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Saturday, July 05, 2008

DVD Review: Jethro Tull - Jack in the Green - Live in Germany

Jethro Tull - Jack in the Green - Live in Germany
2008 Eagle Rock Entertainment, Ltd.
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

By now Jethro Tull should be let off the hook for upping Metallica at the 1989 Grammy Awards for their album Crest of a Knave, which most heavy metal fans who watched the awards expecting Metallica to be a lock still to this day balk at with adamant fury. Though Metallica will go down in the hard rock and heavy metal compendiums as larger-than-life figureheads now on the same scale of scrutiny as Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple, one should take into serious consideration the diverse and by-and-large more complex music of Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull. When you consider Aqualung is regarded as much of an indispensable rock album as Metallica’s Master of Puppets, Tull should also be noted for such risky and intricate albums that have their own influences on heavy metal such as Heavy Horses, Stand Up, Benefit and Thick As a Brick. Analyzed closely, these albums can be said to have as much contributing influence upon prog metal as Yes or Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Let us also not forget that Metallica did a cover of Jtthro Tull's “Cross-Eyed Mary” for irony sake, if not simply a goodwill gesture. While we’re on the metal band cover tune sweepstakes, we can give W.A.S.P. mention for their solid take on Tull’s “Locomotive Breath.”

Jack in the Green – Live in Germany is one of the more unique music DVD enterprises as it corrals a cluster of Jethro Tull performances exclusively from Germany. Culminated largely from performances in 1982 and 1986, Jack in the Green also dishes up a couple of jazzy live tracks recorded in 1993 as well as the DVD’s crown jewels, a pair of vintage cuts from 1971, “With You There to Help Me” from Benefit and Stand Up’s “Nothing Is Easy.” While Jack in the Green could’ve taken the easy route and dug up as many Aqualung tracks as it could, only the title song and “Locomotive Breath” make an appearance here. What’s especially cool about the DVD is that it offers a broader-scoped view of Jethro Tull's catalog, and even if you still think Ian Anderson’s spritely flute isn’t metal enough, by the time you’ve seen “Hunting Girl,” “Locomotive Breath” and of course “Jack in the Green,” you’ll have caught the bug as many Tull fans have done over the years.

Even as they take the stage in the 1982 “Rockpop In Concert” segment on the DVD dressed in fantastical Medieval gear for The Broadsword and The Beast tour, just watching Ian Anderson bob around enthusiastically like he’s commanded by internal switches and twitches is something to behold. As malleable a musician as his shotgun partner Martin Barre, Anderson’s ability to change gears and constantly move to Jethro Tull's demanding involvedness is not only shrewd, but it’s also a convincing display of craft that reveals days and nights of obviously caffeinated writing and recording sessions. Coupled with the recently-released Live at Montreaux 2003, Jack in the Green is a DVD that demands your attention, because even though Jethro Tull may never be put on the same pedestal as Yes or even The Moody Blues, they are one of the mostly quietly-revered technical bands in rock history. They even defied logic and took home the Grammy for Best Metal Performance, go figure...

Rating: ****


Metal Mark said...

Jethro Tull beating Metallica was so funny because it served Metallica right for caring about such a thing. Two years earlier they wouldn't have cared about an award like that. They had started to care about what the mainstream thought about them and their music.

David Amulet said...

Well said, Mark. I don't know what was funnier: that Crest of a Knave (not a bad album, actually, just not as metal as Justice) won the award, or that Metallica FANS, not just the band, cared so much about it.

Tull is a joke to many now--and Ian's worst moments of musical flute masturbation and the band's late 70s/early 80s synthesizer excess may have earned it--but some of the mid-70s stuff is brilliant. Many of the prog metal bands owe a huge debt to Tull, which will probably remain unpaid.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I agree, Mark, nicely done. David, I also agree that Tull will go into their exodus whenever that is with an understated asterisk left behind them, this time not for dubious punctuation

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