Jethro Tull

Nothing Is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970

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This release is a bit like stepping into a time warp -- before they were a folk-rock band and before they were a progressive rock or art rock band, Jethro Tull were pretty much a loud rock & roll band working from a blues base, with a few elements of jazz and folk thrown in, and that's mostly what you've got there. The dominant instrument is Martin Barre's heavily amplified, chord-driven lead guitar playing, which crunches and slashes with the best of them on most of this performance -- Ian Anderson's vocals, flute, and acoustic guitar are present, to be sure, and they find a balance on the then-new song "My God," but even at the their folkiest and droning-est, Tull were still a hard rock band in those days with an irresistible propulsive force in their work. At their best, as on "With You There to Help Me" (which finds room for rippling lead guitar passages, folk melodies, and elegant piano playing by John Evan), the results are as good as anything in their core Chrysalis Records output. The other notable aspect of this show is how far back it reaches for its repertory -- if "My God" represents the newest material, then "Dharma for One" (featuring killer drumming by Clive Bunker), along with "My Sunday Feeling," carries you back to the group's roots, and these are bracing experiences to hear years later. Not everything here works entirely -- the encore, of "We Used to Know" and "For a Thousand Mothers" -- almost degenerates into a bunch of noise, but pulls together at the last moment; and a film of the event might have been preferable, if one existed, in terms of capturing some of the group's visual presentation.

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