Jethro Tull Treats us to The String Quartets

The String Quartets

Jethro Tull

BMG, 2017

When bands get an itch to add strings, and re-think their most famous works as would be classical numbers, it’s jtull CVRusually a., an indulgence of ego, and b., an unnecessary and avoidable disaster.

Jethro Tull is a different animal however. No stranger to classical and medieval musical themes, Jethro Tull tackled jazz, progressive rock before it had a name, and was present when heavy metal, lumbered forth like an angry giant awakened, even earning a Grammy in said category in 1989. So trying on something different is nothing new. This time around Ian Anderson has enlisted the Carducci Quartet, which was arranged and orchestrated by Welsh composer John O’Hara.

Largely an instrumental album, there are snippets of Anderson’s vocals scattered throughout. The selections translate well to the new form, “We Used to Bach (We Used to Know / Bach Prelude C Major) is one of the songs that works best here. It flits along lightly, passing as a cool breeze on a warm afternoon. “Songs and Horses (Songs From the Woods/ Heavy Horses)” combines the two songs and feels shrewdly mischievous. “Loco (Locomotive Breath)” is one of the few numbers that feels almost shoehorned into the medium, but it’s still fun to hear it re-imagined..

This collection was recorded in several cathedrals and crypts rather than a traditional studio, adding to the overall mood of the final recording. The string quartet is often augmented by guitar, or piano, and Anderson’s own flute playing. For a man who has covered so much musical ground with his career, it feels natural he should explore this and do so exceptionally well.