News Update – March 2001

I suppose that the most significant news at the moment is the addition of new tour dates on the website. The US dates have been the most recent to be finalised and the European dates are already on sale. Scandinavia will be on sale soon and the UK shows at the end of March.

The choice of the relatively few US shows is based on keeping out of most of the metropolitan centres and concentrating on the suburbs and the outlying areas together with a few festivals in far away places!

We also restricted these two trips to the East Coast and Mid-West to make for easier travel for the band and crew. Really, we wanted to stay out of the US this year but were tempted by a few different venues and cities as well as a few old and recent favourites.

But in 2002, we will be back to North America in earnest with a major touring schedule throughout the summer. Coast to coast, up and down, diagonally and back to front. A geographical nightmare but, hey – it’s a living.

So, I have spent most of the last few weeks sitting at my desk looking through flight and train timetables, checking maps and travel details and answering the mail. A regular 9 – 5 office worker. Actually, I subscribe to the more European and Latin approach: 9 – 1, then lunch and siesta before resuming at 3 or 4pm and working through until maybe 9pm before a late (and quite unhealthy) dinner.

I also had to research and implement the purchase of a new array of digital recording equipment for my studio.  Having stuck with analogue for the multi-tracking until 24 bit resolution was available at the right price and reliability levels, the time was upon me to make the big move. 16 bit recording (the CD standard) is OK but we always knew it had a jarring, harsh and adverse psycho-acoustic effect on the discerning listener. For 15 years, or so, the CD reigned supreme. The vinyl enthusiasts waned but did not quite retire to their cloistered audio enclaves. The smooth analogue dynamics of tape and vinyl were simply not available until the advent of 24 bit digital recording and playback. Of course, you will have to wait until Audio DVD, or some competing system, becomes a meaningful reality to enjoy the real benefits of 24 bit.

In the meantime ‘though, we music makers have to start working in the new format to make available the higher standard later, even if the music is still released on CD for the time being. The advantage of going beyond 24 bit is doubtful: the human ear can only register a limited range of frequencies and dynamic musical change. So I see the next 15 to 20 years being a safe bet in terms of 24 bit, 48khz digital recording. There are champions of 96Khz band-width but I (and the mastering guys at the world famous Abbey Road Studios) think that the 24 bits are the main thing.

very best of tullAnd the Abbey Roadsters should know – especially since they have just re-mastered from the original stereo masters, more than half the Jethro Tull catalogue as part of the work in compiling a “new” Jethro Tull album, imaginatively but literally entitled: The Very Best Of Jethro Tull – 20 tracks on a single CD, and remastered at 24 bit with only three edits! The problem with any compilation of ours is to do with the long tracks.

See what I wrote for the new CD liner notes:

Some words from the aging flautist, wit and wag.

Over the years, Jethro Tull’s hefty output of albums has included many stand-out tracks which epitomise the different styles and eras of our work.

I used to think that compilations or “best-of” albums were a bit of a cheap shot. You know: cash in on the odd hit single and album title- track to attract the less than committed-not-quite-a-fan at the checkout counter of  Thrifty Super-Saver (laundrette and deli).

Then a weird thing happened: a few years ago, I found myself mostly buying other artists’ best-of albums to get the cream of the crop on one disc or, perhaps, to get the flavour of a band with whom I was only partially familiar. From The Stranglers and Pink Floyd to the creations of Irish , Palestinian or Western Classical musicians, my CD collection must be 50% compilation adventures into both familiar and other more dizzyingly different musical worlds.

Oh well, if I can be so lazy as to let someone else do the choosing……

I think it all has to do with intelligent choice of programme. Find the really indicative songs. Pick the pieces which sum up a given style or specific era within the artist’s career. 

If you asked most serious Tull fans to come up with their ideal track- listing to fit into 74 minutes, there would be, no doubt, as many frighteningly different suggestions as there were fans.

On this Very Best Of Jethro Tull compilation, I think we have got as close as possible to a broad representation of the big picture. Some of these songs are not amongst my personal all time favourites, I admit – but then there are time constraints on tracks which are a tad on the long side and would not happily suffer ruthless editing. And a few of my personal choices might be a little obscure and not, perhaps, as typically Tull as to give a fair representation of the band’s more mainstream efforts. But, all in all, I am pretty damn pleased with the selection we have arrived at. Not at all easy when you have to leave out so many fine moments.

And, of course, a few spectacular duds.

To run the tracks in chronological order might have been a way to go – but sequencing in a looser and more musical fashion felt much better. Mixing up the tempos, key and time signatures made, I think, for a more interesting programme. 

Taking the opportunity to re-master from the original tapes has given a fresh and much more hi-fi 24-bit digital re-recreation of the original analogue tape sound. 

As part of the re-mastering at EMI’s famous Abbey Road Studios (in front of which Sir Paul McCartney still crosses the road every weekday on the stroke of noon – except Bank Holiday Mondays), there had to be a couple of edits in order to fit in longer tracks.  Oh, all right – three:  Too Old To R&R, Minstrel and Heavy Horses had to be snipped. It was for their own good, honest. Stop them straying at night. Or getting into fights with other Prog Rock, Folk Rock, Art Rock, Hard and Soft Rock or even Ba Roque songs who roam as restless rivals through city streets and country lanes alike, looking for lesser ditties to bash.

Actually, I just looked up the definition of Baroque. “Bold, vigorous and exhuberent style………degenerating into tasteless extravagance in ornament…” is suggested by Chambers Dictionary.

All right. Fair cop. I might have been there just once or twice – OK? But what fun.

I would guess that in years to come there might be a few additions or replacements to our “Very Best Of” list of songs but – we won’t make you buy them all over again.  Not just yet.

Ian Anderson.

Somewhere near a town in England

In the early months of 2001. 

This new EMI release will be available from 14th May in Europe and soon after in the USA. I’ve ordered my copy already and one for each of the band members so they can learn some of the best old songs which we haven’t played for a while.

Andy Giddings will be tearing out someone else’s hair trying to figure out the piano parts. Martin Barre will be trying out moves in front of the mirror. Doane Perry will have sleepless days drumming in his mind (safest place if you ask me) while Jonathan Noyce just plays quieter and hopes no one notices the bum notes.

I, on the other hand, will be note-perfect and barely rehearse a chorus being such a wonderful and talented musical sophisticate. I wish. Learning old stuff is like riding a bike. You just jump on after years of neglect and pedal away! Only to fall off in spectacular abandon at the first pothole in the road.

Anyway, those of you who have the entire Tull collection will find nothing new here except, perhaps, the improved sound quality.  But if you are a Tull novice or want to have a concise and essential collection on one convenient disc, then this has to be good value and a handy Tull reference for the grandchildren.

IA

7th March 2001.