Jethro Tull – Live: Bursting Out (The Inflated Edition)

Live: Bursting Out (The Inflated Edition) is the latest classy release in the deluxe edition remasters of classic Jethro Tull albums, which have become ‘must-buys’ for so many fans of this iconic band. Steven Wilson once again oversees the remixing with his usual skill and intuition for the integrity of the source material, and what we ultimately get is one of the greatest live rock albums of the 1970’s presented with crystal clarity and power. After all this time it may be easy for some to forget that in the mid-late 70’s Jethro Tull were an absolutely HUGE band who toured the world, especially America, to great acclaim. When you get this album you can hear (and see) just why they were so renowned as a live rock act.

Jethro Tull - Bursting Out (Inflated Version)

Cards on the table – I got the original vinyl LP ‘way back when’ as a teenager and this has always been one of my fave live rock albums so reviewing this edition is an absolute pleasure. However, not everyone may have such history with this album or even the band. A curious punter relatively unfamiliar with Jethro Tull could ‘Skate away on the Thin Ice of…’ this classic live album and discover much of their history, conveying their unique blend of folk infused heavy rock with elements of expansive prog and even blues… in fact there was no band on Earth that really sounded anything like Jethro Tull did back in the height of their pomp. This live album starts with a thundering intro for a sinister version of No Lullaby, one of the new tracks they were playing from their new 1978 album at the time Heavy Horses. Tull grab the crowd by the lapels and don’t let go for the next two hours, rolling into a heavy take on their early non-album 1969 single Sweet Dream in which Barriemore Barlow’s titanic drums impel the band on powerfully. Throughout the show, and this album, he gives the band such thrust with the crispness of his drums, but also shows his ability to change styles. He does this with great aplomb and subtlety on ‘the small but potent glockenspiel’ on the first of the more acoustic numbers, the delightful Skating Away (On The Thin Ice of the New Day). All the band members skilfully play instruments that they do not normally play on this number, including guitarist Martin Barre on the ‘mighty Marimba’Jack-in-the Green and One Brown Mouse complete the more pastoral, folkie section, and it is testament that a band that could really ROCK also had the touch to perform lighter, more acoustic songs with sensitivity, seemingly able to turn large arenas into more intimate gigs.

Jethro Tull show a completely different side to their personalities with a short but swaggering version of the blues filled A New Day Yesterday from their second album Stand-Up (1969), when they did lean a little more to the blues side at the time. This short blues excursion segues into one of the elements that made Jethro Tull unique in their day – the remarkable and idiosyncratic flute improvisations of Ian Anderson, punctuated with animalistic grunts and cries! It really is something to behold.

‘Let’s see if we can spot the over 25’s in the audience’ is the memorable intro for a thrilling 13-minute version of their Prog epic Thick as a Brick. Editing down from the original album length of 40 minute plus may be sacrilegious for some, but this listener has always loved the lyrical, flowing nature of this brilliant, punchier version which is filled with touching passages of acoustic guitar, followed by rolling waves of bulldozing rock and scintillating electric guitar and keyboard passages, all embroidered with stabs of inimitable Anderson flute melodies. Dare I say it, but some of the flab of the original is cut out in this great slimmed down version, focusing on this epic’s main and best elements, and personally I could NEVER tire of hearing this perfection… except these days we might have to say ‘let’s see if we can spot the over 55’s in the readership who remember this song’!

One fond memory I have of the original album are the humorous intros by Ian Anderson. Such speech passages were rather a rarity in many live albums, but it felt as if these interludes gave much more of the atmosphere of the show and showed some of the character of the band – thankfully these all remain in this remastered edition with some added. ‘To lay to rest any rumours that John Glascock is a kinky bastard…’ is the inimitable intro to the galloping rock of Hunting Girl, which does feature some great bass play from the aforementioned Glascock. Anderson is a little more bitter in his intro to the whimsical Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll… which he felt the music critics had erroneously interpreted as an autobiographical number, but in truth it is one of the weaker numbers, particularly with its synth saxophone sound.

Jethro Tull really take off the brakes and roll towards the end of the show like a runaway train as they launch into the blistering instrumental Conundrum, written by Barlow and Barre. Martin Barre is not your typical preening, posing ‘Guitar God’, but boy can he play guitar, and Barlow displays great dexterity on his kit for a brief drum solo. David Palmer (now known as Dee Palmer) introduces the classic Minstrel in the Gallery on the pipe organ before Barre’s stratospheric guitar ushers into that distinctive chugging rhythm and memorable lyrical melody. Ian Anderson is on great vocal and flute form – it is simply one of their best ever songs. However, there’s no rest for the wicked as we turn to their breakthrough early album Aqualung. A flute take on the nursery rhyme ‘Half a Pound of Tu’penny Rice’ opens the door to the Dickensian gothic splendour of Cross-Eyed Mary, which sounds gritty, degrading, filthy… and utterly compelling. It is a great way to finish a breathtaking show of musical excellence and power.

The encore is dominated by the sinister tones of Aqualung which Anderson spits menacingly out in an almost punk-like manner – such a great showman. If that was a show case for Anderson then the star of the show for Aqualung’s Locomotive Breath, after a great piano intro, is Martin Barre who dazzles with some outstanding guitar pyrotechnics… but always serving the song so brilliantly… the Tull Train is definitely running out of control as they career to the end. Anderson growls and sings with such bite, with flashes of flute across the song. The whole show reaches a climax as they segue into a brief rock version of Eric Coates legendary film theme tune The Dambusters March, but they soon soar away from that theme with an exhilarating powerful rock finale with the whole band on fire. They bring everyone back to ground gently with a brief but touching recap of Aqualung with the finishing line ‘it could be anyone’ – indeed.

So that’s a quick summary for any previously unfamiliar with this fine live album. How about the many who are very familiar with the original album?

What’s new or different about this edition, and is it worth shelling out for it all over again?

The first notable difference between the original and ‘Inflated Edition’ are the additional live songs (or part songs) that presumably would not have fit into the old double LP format. The title song of their most recent album at the time, Heavy Horses graces the Inflated Edition. It’s great to hear this piece ‘dedicated to all dobbins everywhere’ with its mixture of light pastoral passages combining with some suitably muscular, hefty sections evoking the odd combination of grace and power seen in those noble animals. However, it is understandable why they omitted it from the original album as it is rather chunky in length and nature, and has yet to fully mature as a live song. What was a complete revelation, as an addition, is the inclusion of a short, fun rocking live instrumental version of their early hit Living in the Past (and playful hints at other tunes) in which Barre really excels on guitars with the ‘sporting gent’ Barlow flying tremendously around the drum kit. This enjoyable excursion segues neatly into a great harmony vocal introduction to Songs from the Wood, which in itself provides another surprise. As someone who knows every note, squeak and fart from the original album it was a complete surprise to now hear that this live version is very similar to the album version of about 5 minutes, whereas the original Bursting Out version was a clever edit of only 2 minutes 40 seconds – it’s a real delight to hear it here in its full glory, especially with the marvellous Living in the Past intro.

The other curiosities that are included as ‘live’ tracks are the ‘Soundcheck Recordings’ which are tacked on at the end of the first 2 live album CD’s. They are largely carbon copies of the songs which they played in the shows and in all honesty do not provide much in the way of new insights – it is doubtful they will be played more than a couple of times as the proper live versions have so much more atmosphere and energy. What are more interesting are two soundcheck recordings of new songs which had not appeared on any album at that point. Evidently Ian Anderson and his band partly used their soundchecks as opportunities to ‘demo’ new songs. The delightfully rustic sounding Botanic Man was intended for a British TV nature programme hosted by naturalist David Bellamy, but it was never used. (Versions of this song have previously been released on the 2018 Heavy Horses deluxe edition). An early instrumental version of 4 W.D. is an embryonic version of the song 4 W.D. (Low Ratio) which appeared 2 years later on the Tull album A. In truth this early version is pretty rudimentary and not a very interesting backing piece – clearly still a work in progress. A slight reservation in this beautifully presented deluxe edition is the tacking on of these additional soundboard recordings at the end of each of the first 2 live CDs, which interrupts the flow of the album / concert. Surely changing the balance of songs on the first 2 CD’s could have allowed these additional recordings to all be positioned at the end of CD 2, where they could be explored out of curiosity without interrupting the flow of the live show? I suspect many will make those changes in their own play lists!

What else may attract those familiar with the original album?

The most entertaining additional facet for this edition is the audio recording and video of the Madison Square Garden show in New York in 1978. The audio is high quality, but the real attraction of this live recording is the video for part of the show (from Thick as a Brick onwards). Apparently, it had been hoped for a worldwide telecast so Jethro Tull played a ‘gig within a gig’ – playing the first 4 numbers to the New York audience and then leaving the stage and then returning as if the gig had just started for the benefit of the joining TV audience. The hoped for worldwide audience did not happen and the broadcast was only shown to the Old Grey Whistle Test TV audience on the BBC in the U.K. – but what a treat they had.  What they see, and this video preserves for us, is a fabulous live performance in which the eccentrically dressed band performed with real brio and showmanship… and frankly John Evan on keyboards and a weird white suit looks absolutely bonkers!! The band is the same as for the original Bursting Out shows, except that Tony Williams had to deputise for John Glascock who was ill, sadly a portent of the fatal combination of a serious heart defect and excessive lifestyle which led to his death soon after in 1979.

The set is very similar to the live concert on the first 2 live discs, although it does commence with a brief instrumental piece from keyboardist David Palmer in Sweet Dream Fanfare. During Anderson’s Flute Solo Improvisation he throws in an instrumental version of the jig Kelpie, which was eventually recorded in the sessions for 1979’s Stormwatch album. Similarly, the instrumental excursion A Single Man, written by Barre and Barlow, is another unusual song for the show which was not recorded in the studio until the later Stormwatch sessions, although it did not appear on the original Stormwatch release. It is interesting to see a top live band using gigs as a testing ground for new material. As interesting as these rarer songs are on this Madison Square Garden gig recording, it is the visually eye catching flamboyance of their appearance allied to their impeccable and powerful performances which makes the inclusion of this extra show so appealing in this deluxe edition. A caustic version of the brilliant My God from Aqualung near the end is different from the main live album, and is a welcome addition to a now familiar setlist, especially when it segues into the show stopping Cross-Eyed Mary.

Steven Wilson has remixed all the discs, for those with the equipment, on a sumptuous surround sound mix in 5.1. He really is a past master at these remixes, respecting the original source material but subtly enhancing and improving the sonic quality and balance for a new generation. The original recording was fine, but Mr Wilson has definitely improved it.

The packaging of these deluxe editions from Jethro Tull really sets the standard for such re-releases, and this is no exception. The Inflated Edition is jam packed with various photos and articles from roadies, journalist Chris Welch, sound engineers and a fascinating interview with Ian Anderson… there’s so much to read and digest… the package is indeed almost as ‘Thick as a Brick’? (I’ll get my coat) – I suggest making a pot of tea and just delving through it!

In the promo for this album Ian Anderson states:

‘A live extravaganza from the 1970’s Jethro Tull… I had to listen through to many shows and pick the best live versions. But much of it was, at least, from the concert in Bern, Switzerland where dear Claude Nobbs came to introduce the band in his inimitable style… The band line-up at this time was a fine-tuned machine and… it serves as a fine testimony for the many wonderful shows we did in the 1970’s, before general touring fatigue and burn-out began a year or so later. Enjoy vintage Tull at its 70’s best!’

Sometimes artists are rather guilty of hyperbole, but for this edition Ian Anderson is spot on. Jethro Tull were an absolutely brilliant live act for much of the 1970’s and they really were in at  their height at that time with a great band all excelling in their own ways, led spectacularly by the flute playing, gravel voiced wizard rock minstrel that was Ian Anderson at his zenith – indeed a ‘singer of these ageless times’.

If you have the original album but wondering whether to also get this version is a question punters will have to judge for themselves, and will depend on personal finances obviously. If you can afford it (or can hint what a fine gift this would make!) then this deluxe edition is worth every penny.

Live Rock albums were rarely better than Bursting Out and this new fabulous ‘Inflated Edition’ takes it on to a completely different level. If you can, get it – After all:

Songs from the Wood make you feel much better.

CD 1

01. Introduction by Claude Nobs
02. No Lullaby
03. Sweet Dream
04. Skating Away (On The Thin Ice Of A New Day)
05. Jack-In-The-Green
06. One Brown Mouse
07. Heavy Horses (full version)
08. A New Day Yesterday
09. Flute Solo Improvisation – (including God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen & Bourée)
10. Living In The Past (Instrumental)
11. Songs From The Wood (full version)
– Soundcheck Recordings:
12. No Lullaby
13. Sweet Dream
14. Heavy Horses
15. Botanic Man (Instrumental)
16. 4 W.D. (Low Ratio) (Instrumental)

CD 2
01. Thick As A Brick
02. Hunting Girl
03. Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die
04. Conundrum
05. Minstrel In The Gallery
06. Cross-Eyed Mary
07. Quatrain
08. Aqualung
09. Locomotive Breath
10. The Dambusters March
– Soundcheck Recordings:
11. Conundrum
12. Quatrain
13. The Dambusters March

CD 3
Live At Madison Square Garden, 1978

01. Sweet Dream Fanfare
02. Sweet Dream
03. One Brown Mouse
04. Heavy Horses
05. Thick As A Brick
06. No Lullaby
07. Flute Solo Improvisation – (including God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen & Kelpie)
08. Songs From The Wood – (including ‘Pibroch’ intro)
09. Quatrain
10. Aqualung
11. Locomotive Breath
12. The Dambusters March
13. A Single Man (including Drum Solo)
14. Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die
15. My God
16. Cross-Eyed Mary

DVD 1 & 2
Same track list as CD 1 and 2 in 5.1 Surround Sound

– Full 93 minutes Audio Recording Of Madison Square Garden 1978 Performance in 5.1 surround sound
Show recording contains 50+ minutes of Video from international TV Broadcast (from ‘Thick as a Brick’ onwards)
– 2 original TV adverts for live album

Ian Anderson – Lead Vocals, Flute & Acoustic Guitar
Martin Barre – Electric Guitar, Mandolin & Marimba
John Evan – Piano, Organ, Accordion & Synthesisers
Barriemore Barlow – Drums & Glockenspiel
David (Dee) Palmer – Portative Pipe Organ & Synthesisers
John Glascock – Bass Guitar & Backing Vocals (CD’s 1 & 2)
~ With:
Tony Williams – Bass Guitar (CD 3: Madison Square Garden Concert)

Label: Parlophone Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 21st June 2024

Studio Albums:
– This Was (1968)
– Stand Up (1969)
– Benefit (1970
– Aqualung (1971)
– Thick As A Brick (1972)
– A Passion Play (1973)
– War Child (1974)
– Minstrel In The Gallery (1975)
– Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll, Too Young To Die (1976)
– Songs From The Wood (1977)
– Heavy Horses (1978)
– Stormwatch (1979)
– ‘A’ (1980)
– The Broadsword And The Beast (1982)
– Under Wraps (1984)
– Crest Of A Knave (1987)
– Rock Island (1989)
– Catfish Rising (1991)
– Roots To Branches (1995)
– J-Tull Dot Com (1999)
– The Jethro Tull Christmas Album (2003)
– The Zealot Gene (2022)
– RökFlöte (2023)

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