Martin Lancelot Barre (now 74) has been known for years as the guitarist and trustworthy companion of founder/singer/flutist Ian Anderson with the English folk/prog rock band Jethro Tull. It came like a bolt from the blue for the loyal right hand of the master when Anderson decided in 2011 to disband the group. In interviews, he does not hide his dismay about this decision. But Barre is not a man to give up easily. Alongside Tull, he always had a modest solo career, eight solo albums have now been released, and he has simply picked up and expanded from there. With his own Martin Barre Band he toured extensively through Europe and the United Kingdom, the bulk of the material naturally consisting of songs from the extensive catalogue of the famous band supplemented with some of his own songs. By the way, he only joined forces with Jethro Tull in 1969, for second album Stand Up, in which year he replaced original guitarist Mick Abrahams (and shortly Tony Iommi). He played on all Jethro Tull albums with the exception of the debut, This Was. Anderson decided against all odds to revive Tull in 2017, Barre received no invitation. So he decided to celebrate his 50th anniversary with the band with original Tull members Dee (David) Palmer and Clive Bunker with a US tour. And because Anderson was no longer there, Barre decided to decorate the room himself.
Voilà, the basis for the release of 50 Years of Jethro Tull has been laid. Is this a shameless rip-off of the original material, without the characteristic voice and flute playing of its all-consuming founder? None of that, on the contrary, Barre sees an opportunity to provide the well known material with his own colour. The guitar remains central, how could it be otherwise. The songs receive a varied treatment: at one time there is a distinct acoustic ‘feel’, a ‘folky’ approach follows suit and sometimes (more often) it’s all electric blues-rock. If you then alternate lead vocals between female and male voices, you have the recipe for an extremely varied dish, served with enough spice to resist boredom. Now and then the comparison with British contemporaries Wishbone Ash, also blessed with a decent blues background, arises. This is especially the case on songs with guitar duets, played in unison.
In short, these are the ingredients for Barre’s new double album, with 28 songs and a total playing time of 110 minutes. In addition, the most obvious repertoire was not always chosen: Barre would rather be inspired by relatively unknown songs in addition to a single crowd pleaser, which certainly enhances the authenticity of the offerings. The guitarist’s style can be described as a combination of blues and heavy metal, heavy blues so to speak. His interaction with extravagant frontman Ian Anderson is unparalleled and legendary. Illustrious musicians such as Joe Bonamassa, Mark Knopfler and Ritchie Blackmore count themselves among fans of Barre.
Originally released in 2019, the album is now re-released with four live-recorded bonus tracks from an upcoming DVD recorded in May 2019 at The Wildley, Illinois, USA.
On the first CD, Martin and his band play live at the Factory Underground studio. They mainly play electric versions of well and lesser-known Jethro Tull songs. Barre wrote new arrangements for these songs and the tone is predominantly blues rock. In a limited line-up with only guitar/drums/bass/vocals, the latter taken on by Dan Crisp, who is also featured on (second) guitar. This results in very decent versions of Hunting Girl and New Day Yesterday, among others. It also allows Barre to showcase his distinctive bluesy guitar style.
The second CD mainly features acoustic versions of classical songs from different periods of Jethro Tull’s extensive oeuvre. Especially the songs in which the female vocals of duo Alex Hart and Becca Langsford appear really appeal to me. It takes some getting used to for the die-hard Tull fan to hear songs like Life’s a Long Song, Under Wraps and especially Locomotive Breath with female vocals and without flute, but it sounds fresh and fruity. That is a compliment to the performing musicians as well as to the power of the original compositions. John Carter takes care of the Ian Anderson vocals, like on Still Be Loving You Tonight, he does so without becoming a parody of the original.
The four bonus tracks mainly concern some classics from Jethro Tull’s extensive back catalogue including personal favourites War Child (with beautiful, two-minute, piano intro) and Heavy Horses.
Why someone releases the same album twice in quick succession, with the exception of a number of bonus tracks, is a mystery to me. That does not detract from the fact that this is a pleasant, varied album. Which shows once again how great these legendary songs are. With or without flute.
CD 1: Live At Factory Underground
01. My Sunday Feeling (3:32)
02. For A Thousand Mothers (4:33)
03. Hymn 43 (3:31)
04. Love Story (4:11)
05. Sealion (4:07)
06. Song For Jeffrey (3:42)
07. Back to the Family (4:05)
08. Nothing To Say (5:44)
09. Hunting Girl (5:35)
10. Teacher (4:53)
11. Steel Monkey (3:46)
12. Nothing Is Easy (4:58)
13. New Day Yesterday (4:50)
Time – 57:27
CD 2: Studio Tracks
01. Wond’ring Aloud (1:53)
02. Someday The Sun Won’t Shine (2:02)
03. Life Is A Long Song (3:29)
04. Cheap Day Return (1:30)
05. Under Wraps (3:06)
06. One White Duck (2:20)
07. Still Loving You Tonight (4:54)
08. The Walking Edge (3:17)
09. Home (3:16)
10. Locomotive Breath (4:09)
11. Slow Marching Band (3:28)
~ Bonus tracks:
12. Warchild (5:32)
13. Bungle in the Jungle (3:45)
14. Heavy Horses (6:20)
15. Songs from the Wood (3:21)
Time – 52:22
Total Time – 109:49
Martin Barre – Guitars, Mandolin, Mandola, Flute, Hammond Organ
Dan Crisp – Vocals, Guitars (CD 1)
Alan Thomson – Bass, Vocals (CD 1)
Darby Todd – Drums (CD 1)
Alex Hart – Vocals (CD 2)
Becca Langsford – Vocals (CD 2)
John Carter – Vocals (CD 2)
Paddy Blight – Bass, Double Bass (CD 2)
Josiah J. – Keyboards (CD 2)
Frank Mead – Flute (CD 2, track 9)
Record Label: The Store For Music
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 6th November 2020
– 50 Years of Jethro Tull (2020)
– MLB – 50 Years of Jethro Tull (2019)
– Roads Less Travelled (2018)
– Back to Steel (2015)
– Order of Play (2014)
– Away With Words (2013)
– Stage Left (2003)
– The Meeting (1996)
– A Trick of Memory (1994)
– A Summer Band (1992)