Anderson (vocals, flute, acoustic guitar and some sax), Martin Barre (Lead guitar), John Evan (Keyboards), Jeffrey Hammond (Bass) and Barrie Barlow (Drums/percussion).  Is this truly Jethro Tull’s “best” album?  Most would likely disagree.  However, if a person had never heard anything by the band, and chose this one to listen to first, they likely wouldn’t be disappointed, if for no other reasons than “Skating Away” and “Bungle in the Jungle.”  And, by hearing this one first, would likely want to go back through the catalogue and hear more.  At least, that’s one guy’s opinion.


August 18, 2017

JT Rankings #2

Filed under: Folk tales and songs — Tags: , , , , , , , , — schingle @ 1:57 pm

#2 Songs From the Wood

In 1977, Jethro Tull put out their 10th studio album, “Songs From the Wood.”  To this day, it remains one of their very best efforts ever.  This was the first of three in a row by the group that had a decidedly folky feel.  The disc’s title song is the opener and begins with the first verse sung a capella in four part harmony.  A fan who was already into the band by this time could tell less than one verse in that the group was veering some from their previous rocking material such as “Too Old to Rock n Roll…” and “Aqualung.”  This was the second disc in a row with the same (and many believe, best) lineup.  Of course, Ian Anderson maintains as lead singer, flute and acoustic guitar player and is joined by Martin Barre (lead guitar), John Evan and David Palmer (Keyboards), Barrie Barlow (Drums) and John Glascock (Bass and backing vocals).  (On a side note: Anderson plays all instruments on the record’s second offering called “Jack-in-the-Green”).   While the music has a rustic feel throughout, the lyrics deal with a number of different themes.  “Hunting Girl” depicts the story of a naïve working class lout who is taken advantage of (and abused?) sexually by a rather kinky (though refined?) woman on horseback.  “Velvet Green” similarly details a fellow who takes advantage of a young lady sexually then leaves her (wanting more?). “The Whistler” got some airplay in its day and the title pretty much tells the story.  “Ring out Solstice Bells” had come out as a single in time for Christmas (1976) before being included on the early January album release.  As always, the lyrics are well written and with a humorous tone (from “Hunting Girl” we get the line, “…whilst I appreciate, you are no deviate, I might come to some harm…”).  A word or two should be mentioned about the song “Pibroch (Cap in Hand).”  There is some searing guitar work by Barre which shows his amazing, yet understated, talent with an electric guitar.  That was one of the things that JT could do.  As a whole, they put out this simple, largely acoustic and definitely folk-oriented, disc but managed to include some amazing, rocking electric guitars and, yes, included synthesizers for musical effect rather than sounding like canned, computer driven, pre-programmed music.  Oh yeah, if you want to get turned on to one of the best albums this group ever put out, go ahead and give “Songs from the Wood” a try.  No disappointment—-guaranteed.

August 16, 2017

JT Rankings #3

Filed under: Folk tales and songs — Tags: , , , , , , , , — schingle @ 2:47 pm

#3 Aqualung


For music fans who are only vaguely aware of Jethro Tull, this may be the only album with which they are familiar.  “Aqualung” (1971) was so successful and popular that for the rest of their touring years, the group inevitably played a minimum of three songs from the disc.  The title song and “Locomotive Breath” were almost always played towards the end or as encores.  Any of the following could be heard on any given night:  “Cross-eyed Mary,” “My God,” and/or “Wind Up.”  All five of these songs are rockers, but most forget that there are quite a number of acoustic pieces as well on the LP and any of these had the potential to be played live.  It’s just that good and well-known of an album.  Among the acoustic favorites are: “Wond’ring Aloud,” “Mother Goose,” and “Cheap Day Return.”  Anyone, fan or not of JT, anyone would find this album an enjoyable listen.  It could easily be assumed that this would be ranked number one by a good percentage of long time JT fans.  Again, there really isn’t a bad song, a bad note on the album.  This was the group’s fourth studio album and the fourth different lineup.  Jeffrey Hammond joined the band as bassist and background vocalist to replace the departing Glenn Cornick.  The rest of the personnel remain the same as those on 1970’s “Benefit” with Ian Anderson as front man, flute and acoustic guitar player; Martin Barre on lead guitar, John Evan on Keyboards and Clive Bunker playing drums on his last album with Jethro Tull.  Ian Anderson got into some degree of trouble with critics at the time.  Critics insisted that “Aqualung” was a “concept album,” while Anderson claimed (and still claims to this day) that it was not.  There are a couple of running themes throughout the album.  Side one deals with shady characters in a less-than-upscale neighborhood (“Aqualung,” “Cross-eyed Mary”), while side two deals with Anderson’s rather naïve and negative(?) views towards organized religion (“My God,” “Wind Up”).  Still, the album isn’t meant to tell one consistent story, so most who truly pay attention would likely side with Anderson.  So, is “Aqualung” a concept album?  The best answer is probably: “What difference does it make?”  Aqualung is just a great conglomeration of songs from start to finish.  Very few fans of JT, or fans of rock/pop music would disagree at all.  Give it a listen, if you haven’t already.

August 15, 2017

JT Rankings #4

Filed under: Folk tales and songs — Tags: , , , , , , , , — schingle @ 1:00 pm

#4 Thick as a Brick


In 1971, Jethro Tull put out an album that brought them great fame and notoriety.  That disc was entitled “Aqualung.”  However, to Ian Anderson’s mind, the critics wrongly labeled it a “concept album,” ostensibly meaning that the album was telling a singular story.  Anderson vehemently disagreed and decided to reply with “Thick as a Brick” (1972).  (Quoting Anderson himself, “If you think Aqualung was a concept album, well then…”).  This was the first of two LP’s in a row in which the group released an album as one contiguous piece of music.  To add to the entertainment (and confusion), the disc was packaged in a cover to look like a small town newspaper, complete with 14 pages of “news.”  If the listener takes the time to read the whole “paper,” (s)he realizes that the whole thing is a send up offering.  And, to top it off, the lyrics to the (45-minute) song are credited to one Gerald Bostock.  Of course, Gerald Bostock is an imagination and Anderson wrote all lyrics and tune (opus?).  This was the group’s fifth album and fifth different lineup.  Barrie Barlow takes over on drums from Clive Bunker, leaving Anderson (flute, acoustic guitar, lead singer, front man) as the last original member.  The band is rounded out with the rest of the same lineup from “Aqualung.”  Those personnel include:  Martin Barre (lead guitar), John Evan (Keyboards) and Jeffrey Hammond (bass, playing on his second album with the band).  Again, because there are no individual songs, it is difficult to critique the disc without looking at sections, or even individual lyrics.  Though 45 minutes in length, the band would break it down into smaller segments as the touring years went on.  The live album (“Bursting Out”—1978) has a 12-minute version, though as the years progressed, the live version got shorter each tour.   Most non-Tull fans know the beginning and end of the disc.  Some of the better parts are towards the middle and throughout the album, melodic parts (and some of the lyrics) are reprised.  This is one of those albums that are for the true Tull enthusiast or the truly adventurous.  If you’re willing to take a chance on something completely different, this is a good one.

August 13, 2017

JT Rankings #5

Filed under: Folk tales and songs — Tags: , , , , , , , , — schingle @ 3:09 pm

#5 A Passion Play


Many will disagree with this choice.  Certainly, anybody who was ever a “professional” critic for, say, “Rolling Stone” magazine would.  “A Passion Play” (1973) can be a little much to take, especially for someone with pop culture sensibilities.  Following in the footsteps of its predecessor (1972’s “Thick as a Brick”), “Passion Play” is one contiguous piece of music.  (Some would argue that there is also “The Hare Who Lost his Spectacles” as a separate song).  The transitions in this piece are uneven, and arguably, insane at times.  However, Ian Anderson wrote a long opus that tells a story—albeit a potentially macabre one—and his lyrics are as intelligent (or more so) as any he’d written before (or since?).   The story deals with a man who meets his death and watches his own funeral, before a journey into the afterlife.  No, this is not Dante’s “Inferno,” but the lyrics are almost as good poetry as “The Divine Comedy.”  The group was now on its second album in a row with the same personnel:  Ian Anderson (Vocals, flute, acoustic guitar, some saxophone and band front man), Martin Barre (Lead Guitar), John Evan (Keyboards), Jeffrey Hammond (Bass, and the spoken word on the aforementioned, “Hare who lost…”) and the relatively new Barrie Barlow (Drums).  Since the album can’t be analyzed as separate songs, it’s difficult to break it down into parts, unless one dissects the lyrics.  “The silver cord lies on the ground” references the Catholic belief that when one dies, a cord is left behind as the soul leaves the body.  Clever word play is found all over the disc: “Tell me, how the baby’s made, how the lady’s laid, while the old dog howls in sadness.”  “Mine is the right to be wrong.”  “Show me a good man.  I’ll show you the door.”  These are just a few snippets of the word play and the absolute mastery of the language Anderson was beginning to display.  Would someone who’s never heard a JT album like this one?  Probably not.  But, after one has heard a lot of their stuff and learned the different kinds of things they could do, one could learn to truly appreciate the beauty that is “A Passion Play.”

August 11, 2017

JT Rankings #6

Filed under: Folk tales and songs — Tags: , , , , , , , , — schingle @ 1:31 pm

#6 Heavy Horses


1978 was the tenth anniversary for the band and at the beginning of the same year, they released “Heavy Horses.”   (Later that year, they would release the first, and best, of their many live albums—“Bursting Out.”).  This was the third album in a row with the same lineup, which the band had only accomplished once to this point.  Ian Anderson (Front man, flute, acoustic (and some electric) guitar and a bit of mandolin), Martin Barre (Lead guitar), John Evan and David Palmer (Keyboards), Barrie Barlow (Drums) and John Glascock (Bass, backing vocals) play together with great aplomb.  Most would agree that this one has a distinctly folky feel, but there are some searing guitar leads and, as always, a great eclectic sound.  Perhaps not surprisingly, a good majority of the songs reference various animals (including those dastardly humans).  “Acres Wild” is one of two exceptions, but still referencing the rustic and great outdoors.  The other is “No Lullaby” which, for the most part, was the tune the band opened with on the ensuing tour.  Both “No Lullaby” and the title track have some fairly serious rocking moments, but by and large, this is a heavily acoustic album.  The pretty “Moths” and the closer, “Weathercock” are among the more popular songs and, of course, Ian Anderson’s tribute to the great poet, Robert Burns, titled “One Brown Mouse” is another example of Anderson’s intelligent, yet tongue in cheek, writing.  If anyone considers him/her self a Tull fan, they could listen to this one time and again and never tire of it.  But, even if one had never heard anything at all by the group, that someone would still take great delight in “Heavy Horses.”  Really, there isn’t a bad note on the disc.

August 9, 2017

JT Rankings #7

Filed under: Folk tales and songs — Tags: , , , , , , , , — schingle @ 1:32 pm

#7 Stand Up


In 1969, JT would put out their second album and expand on their ever growing fan base.  It was their second disc with their second different lineup (granted, with only one change, new guitarist Martin Barre replacing Mick Abrahams), and a symptom of things to come as Tull had an ever evolving lineup.  The other three members from the debut album (1968’s “This Was”) remained the same (for now) with Ian Anderson playing flute, acoustic guitar and acting as front man, Clive Bunker on drums and Glenn Cornick playing bass.  A very high percentage of the songs on this disc remained regular parts of the group’s nightly live sets.  “Fat Man” has a humorous set of lyrics and some pretty impressive mandolin work; “A New Day Yesterday” was a stalwart in their concert sets, with a decidedly bluesy feel sounding like an outtake from “This Was” from the year previous; “Nothing Is Easy” was very jazz oriented and was heard in many of their live sets for years to come and, of course, “Bouree” is a jazzified version of the classic from Johann Sebastian Bach that everybody knows, whether or not they know it by name. The bluesy sound is reminiscent of the band’s debut, but this one has a lot more of a jazz feel with enough rocking material to make the crowds happy.  Though not released on the album, the band released the single, “Living in the Past” to coincide with the album and the song became an honest to goodness hit for the group.  Yes, some of the material was raw—make no mistake, but “Stand Up” was an album that allowed Tull to just begin to make a name for themselves and propelled them into better than four decades of making great music.  If you’ve never heard it—go on, give it a try.  You’ll have no regrets.


August 8, 2017

JT Rankings #8

Filed under: Folk tales and songs — Tags: , , , , , , , , — schingle @ 2:00 pm

#8  Minstrel in the Gallery


Now we’re getting to the really good stuff.  This one doesn’t even make the top third of the listing and it’s a fantastic album.  Acoustic at times, and rocking at others, Minstrel in the Gallery (1975) captures the listener and doesn’t let go.  Ian Anderson always resisted the idea that Tull was a progressive band (a la Yes; Emerson, Lake & Palmer, etc.).  However, this album only has seven songs and the last one (“Grace”) is only 37 seconds long.  So, essentially, six songs comprise a 45 minute disc.  The title and opening song runs over eight minutes long.  “Baker St. Muse” is over 16 minutes long and is divided into four parts (a la Yes; Emerson, Lake & Palmer, etc.).   The first song on side two (One White Duck/0 (10)= Nothing at All) is a sad, yet pretty piece, as a sort of love lost song.  As stated before, there are a lot of acoustic moments, but labeling this disc as “folk” would be unfair and inaccurate.  Labels often impede one’s listening pleasure anyway.  Regardless of genre, this is just good, strong, intelligent music and lyrics.  The band was comprised of the same lineup as the previous effort (“Warchild”).  Ian Anderson (flute, acoustic guitar, front man), Martin Barre (electric guitars), John Evan (Keyboards), Barrie Barlow (Drums) and playing bass for the last album as a Tull member was Jeffrey Hammond.  Some mention should be made of David Palmer who arranged the strings and conducted the string quintet that played throughout, as Palmer would become a regular member of the band by 1976’s “Too Old to Rock n Roll…”  Good, solid musicians, amazing lyrics and fantastic tune writing and arrangements make it difficult to find anything wrong with the disc.  A first time Tull listener would not be disappointed hearing this one front to back, then back to front again.  Just good music.

August 6, 2017

JT Rankings #9

Filed under: Folk tales and songs — Tags: , , , , , , , , — schingle @ 2:38 pm

#9  The Broadsword and the Beast

1982 brought the album, “The Broadsword and the Beast” which was a great response to 1980’s “A.”  This one had more of a folky feel, though not to the degree of the final three albums that finished the 1970’s for the group.  This would be the second album in a row with the core squad of Ian Anderson (flute, acoustic guitar, vocals), Martin Barre (Lead electric guitar and some acoustic guitar) and Dave Pegg (Bass, background vocals).  The personnel are rounded out with Peter-John Vetese (Keyboards, vocals, who would bounce in and out of the band for the rest of the ‘80’s) and Gerry Conway (Drums, who later appeared on the “Crest of a Knave” LP).  Now, this is another one that may not have a particularly memorable individual song, but listening to the album from cover to cover is just a delightful experience.  Interestingly, the last song on the disc (“Cheerio”) became the final encore for most of the rest of their touring years.  It’s a very short song with basically two lines (the final of which goes: “I’ll pour a cup to you my darling, raise it up, say cheerio”).  There are two title songs, making each side (remember LP’s?) have a title.  “Beastie” heads side one while “Broadsword” leads off side two.  “Watching Me, Watching You” is a humorous one about a guy who’s just plain paranoid and “Fallen on Hard Times,” lamenting the recession of the early ‘80’s actually got a little airplay on more progressive, album oriented rock stations.  More than anything, this was a great comeback album from the less than thrilling “A” (1980).  If one doesn’t mind listening to music that isn’t exactly “hit” oriented, this is a beautiful album from beginning to end.

August 5, 2017

JT Rankings #10

Filed under: Folk tales and songs — Tags: , , , , , , , , — schingle @ 3:23 pm

#10  Crest of a Knave

Jethro Tull had gone three years without putting out a studio album and had done very little touring and, doubtless, many Tull fans assumed they were almost through.  However, in 1987, the band put out “Crest of a Knave.”  This was not only a great comeback album, it was a great album—period.  Yes, fans of the heavy metal sub-genre of rock can poke fun of the fact that it won Album of the year in that category but, the fact is, though misplaced in category this disc is among the band’s top ten albums.  The credits state that “Jethro Tull are: Ian Anderson, Martin Barre, David Pegg.”  By this time these three had played together for four albums with various drummers and keyboardists.  It can be assumed that those who played drums (Gerry Conway, Doane Perry) and other instruments (Ric Sanders, playing violin and a band mate of Pegg’s in Fairport Convention) are considered guests, though Perry became a regular member of JT from here forward for the next 20 years or so.  “Crest…” opens with a rocker: “Steel Monkey” and closes with a pretty powerful one: “Raising Steam.”  In between they touch on a number of different sounds.  “Farm on the Freeway” has a folky sound and laments the dying industry of the individual farmer in America.  “Jump Start” has a slow start that builds into quite a rocker.  “Budapest” is a slow one that hypnotizes and recounts one particular night the band spent in the city of the same name while on tour.  While perhaps a little slow for some Tull fans, “Budapest” was a mainstay for the band in concert for years to come, making most believe that it’s certainly a favorite of Anderson’s.  Regardless of the individual songs and how each one affects a listener, this album is just plain good from beginning to end and any listener would enjoy this disc regardless of their familiarity with the band.

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