Jethro Tull

Nightcap: The Unreleased Masters 1973-1991

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This double CD is a true gift to hardcore fans, offering previously unseen glimpses of Jethro Tull when the group was at its absolute peak. Anyone else, however, may find the album rough going, for while the group was never tighter or more productive, the material isn't even second-rate. Essentially, Nightcap is Jethro Tull's version of the Beatles' Anthology releases. The first disc consists of tracks that the band started to record during 1973 -- the best parts of this material ended up being rewritten and incorporated into what became A Passion Play. These outtakes are pretty at times, but also unformed and distinctly unfinished -- Anderson takes a gorgeous classical guitar solo on "First Post," but then the song drifts off, and "Tiger Toon" is an early version of the principal theme from "A Passion Play," not altered too much except in tempo. "Critique Oblique" offers material that made up the louder, later sections of "A Passion Play," with some impressive playing from Martin Barre on lead guitar and John Evan on organ -- except that it goes nowhere for nine minutes; "Post Last" is an early version of the "Passion Play" finale. The 1974 outtakes and rare tracks that comprise the second disc are less problematic because they are less fragmentary. "Piece of Cake" is one of the best pieces of straight-ahead rock & roll that the band ever cut, so solid and straightforward that but for the presence of the flute it might not even sound like Jethro Tull. "Crew Nights," "The Curse," and "Hard Rider" aren't far behind, and there are other fine tracks here, more than compensating for the aimless noodling and pointless profundity that rear their heads elsewhere. And "Broadford Bazzar" is about the prettiest folk-style tune Anderson and company ever came up with. [British import.]

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