What does it sound like?:
It’s the latest Steven Wilson remix of the Tull back catalogue, and it sounds fantastic. Interestingly they were unable to find all the original multi tracks of the album sessions, so only 5 tracks from the original album received the Wilson remix treatment here. Fear not however – amongst the extras is a TV special filmed for the Beeb where the union rules of the time required the band to re-record the music, and happily these multi tracks are present and correct and sounding sparkly after the Wilson magic has been applied. Pause and think about that for a moment.….they re-recorded the whole flipping album, in a couple of days, for a TV show. Lucky other prog bands, used to taking 18 months to produce their latest magnum opus, weren’t into making TV specials! This is an oddity on the Tull canon, being the album most fans of the band are a bit “meh” about…originally including this reviewer. The packaging of the original album was terrific, with a full strip cartoon telling the story of Ray Lomax, an old school un-reconstituted rocker who finds himself out of place and time but who, by a series of chance events, finds himself back in vogue. The box set does this high standard proud, with extra tracks recorded for the stage show. I never fail to be amazed at the volume and quality of music the Tull have, unreleased, which they didn’t release for whatever reason. There’s a 5.1 mix, a flat transfer of the original album master, and the aforementioned DVD of the TV special (featuring Pan’s Person Cherie Gillespie dancing to “Salamander”…).
What does it all *mean*?
Back in ’76, after the pinnacles of “Aqualung’, “Thick as a Brick”, “A Passion Play” (yes, it was a pinnacle, civilians) and “Minstrel”, TOTRR seemed a bit, well, ordinary. Any old band can knock out a decent set of acoustic and electric numbers, eh? Well, true, but like all things Tull, there was more to it than there seemed, even if it takes a few decades to realise it. This was Ian Anderson’s move to write a stage show, so it is designed more as a narrative, building to a singalongaclimax on “The Chequered Flag”. There are quiet moments, moving moments, loud punchy bits – but unfettered from the need to blow everyone’s (centre parted) hair back on every number, IA focussed on depth, on lyrics, on telling a story. Spotty 17 year olds don’t “get” this (well, this one didn’t, anyway). Listening to it now these are, in fact, cracking tunes and quite different from what went before and what was to come (many a fan’s fave “Songs from the Wood” was a year down the road, and there are shadows of the arrangements and harmonic structure of that album here if you know what you’re listening for. “Heavy Horses” classic’s “One brown mouse” appears in the extras in an early incarnation. Watching the TV special, which is quite hilarious in parts (Ian Anderson’s prancing in outrageous “glam rock” outfit is a seriously “un-see, un-see” moment), I was struck by the irony of a band who played like a dream and didn’t take themselves remotely seriously being slowly circled by gobbing, proudly inept musicians, who took themselves very seriously. Mind you, the popular theory that this was IA putting up the white flag in the face of the New Wave is clearly wrong as the album was written in 1975 when the likes of Mick Jones and John Lydon were still in their bedrooms listening to Mott the Hoople, Led Zeppelin and Neil Young like proper teenagers.
Goes well with…
The DVD TV Special went very well with the first fire of the year, a glass of heavy red and the contentment of knowing Mrs.T was off socialising in town and his nibs was slumbering in the pit. The album goes with anything…I played the whole set today on a long drive and sang along loudly all the way.
Might suit people who like…
At this point no reissue is going to win the mighty Tull many new fans – most people have taken their position, even if they wrongly and hilariously group them with the likes of ELP as “bad” prog, showing that in fact they haven’t actually listened to them at all. I’ll say it might suit people who like the Tull who have never given it a proper play. There’s a lot to enjoy here.