Released by: BMG
Release date: 24th March 2017
Ian Anderson – Vocals, Flute, Guitar, Mandolin
John O’Hara – Celeste and Piano
Matthew Denton – Violin
Eoin Schmidt-Martin – Viola
Michelle Fleming – Violin
Emma Denton – Cello
1. In the Past (Living in the Past)
2. Sossity Waiting (Sossity: You’re a Woman/Reasons for Waiting)
3. Bungle (Bungle in the Jungle)
4. We Used To Bach (We Used to Know/Bach Prelude C Major)
5. Farm, The Fourway (Farm on the Freeway)
6. Songs and Horses (Songs from the Wood/Heavy Horses)
7. Only the Giving (Wond’ring Aloud)
8. Loco (Locomotive Breath)
9. Pass the Bottle (A Christmas Song)
10. Velvet Gold (Velvet Green)
11. Ring out These Bells (Ring Out, Solstice Bells)
12. Aquafugue (Aqualung)
Over the years Jethro Tull has dabbled in many musical styles, arguably with varying degrees of success but making it near impossible to accurately categorize them. Having numerous personnel changes since their formation in 1967, what I would term as the “twilight” years have seen Ian Anderson cast off the cloak of Jethro Tull – in name only whilst reaching into the recesses of the extensive Tull repertoire and plucking out gems to be reinvented… Jethro Tull – The String Quartets is the most recent example of this.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Ian says the idea of working with a string quartet came to him a couple of years ago.
When Ian Anderson and John O’Hara first saw the Carducci quartet they were mesmerized by their sound and invited them to take part in a recording of reimagined Tull classics. No stranger to working with orchestras, Ian has an enduring love of classical music, the essence of which is captured perfectly on this stunning release, each track meticulously selected to work to as a classical arrangement.
The opening track In the Past is instantly recognizable as the classic “Living in the Past”, the omission of vocals barely noticeable such is the skill of the musicians. A beautiful rendition of Sossity Waiting, better known as “Sossity: You’re a Woman” features Ian singing and although it airs on the lugubrious side it is undoubtedly one of my favorites on this release.
Bungle – “Bungle in the Jungle” sounds like a film score on this album – or perhaps it always did but had previously escaped my notice… The lack of vocals here, in my opinion, is an improvement – as musically brilliant as it was in its original form, I never was keen on the lyrics …
Farm the Fourway – “Farm on the Freeway” was the only track on this selection not readily discernible to me and although it’s always been a favorite of mine I considered it to be an unusual choice for a compilation such as this… yet it works.
The mergence [‘mash up’ for our younger readers – editor] of two of what I consider to be the best ever Tull songs – “Songs from the Wood” and “Heavy Horses” is performed as Songs and Horses by the Carducci quartet alone. The melodies of these songs serve to compliment each other perfectly and this is one of the definite highlights of this release. I was further enchanted by Velvet Gold – “Velvet Green” which although lacking in vocals, doesn’t sound overly far removed from its traditional arrangement.
Not surprisingly perhaps, the album concludes with Aquafugue “Aqualung”. A song I could never tire of listening to in any variation, this version seems particularly poignant.
After my first listen to this album I felt compelled to revisit the originals of all the tracks featured here for reasons of comparison. It occurred to me thereafter that the infusion of classical elements has become so synonymous with the music of Jethro Tull that I was finding it hard to differentiate in places.
With the exception of 5 tracks, this release is, for the most part, instrumental. The inclusion of two Christmas songs is a nice touch, Pass the Bottle – “A Christmas Song” features Ian Anderson on Mandolin conjuring up a haunting melody.
Recorded in the crypt of Worcester Cathedral and in St Kenelm’s Church, Sapperton, the overall sound produced by all involved is musical perfection. As uplifting as it is in places, I imagine I detect the slightest hint of melancholy here and there throughout the album.
The String Quartets will be an essential addition to any Tull fans collection. Ian Andersons imagination seems limitless, his compositions timeless. I always look forward to his next project with renewed enthusiasm and this classical album does not disappoint. I’ll be interested to see what musical direction Ian takes next but I would wager that he isn’t too old to rock n’ roll, well not just yet….
Reviewed by Karen Hetherington