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Thursday, March 25, 2021

Jethro Tull - Stormwatch: The 40th Anniversary Force 10 Edition

This 4-CD and 2-DVD set consists of the continuing reissues of Jethro Tull’s catalog. This one is twelfth studio album, Stormwatch. Originally released on the Chrysalis Records label, this was the final chapter of their Folk-Rock trilogy which started out with Songs from the Wood, Heavy Horses, and Stormwatch. Here in this amazing set entitled; The 40th Anniversary Force 10 Edition, sees the band at their best, but also the last real Jethro Tull album which marked the end for the classic line-up of the 1970s.

The theme of the subject matter behind Stormwatch deals with the problems with the environment, oil, and money. By this time, bassist John Glascock who joined the band in 1976 replacing Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, with Too Old To Rock & Roll; Too Young to Die!, was in bad health due to his lifestyle with drugs and alcohol, missed out on the sessions for the album as he appeared three on the tracks, as Ian helped out on the bass during the recording sessions.

While there was tension behind the scenes and soon Dee Palmer, Barriemore Barlow, and John Evan would leave during the end of the Stormwatch tour, this was also the last real Jethro Tull album as well. So how did Steven Wilson do with the new mixing of the album? Well, let’s delve into it.

When you listen to the fanfare of Warm Sporran, you get a feeling that the marching drum beats, bass riffs, flutes and vocalizations are coming right in front of you. Ian’s flute goes into this jazz-like groove before the sound delves into this Italian-like renaissance as if they’re marching into their final battle, knowing that this is the end of their run, but knowing they died as heroes.

I love how Barre’s guitar goes right into the punch for Something’s On the Move. It gives this characterization of the story on the danger of the polluted wasteland has now transformed into a nightmarish ice storm. The brutal yet heavier arrangements, sees that there’s no sign of the sunlight happening and the death warrant has just been signed of the mysterious ladies curse upon the frozen landscapes.

Orion becomes this epic movie inside your head. At times it rises up with the string section, romantic piano and acoustic guitars, and the question on how that the city of once was, has now become this sad place with no sign of happiness while the medieval rocking opener, North Sea Oil tackles with the oiling business and the prices going up, it is going to be a very heavy time for that sign of jackpot in the oil drilling business to get that big money, but coming with a heavy price.

Dun Ringill is Ian’s return to both Wond’ring Aloud and Jack-in-the-Green. It’s about the Isle of Skye as he sings through this echoing effect and playing intensively on his guitar. It feels like a waltz at times as he’s feels the thunderstorm and the waves crashing right in front of him by crying out to the gods at times as Evan’s thunderous piano work on Flying Dutchman which was inspired by a legendary ghost ship that was doomed to set sail the oceans, goes into a sign of warning to be on the look-out for this mysterious ship.

John’s bass line on the bonus track for Crossword on the second disc, sets up a cat-and-mouse chase through various obstacles with Barre’s riffs before rising up to the mountains in the midsection on trying to understand that living the grind of working, can be put a strain between you, your family, and how do you want your future to be in the years to come?

A Stitch in Time is Ian’s response to Frank Zappa’s Over-Nite Sensation with female singers to a mid-tempo heavy rock song while returning to the medieval roots honoring Gentle Giant with these odd time changes for Palmer’s arrangements based on an English Folk song that was written by King Henry VIII, King Henry’s Madrigal. I love how Tull can create this traditional composition and take it up a notch by making not just heavier, but proggier at its peak with some twists to honor the Rock Progressivo Italiano genre at times.

Evan strikes again on Urban Apocalypse as he goes from piano to an attack mode on the organ at times. This deals with the big corporations have taken over the enterprise and it is not a pretty scenario as Palmer’s lyrics showcases the dark side of greed and corruptive leaders have a huge amount of skeletons in the closet they don’t want the public to know.

The eerie synths set up the nightmare that is about to come for the Sweet Dream Fanfare as Tull goes into this ambient moody feel to a fanfare approach, xylophones, heavier guitars, and channeling The Moody Blues’ Procession before getting the crowd to stand up with a brutal take of Sweet Dream. Now on Discs Three and Four contains the full concert at Den Haag on March 16th during the Stormwatch tour at the Nederlands Congresgebouw, which would be later known as the World Forum.

It starts off with a dooming laden for the Prelude to a Storm for the synths setting up the thunder and dark clouds appearing out of nowhere like an overture-sque intro before setting up the dangerous sail into the unknown before the mournful ride towards Home becomes this question on where do we go from here after an exhausting day at work as Elegy fills the halls with an emotional renaissance ride into the Grey Heavens.

As the classics with Aqualung, Heavy Horses, Minstrel in the Gallery, Too Young To Rock & Roll; Too Young to Die!, and the excerpts from Thick as a Brick, it shows that Tull haven’t forgotten the fan favorites along with an intensive guitar solo that Barre does to bring out this brutal reverbing effect that is like a race-car drive into the finish line with some killer improvisations.

But I wished there was some clapping to the rhythm on Old Ghosts that would’ve followed Tull’s groove as Ian becomes this storyteller by describing the structures of the garden at Kilmarie House. Ian isn’t just a flute player, but letting the audience be a part of the journey from the Stormwatch tour before the alarm of danger goes off for the dangerous live take with Evan’s organ taking the ‘60s vibe on Something’s On the Move.

The deluxe edition contains a 97-page booklet containing liner notes by Martin Webb about the making of the album, interviews from Ian, Dee, and Dave while Barre was interviewed by David Rees along with a quote from Barlow courtesy of A New Day magazine. It also includes photos of the tour, multi-track tapes, 45 RPM’s, tour dates, promo posters for the album, and the time they did music for the Scottish Ballet in February, 1981 and one for the Theatre Royal Glasgow on March 7th, 1979.

When the album was released on September 14, 1979, it got mixed reviews in the UK. The NME considered North Sea Oil, the worst record of the week including the Record Mirror who gave it a disheartened review, followed by Sounds. But it got some good reviews from the late Karl Dallas of the Melody Maker. While this album was ahead of its time, and Steven’s mix giving Stormwatch the recognition it deserves, and giving John Glascock the recognition he deserves. Not just his time with The Gods, Carmen, and Head Machine, but the swan song farewell it deserves.

But Stormwatch while it may take time to get into. And whether you get it or not, you have to understand that this closes the book on Jethro Tull’s amazing run they had from 1968 to 1979. And that’s where the ‘80s begins for the group in a different period.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Rosalie Cunningham - Number 149 / Fossil Song

It’s been nearly two years since Rosalie Cunningham has released her follow-up sole self-titled debut album which was my album of the year in 2019. While it’s also been a year since going into lockdown mode due to the pandemic and COVID-19, music has always kept my spirits up and running. But Rosalie shows no sign of stopping as she’s released her single on the Esoteric Antenna label, Number 149 and the B-Side, Fossil Song.

The first track, Number 149, which was named after the house that she grew up in that still photograph, is a trip down memory lane for Rosalie to remember the childhood memories she had as a kid. There’s a bit of course, The Beatles, but with the Mellotron-sque dreamy landscapes that she and Rosco’s drumming brings, it opens the doors up into this twilight zone-sque parallel universe.

I think of the Syd Barrett approaches that are on here while Rosalie channels her brutal riffs in some of the midsections as if she is crying out to the gods up into the mountains of Asgard by raising Thor’s hammer with a battle cry. There’s also the finale where they stomp into the Slade groove thanks to Rosco’s drum patterns, clapping rhythms, and dancing to the beat that Rosalie does by taking the listener into the unknown.

Fossil Song is Rosalie’s tip of her Mad Hatter’s hat to both comic book writer Neil Gaiman and Van Der Graaf's Peter Hammill. I feel this tug towards Marc Bolan’s lyrical arrangements as she does this cat-and-mouse texture between her and Rosco. But while the Beatles inspirations are there, there is the Saucerful of Secrets-era of Pink Floyd in there as the midsection sees her delving into Richard Wright’s See-Saw with some wah-wah effects at the end that is like the finale of a psych-prog take version of Alice Cooper’s Hello Hooray.

While it’s a single, it’s sort of what’s to come on her second album that she’s been working on since last year. Esoteric has been one of my favorite labels since 2008 and for her to be a part of the Cherry Red family, it must be a dream come true for her to see what she has in store with her follow-up for 2021.