Jethro Tull

The Broadsword and the Beast

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The cover of this first actual Jethro Tull album since 1979's Stormwatch depicts Ian Anderson as an elf-warrior, with wings and a sword, and a ship with a stylized Norse dragon's head. Anyone expecting a fantasy or heavy metal album was due for a disappointment, however, for most of the songs that have any identifiable references are about topical politics more than anything else. Martin Barre's electric guitars share the spotlight for the first time with Peter-John Vettesse's synthesizers, and Anderson is still playing lilting tunes on his flute and acoustic guitar. Tull's electric sound, this time in the hands of ex-Yardbird Paul Samwell-Smith, is smoother, less heavy, and more thinly textured than their past work, and there are times -- most especially on "Flying Colours" -- where they could almost pass for the latter-day Moody Blues, something the band never would have permitted in earlier days (though if the Moodies could rock this hard and fast, it would be an achievement -- for them!). "Broadsword" and "Pussy Willow" are easily the two best songs here, and not coincidentally the two that owe the most to traditional folk music in their structure. Most of the rest is little better than tuneless drivel.

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