News Update: February 2003

Well, no news is, in this case, good news.
The last few weeks have shot by, with all of the Tullboys-true engaged in all kinds of chores – both creative  – and domestic.

Doane has been at home in LA looking after his wife Heather, who has endured a bad health patch but is now on the mend. Best wishes to Heather for a speedy return to full and rosy health. Doane has a couple of weeks to get his studio in order before recording his drums and percussion parts on the some of the tracks from the new Tull Christmas album. But more of that later.

Martin has been working on his new solo album and rewarded himself with a skiing holiday in the Rockies. He claims to have recorded most of the backing tracks and you might learn more, in due course, from www.martinbarre.com Martin’s new and operating website. He and Andy have convened to run through some of the preparatory tunes and arrangements for the new Tull album – but more of that later.

Jonathan has been the mystery man, with a sojourn or three to sunny Italy and looks forward to resuming work with Tull next week in the studio – but more of that later.

Andrew Giddings has a full datesheet of activity with production jobs on some new talent as well as the preparation for the Tull album (more of that later), some of which will be recorded at his own studio.

I, my good self, have been to Germany two weeks ago to do some promo TV and radio dates with Leslie Mandoki and his all-star cast of vagabonds. Al Di Meola and Bill Evans jetted in from the USA to provide guitar and sax accompaniments while I attempted to keep up with them on the flutey-thing. Chris Thompson (ex-Manfred Blinded By The Light) offered up lead vocal expertise and was joined on one of the nights by Roberto K. Kimball on his “night off” from the Toto tour. Some night off, Bobby! An open sandwich and twenty-three takes of TV playback (although we instrumentalists got to play live some of the time). And to cap it all, he had a 05.00 start the next day and the flight was cancelled. Hope he eventually made it back to Toto-land that evening in no more than three or four frazzled pieces. Our string quartet friends from Budapest were present for gentile textures and their own solo spot.

Normally, Mandoki provides an entertaining dinner on such jaunts, but this time, we worked round the clock and there was no time for anything other than rehearsals, the shows and many a promo interview.

Two of Leslie’s female protégés, Masha and Curly were on hand to spice up the proceedings and promote their own solo albums and Masha has been confirmed to appear as Tull’s opening act on the German dates in June. See www.masha-online.com for more details of this splendid young singer. Brazilian beauty, Jana-Ina performed in Hamburg where I cheekily got her to sing live (instead of playback) to the surprise of all, including herself. I knew she could do it. Could feel it my water, actually. And in the wine glass.

Since January, I have been recording tracks for the new Ian Anderson solo album tentatively titled, The New Ian Anderson Solo Album (yes, I’m kidding) and there are now nine tracks with me (vocals, flutes, guitars, mandolins) almost complete and ready for a few judicious overdubs from the great and the good who aren’t particularly busy during the next few weeks. Pete Townsend and Michael Jackson have other things on their minds, so I guess they won’t be available, for starters. I have another four tracks to do in the next couple of weeks but will be fitting them around the new Tull album recording sessions. But more of that right now!

We are making a Jethro Tull Christmas album of seasonal material for release in November this year. It consists of three new songs, three traditional Christmas carols, four Classical pieces in an acoustic jazz-blues style and re-makes of the four previous Christmas-related Tull classics. I have had a hankering to do such a thing for many years and when Fuel boss, Leonardo Da Fico called a coupla days before Christmas to nervously suggest such a thing, I was able to supply him with the complete tracklist the next day! There have been a few carols which I have fooled around with over the years but only of the musical variety. So with three new songs to put together, it was the work of a week, or two, to get it all ready for the recording sessions soon to take place.

EMI have three re-masters for release next month. A Passion Play, Songs From The Wood and Heavy Horses have been polished up by Peter Mew at Abbey Road and there are bonus tracks plus the CDROM video of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles embodied on the PP disc. Just approved it this morning, in fact.

Check out the new sleeve notes following on from this news sheet.

There are new US tour dates on the site now for Tull in August and additions to the schedule. Two Russian shows in Moscow have been confirmed and one in St. Petersburg. April 11th – 13th. A one-off Ian Anderson Rubbing Elbows show is confirmed for April 18th at the Gosport and Fareham Folk Festival in the UK. Rubbing Elbows US dates in September – November will be announced soon.

There are changes to some dates on the European tour. Local promoter bankruptcy has forced a change from Cologne, Germany to Bonn 20 Km down the road. Tickets already bought will, I am told, be honoured for the new show. Italy has requested a change too but we have yet to determine the feasibility of the flights and associated travel. But it looks like Forli will be switched for another venue and Palermo and Rome may move on a day. Wish they would make up their minds!

We hope to see Willy Porter on some of our US tour dates this August. Discussions are proceeding. Look out for Willy on www.willyporter.com and buy his record.

You will have noticed the new look website with faster downloading and new chat forum. Join in and watch out for band replies – once the guys have figured out how to use it. David Coursey takes care of all the tech stuff and gives Andy Giddings the chance to concentrate on the shows and recordings in this busy upcoming year.

Well, back to the new songs and interviews for a new gardener here at Tull Towers. Check out the re-masters below.

A Passion Play

A+Passion+Play

Following hot on the progressive little heels of Thick As A Brick, Tull decamped to Montreux, Switzerland to develop song ideas for a new and similarly up-beat concept album. TAAB had, of course, been a spoof on the concept album genre and we were set to follow it up with another slightly jokey set of material with a few more musically serious passages thrown in for good measure.

The recording sessions were undertaken in the “Funky Chateau” D’Herouville near Paris. Unfortunately for us, the technical excellence of records by Elton John and Cat Stevens was not to be replicated during our visit.

Endless recording equipment problems and minor bouts of food poisoning dogged our attempts to produce masters. Finally, with only a few relatively unusable sections of the album complete – or nearly so – we gave up our recently won Swiss residence status and fled home to the welcoming embrace of the British Tax man.

Rather than re-record or polish up the existing material, we elected to start again with a completely new album and the disruptive recent events gave rise to an altogether darker set of tunes on the soon-to-be-named A Passion Play. Following the theme of post-death meanderings in another world, the record was debuted with concert tours in the UK and USA.

Veteran features writer Chris Welch of Melody Maker and long-time friend of the band, used the moment to avoid professional charges of being altogether too chummy with the likes of us and so, savaged the performance of a work he clearly didn’t like too much anyway. “Play Without Passion” hollered the front page story as it echoed its way around the known universe. One or two eminent US critics followed the example and we were on the back foot for the first time in our musical lives.

Of course, Chris later declared that he “might have over-reacted a bit” but the damage was done. A naughty deal was cut by manager Terry Ellis with “Uncle” Ray Coleman, editor of Melody Maker, to trade the scoop on a “Tull Quit” story in return for another front page in MM the next week. I wish Terry had remembered to tell us first! We were left feeling and looking pretty stupid having apparently resigned in a fit of pique whereas, in reality, there had never been a moment of such thought as far as the band were concerned. We rather liked our new record and thoroughly enjoyed performing it live in concert.

Here then is the re-mastered end result which courted such controversy. Not the most accessible of Tull albums, for sure, but a slightly weird and instrumentally adventurous concoction which set a few a young progressive-rock wannabes on their way to eventual musical success. Even now, I hear tales of the impression made on young minds by A Passion Play, both then and now, and the badge of honour worn today by the hard line Tull fan who knows everything, is to claim to have listened all the way through, twice.

Doubtless, the bad press rap did us the power of good in providing a natural check in the band’s career development and redirecting us in the context of more conventional songwriting. Later long song structure writing as in Baker Street Muse, Budapest or the Ian Anderson solo Divinities, benefited from the lessons learned. So, to old pal Chris Welch, I dedicate this new sonically improved edition of the infamous PP and trust he will give it another spin for old time’s sake.

Songs From The Wood

songs-from-the-woodAfter a series of unsatisfactory temporary domiciles, ranging from lowly bed-sits to swanky hotel suites, I moved out to the country, as you do, in 1975. Waking up to the sounds of birds, sheep and miaowing kittens set a different tone from the London metropolitan rumble and traffic pollution.

At that time we had a lovable but often infuriating PR man who was allowed to call himself our manager as part of the financial relationship – one Jo Lustig. Jo was a hardnosed American press and promo guy of the old New York school and modelled himself on the many heavyweight and comedy actors who were his pals and professional colleagues.  Anglophile Jo, too, moved from London out to the country in East Anglia and bought for me as a Christmas present, a big book on British folklore and legends. I guess we both were trying to identify with the quaint and elusive country culture which we Townies often crave to have a part of.

Digging deep into the characters and stories, as well as reading up in other works on the mysteries of ley lines, early religion and the like, I soon found the fodder for lyrical and musical invention which was to take Tull into the world of Folk-Rock. Or, so said some of the critics. Really, it just seemed a natural progression from the previous albums and, while inspired by folk tales, it in no way took on the true folk credentials of the Fairports, Steeleye Span and the other stalwarts of the Traditional Folk scene of the seventies. More a case of folky window dressing in a prog-rock shop-front. But, all in all, one of the best ever Tull albums in my opinion.

The rest of the band offered up much in the way of arrangement ideas and a bit of co-writing in many of the instrumental sections. So, like Thick As A Brick, the final assemblage of Songs From The Wood was a co-operative effort from the band as a whole. Funny, really, as I didn’t expect the others to latch on to the slightly twee tales of Jack In The Green or Hunting Girl. But then, with the former, they didn’t have to, as it was all played by me one rainy Sunday afternoon in Morgan Studios, North London. I wrote the piece in the morning, had Sunday lunch with Shona and beetled off to record it while the idea was in my head. I think we even mixed it the same evening. Wow! I wish they all happened so fast! Thanks to Barrie for conveniently leaving his drum kit in the studio. Think I might have brought my own sticks, ‘though.

Looking back, we all had confidence that the record was a good one but the apparent folky flavour might be a stumbling block in those changing years when early punk and other returns to rock roots threatened to marginalize us more musical and aesthetic types. At any rate, the response from Tull fans was a good one and even in the UK, a bolstering of Tull’s fortunes kept us on track as a major touring and recording band.

The detail and finer points of instrumentation in the recording are more evident in this re-master. Complex vocal harmonies abound. Mandolins and electric guitars sit down together for game pie washed down with Port. Peterson pipes belch their foul but seductive manly odours. Martin Barre is driving an outsize Bentley. I wrestle with an ancient Land Rover through muddy tracks and over the high Chiltern Hills of Buckinghamshire. I sleep with a feral farm cat named Mistletoe. (Found him squeaking under a cattle trough just before Christmas.) We fire our PR man.

Old Jo Lustig passed away suddenly just a couple of years ago and I like to think he might have enjoyed some memories rekindled by this music. Crazy man Lustig. Boy, he pissed me off sometimes. Dedicated to you, Jo. Sleep on.

Heavy Horses

heavy-horsesAfter the whimsical folklore-enshrined material on the 1976 release, Songs From The Wood, a more contemporary and pragmatic set of lyrics emerged from The Country Life a year later.

The title track bemoaned the loss of the traditional Shire Horse in Britain’s agricultural practices. ….And The Mouse Police Never Sleeps spoke of dark and feral behaviour from the domestic moggies on our farm. Acres Wild championed the roaming of the wilderness north of Scotland’s Highlands and Islands. No Lullaby expressed the fears of bogeymen and flickering shadows for the infant child tucked up in its lonely bed. “Moths consumed by candle flame in suicide love pact”, screamed the title headline on song four. The commuters’ daily return from metropolis to rural retreat rattled its announcement through Journeyman.

The general tenor of the whole album is the reality, rather than the myth, of country living. Although continuing to be all done up in a folk-rock coat of many colours, the songs have a setting which relies, not on historical perspectives, but on the rural landscape of Britain in the seventies. Full of contradictions and yet holding up still the values of tradition and country culture so prevalent, then and now, in our ever-so-slowly-changing countryside.

Ex-Curved Air violinist, Darryl Way, joined us for solos in the title track and Robin Black, as always Tull’s long-serving engineer, twiddled knobs and shoved faders. Robin began as a lowly tape operator (euphemism for tea-boy) on the Stand Up album before getting the top job on the Benefit release in the following year. Missing for Aqualung but rejoining the team all the way from Thick As A Brick through to Broadsword in 1982, Robin shaped the band’s sound on record and taught me all I needed to know about engineering music in the studio.

The first album to be recorded in my newly-built London studio, Maison Rouge, Heavy Horses was the guinea pig during the inevitable shake-down of shiny and sophisticated equipment recently installed. Compared to the awful teething troubles of Island Records Studios during the Aqualung sessions and the difficulties of working in the Chateau D’Herouville in the pre-Passion Play debacle, Maison Rouge, under Robin’s management, worked like a dream.

With additional musical contributions from Martin Barre and David Palmer, the songs have their little intricacies but without overshadowing the relatively simple structures of the basic tunes and lyrics.

Here, on the re-mastered version of 2003, we hear at last on CD the sparkling detail of the original master tapes – fresh from the vaults and dedicated to Robin Black for his endless hours of patience, encouragement and good humour.

Ian Anderson

February 2003