Saturday, February 10, 2018

Jethro Tull - 1968 [1987] "This Was"

This Was is the debut album by the British progressive rock band Jethro Tull, released in 1968. Recorded at a cost of £1200, it is the only Jethro Tull album with guitarist Mick Abrahams, who was a major influence for the sound and music style of the band's first songs. When the album was released the band was already performing at the Marquee Club in London, where other successful British groups, such as the Rolling Stones and The Who, had started their careers.

While vocalist Ian Anderson's creative vision largely shaped Jethro Tull's later albums, on This Was Anderson shared songwriting duties with Tull's guitarist Mick Abrahams. In part due to Abrahams' influence, the album incorporates more rhythm and blues and jazz influences than the progressive rock the band later became known for. In particular:

The music to "My Sunday Feeling", "Some Day the Sun Won't Shine for You", "Beggar's Farm" and "It's Breaking Me Up" are based on blues progressions, with "Some Day the Sun Won't Shine for You" arranged similarly to Big Bill Broonzy's blues standard "Key to the Highway".
"Cat's Squirrel" (included in the album "because people like it", according to the liner notes) was written by Doctor Ross and covered as an instrumental by numerous 1960s British blues bands, including the supergroup Cream. Abrahams would later perform the song in his post-Jethro Tull blues band Blodwyn Pig.
The album includes a cover version of Roland Kirk's jazz standard "Serenade to a Cuckoo". According to the liner notes, "Cuckoo" was one of the first tunes Ian Anderson learned to play on the flute.
The coda of "My Sunday Feeling" incorporates quotes from two well-known jazz tunes, Henry Mancini's "Pink Panther Theme" (specifically the song's bass line, played as a short solo by Glenn Cornick) and Nat Adderley's and Oscar Brown, Jr.'s "Work Song".
This Was also contains the only Jethro Tull lead vocal not performed by Ian Anderson on a studio album, in "Move on Alone". Mick Abrahams, the song's author, provided vocals on the track; David Palmer provided the horn arrangement.

Abrahams left Jethro Tull following the album's completion in a dispute over "musical differences". Thus, the album's title probably refers to Abraham's' blues influence on the album and how blues weren't the direction Anderson wanted the band to go. As said in the liner notes of the original record, "This was how we were playing then – but things change – don't they?"

The song "Dharma for One", a staple of Tull's early concerts (usually incorporating an extended drum solo by Clive Bunker), was later covered by Ekseption, Pesky Gee! and The Ides of March. This song featured the "claghorn", an instrument invented by Jeffrey Hammond. Anderson also claims to have invented the instrument.

Jethro Tull was very much a blues band on their debut album, vaguely reminiscent of the Graham Bond Organization only more cohesive, and with greater commercial sense. The revelations about the group's roots on This Was -- which was recorded during the summer of 1968 -- can be astonishing, even 30 years after the fact. Original lead guitarist Mick Abrahams contributed to the songwriting and the singing, and his presence as a serious bluesman is felt throughout, often for the better: "Some Day the Sun Won't Shine for You," an Ian Anderson original that could just as easily be credited to Big Bill Broonzy or Robert Johnson; "Cat's Squirrel," Abrahams' big showcase, where he ventures into Eric Clapton territory; and "It's Breaking Me Up," which also features some pretty hot guitar from Abrahams. Roland Kirk's "Serenade to a Cuckoo" (the first song Anderson learned to play on flute), their jazziest track ever, is one of the best parts of the album. The drum solo on "Dharma for One" now seems like a mistake, but is understandable in the context of the time in which it was done. The one number here that everybody knows, "A Song for Jeffrey," almost pales amid these surroundings, but at the time it was a superb example of commercial psychedelic blues. This would be the last album of its kind by the group, as Abrahams' departure and the lure of more fertile inspiration tugged them toward English folk music. Curiously, the audio mix here is better than that on their second album, with a much stronger, harder group sound overall. In late 2001, This Was was reissued in a remastered edition with much crisper sound and three bonus tracks. The jazzy improvisation "One for John Gee" (a reference to the manager of the Marquee Club), the folky "Love Story" (which marked the end of Mick Abrahams' tenure with the group), and the novelty piece "Christmas Song" have all been heard before but, more to the point, they're worth hearing again, especially in the fidelity they have here.

In June 1968, just before this album was recorded, Jethro Tull began a residency at London’s famed Marquee Club (where the ‘Stones and The Who also launched their careers). Band advisers failed to get Ian to give up the flute and let Mick do all the singing. The album was recorded without any record company contract presuming, correctly, that a deal could be made afterwards.

Tull began their first US tour in January 1969, immediately after securing the services of guitarist Martin Barre.

The album had little commercial impact in the US charts (#62) but the U.S. tour did earn the band a strong cult following.

Track listing:

01 My Sunday Feeling 3:38
02 Some Day The Sun Won't Shine For You 2:42
03 Beggar's Farm 4:19
04 Move On Alone 2:00
05 Serenade To A Cuckoo 6:01
06 Dharma For One 4:11
07 It's Breaking Me Up 4:56
08 Cat's Squirrel 5:36
09 A Song For Jeffrey 3:18
10 Round 0:50

Personnel:

Ian Anderson – lead vocals (1–3, 7, 9), flute, mouth organ, "claghorn", piano
Mick Abrahams – guitar, backing and lead (4) vocals, nine-string guitar
Glenn Cornick – bass guitar
Clive Bunker – drums, hooter, charm bracelet

3 comments:

  1. http://www49.zippyshare.com/v/OMY87lTD/file.html

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  2. Well played! I imagine like many, I had to go back into their catalog for this, having become aware of them in 1970-71. It was a bit of a let down there, but it's certainly aged well and over time became a favorite in it's own way. Good choice Crim.

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  3. An all-time favorite, and the only Tull record I ever warmed to.

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