Lines join in faint discord as the Stormwatch brews

Currently listening to: Stormwatch and A by Jethro Tull. These are the remastered editions. Both bear the logo of hate but I bought them anyway, because they are still very attractive to me as a long-standing Tullie overall.
Buyer Beware though: both albums had tracking errors on my Diskman. The DVD player can cope with them fine.

Stormwatch is the last of a trio of folky-sounding albums, but it’s much darker than its predecessors. Ian Anderson played much of the bass guitarhimself and I love his angular approach to the instrument. It doesn’t sound like any other bassist I know. All the other instrumental playing is excellent. However, the record is let down by the songwriting, which doesn’t have the fluency of Tull’s best efforts.

A, which I already had an original release CD of, is a much more interesting album musically. The arrival of three new musicians gave the group more of an edge, and the sound was unmistakably fresh and new. The apocalyptic tone of “Protect and Survive” and “Fylingdale Flyer” fit the mood of the time very well, and these songs still stand today. Unlike Stormwatch, A has no bonus tracks, but instead has a bonus DVD containing the long-unavailable “Slipstream” video.
What’s annoying about all concert recordings from Tull is Anderson’s tendency to a) tinker with the recording in the studio, re-doing much of the vocals, and b) in the case of videos, the misguided urge to make them “more than just a concert registration”, which leads to the interpolation of staged video fragments, recordings from other sources and the use of cheesy effects. Living With The Past was marred by this, but the problem, if anything, was worse with Slipstream, where the concert footage is rudely interrupted by a music video set to “Sweet Dream” off the Bursting Out album, and another one of the then-current band performing a cheesy mime act to “Too Old to Rock’n’Roll, Too Young To Die”, recorded five years earlier by a different line-up of the group. On the up side, the concert footage itself is excellent, and one other video, for “Fylingdale Flyer” is actually moderately interesting. The package as a whole is more than satisfying.

2 replies on “Lines join in faint discord as the Stormwatch brews”

  1. Stormwatch is a fine album, but Heavy Horses and (especially) Songs From the Wood have long been my personal Tull favorites. The last time I broke out Stormwatch I was amused by some dated references in the songs, such as “a needle on a spiral in a groove” and “as the white dot flickers, and is gone.”

    A is… well, I’m glad I own it, and it has a couple of outstanding pieces, but it doesn’t have the organic feel that I expect from Tull (which isn’t too strange, since it started out as a solo project for Ian). I tend to listen to it less frequently.

    I’m very disappointed to hear about the copy protection. Copy protection didn’t work with Apple ][ floppy-disk software in the ’70s, and it’s naive to think it will solve the industry’s problems today.

  2. Copy protection stinks, but I have decided against an all-out boycott of it. It’s just one more thing for me to factor into whether I want the record or not.
    I do think “A” is the stronger album overall. “Stormwatch”, as I said, didn’t have the songwriting quality, plus the band was becoming a bit predictable.

    I just did a quick A/B of the two editions and while the difference in sound quality doesn’t jump at you, the new version is livelier-sounding and less grainy, making listening to the album a more pleasant experience. I wonder if the next batch of albums (presumably Broadsword and the Beast, Under Wraps and Crest of a Knave) will show a marked improvement. One additional problem is that the recording quality drops starting with Under Wraps because Anderson started recording at home and without an outside producer.

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