A (40th Anniversary La Mode Edition) – Jethro Tull
Well, it’s been well over a year since the release of the Force 10 Edition of Stormwatch and one was not quite sure if Ian Anderson was going to continue re-releasing the Jethro Tull discography in these rather splendid Book Edition Box Sets. A lot of the delay of everything was obviously down to Covid 19 and I was well pleased when I heard back in February this year that the series was continuing and that the bands 40th Anniversary of their 13th studio album “A” was to be released in April this year. It was also even better news to hear from the words of Steven Wilson in an interview that the bands 3rd album Benefit is finally being repackaged and getting the same book treatment. Hopefully, we should see that surface sometime later in the year.
I myself have been collecting these book editions ever since it all started with Thick As A Brick back in 2012 and have them all. That particular package only came with a CD and DVD unlike the other Book Editions that followed the series and like many of these splendid editions, they have gone out of circulation or out of print and are selling for silly money. These days it’s no surprise to see that particular first edition in the series selling for over £400. Like all the editions in the series I pre-order them as soon as I hear they are coming out months in advance from Amazon and have saved quite a fortune by doing so. Three of them cost me no more than £14 including that very first edition.
The good news is that the Jethro Tull Discography is continuing to be re-released in the form of these Book Anniversary Editions. However, the sad news is that Steven Wilson is no longer going to be doing the new mixes and this is the final one he has been involved in. I have no idea who will be mixing the next album Broadsword and the Beast but I do know that it will be coming with 8 Discs. Many of the editions in the series come with an array of extra bonus material and the biggest bonus for myself are the 5.1 surround mixes, and without Wilson, at the helm of the mixes I am going to be missing him tremendously because he has done a superb job on this series and for many other artists and bands in the past.
Just like the previous album Stormwatch which was the last album to feature the classic band line-up. “A” was an album that was never my cup of tea when it got released back in 1980. I thought the written material was quite weak on both albums and Ian Anderson was writing about different subject matters which never really sat in with his earlier writing on those albums from This Was to Heavy Horses.
Personally, for me it was not the changing of the band line-up that really mattered, it was more down to his writing and both of these albums regarding their material have very little to say to me. 40 years later the album Stormwatch still says very little to me and it was the Associated Recordings that really won me over with that box set and the book of course to which I love to read about what was going on back then. The books in all editions are certainly very interesting and play an integral part in why these packages really stand out in relation to many other box sets.
So after 41 years how does the album “A” speak to me today? I am pretty sure it was an album that the biggest majority of Tull fans never had the time of day for and it was never very well received upon its release. However, before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.
The Packaging & Artwork…
As with all these packages, the discs come stored in a hardbound book and everything about these Book Editions is pure quality. Personally, this way of packaging a box set cannot be beaten and neither can its price point with what you get with these Tull Editions. They are also easy to store on the shelf along with your DVD’s and do not take up a ton of space like many other box sets do. I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon UK on the 17th of February and it arrived on the day of its release. It always pays to pre-order these things early and you will generally find you will save a bit of money too. This one I got for £31.49 which is excellent value for the buck.
The albums cover concept was by Ian Anderson under the direction of Peter Wagg of Chrysalis Records. The band set off to Kidlington airport near Oxford in England with photographer John Shaw and Martyn Goddard. Additional photos including in this new edition were taken by Martyn Goddard, Brian Cooke, Carsten Bergmann, Martin Webb, Heather Woodruff and Lasse Hoile.
It appears that the band dressed up for the occasion and I have to admit that after all these years I never realised they were all inside an Airport Control Tower. The albums cover always gave me the impression that they were in a spaceship and they were trying to replicate something along the lines of Star Trek especially with the design of the “A” logo that was on their white boiler suits.
A (40th Anniversary A La Mode Edition) In Review…
The original album “A” by Jethro Tull was released on the 29th of August 1980 and contained 10 tracks spread over an overall playing time of just over 43 minutes. Although the album did manage to break into the Top 30 of the UK Album Charts and peaked at Number 25, it was met by a lot of criticism regarding the bands new line-up and how musically it sounded like a departure from the bands familiar style with its heavy use of synthesizers. It was perhaps nothing unusual for the 80’s because the biggest majority of bands were now churning out keyboard orientated music in that decade and was the new trend. It’s also perhaps the very reason that I myself detested that decade and did not take to this album at all.
The album “A” was released at a time when I myself had lost interest in Jethro Tull and that was really down to how disappointed I was with Stormwatch released in the previous year. I never even bothered buying the album at the time and it was my oldest brother who had brought it upon its release and having heard it I honestly thought they had lost the plot.
It was not until Crest Of A Knave was released in 1987 that I eventually got back into the band and that was an album that sparked up my interest in them once again. It was also the time I had brought a CD Player and started to replace my vinyl collection with CD’s and I did then buy “A” along with the rest of the Tull catalogue. Having played the album again back then I very much ranked the album as the worst Tull album ever. I still think it is in all honesty and it has to be the least played album in my Tull collection.
The album was originally intended to be an Ian Anderson solo album hence the title of “A” for Anderson. It was the record company that pushed for the album to be released under the name of Jethro Tull to which caused much of the controversy over the years regarding the breaking up of the previous band line-up. Many believed that it was Anderson who fired its previous members John Evan, David Palmer, and Barrie “Barriemore” Barlow but it was nothing of the sort and Anderson merely compiled a different bunch of musicians to work with him on his solo project. Barlow left on his own accord due to depression over the death of bassist John Glascock.
Much of the controversy was down to the press the Melody Maker, in particular, jumping the gun as usual and not exactly reporting the actual truth of the matter. Many of the band members were hurt by it including Anderson himself who immediately wrote to the members of the band explaining that this was a one-off thing and he had no intentions of splitting up the band. He even gave his own version of the truth in the press himself so you cannot really blame Anderson. However, he did admit that he should have stuck to his guns regarding it being a solo album and not have let his record company release the album under the bands name.
Regarding how good any musicians are in a band at the end of the day it’s really down to the songwriting and putting all the best musicians in the world in a band will not make a blind bit of difference unless you have something good to say with the written material.
Ian Anderson was very much at the core of the biggest majority of the material that is written for Jethro Tull and as with the previous album the lyrical content was diverting away from fantasy folklore and was taking in other subject matter such as the cold war. I think that was part of the reason why the folk trilogy of albums never worked and the latter of the three was well out of context. So let’s now take a look at the contents and see if they are in context and marry up to make something more out of this package.
The Package Contents…
A (A La Mode) by Jethro Tull was released on the 16th April 2021 and because of the current pandemic, it was released a year later than its actual 40th Anniversary. My copy arrived on the day of its release and as with all of these Book Edition Box Sets they come with an array of bonus features and this one I personally do not think disappoints one bit in that department.
This one like the previous package comes with 6 discs although instead of 4 CD’s and 2 DVD’s we have 3 CD’s and 3 DVD’s. It also comes with a 104-page book that is rammed with information of around the time that album was made. The “La Mode” is perhaps more associated with the song “Aqualung” but did feature in the Slipstream video that came with the Deluxe Edition of the album back in 2004. So let’s now dive in a take a GANDER! at the content.
In the book, you get an extensive article by Engineer Martin Webb on the recording and touring of the album, with contributions from Ian Anderson, Martin Barre, Dave Pegg and Eddie Jobson. Lyrics for the album plus a track by track annotation by Ian Anderson. Mark Craney interviewed in 1989 by Doane Perry. Interviews with Steven Wilson on the mixing and the art director and Slipstream executive producer Peter Wragg. A recording and touring chronology and rare photos and memorabilia.
The first CD comes with the original 10 album tracks plus 5 Associated tracks that were recorded around the same time the album was made. All 15 tracks have been newly mixed by Steven Wilson and it comes with an overall playing time of 62 minutes, 58 seconds. The original album tracks I will go into deeper later on in my review and I will just focus on the extra bonus tracks we get here for now.
To be honest there is very little here with the bonus content and this is nothing in comparison to the array of extra tracks that came with the Force 10 Edition of Stormwatch and many other Editions in this series of re-issues from the Tull back catalogue of their discography.
The other thing about the 5 extra tracks you get here is that they offer very little in the way of unreleased material even though the first 4 of them are unreleased. For example, you get an extended version of “Crossfire” that has been extended by 34 seconds. The song is only really 15 seconds longer and that is the guitar and drum intro that was either added or cut from the final mix. The remaining 19 seconds are really down to this version being slightly slower.
You get a Take 4 Demo of “Working John, Working Joe” and the difference here is that Eddie Jobson’s keyboards are not on it and they never got put on till Take 5. You also get all 39 seconds of an instrumental version of “Cheerio” to which Anderson later wrote a few words for it and included it on The Broadsword And The Beast album.
Also included here is the instrumental introduction that Eddie Jobson wrote for the Slipstream video and the only real unreleased track you perhaps have never heard is another instrumental piece written by Anderson entitled “Coruisk“. This is perhaps the best out of the bunch here and was inspired by Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Sky which was close to where Anderson was living and working at that time.
CD’s 2 & 3.
The other two CD’s captures the band in support of the album Live At The LA Sports Arena to which they ended off their North American leg of the tour by playing two concerts at the venue on the 11th & 12th of November 1980. The band played a total of 35 concerts on that tour to which Whitesnake was the support act at a good few of them including both nights that were captured here.
The band returned to England to play 2 nights at The Royal Albert Hall, London on the 20th & 21st of November and then embarked on their European Tour in the following year playing a further 20 shows.
The two CD’s pretty much capture the whole concert and in total both discs combined have a running time of 1 hour 48 minutes and you get a total of 20 tracks of which 18 of them came from the second show they played at the arena. Both “Protect And Survive” and “Bungle In The Jungle” on the 2nd CD was taken from the first show played at the arena on the 11th of November.
Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena
The LA Sports Arena is also known as the LA Memorial Sports Arena was opened by Vice President Richard Nixon on July the 4th 1959 and was not only the home of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team but others as well. Over the years it’s held many other sports events and many artists and bands have played at the venue including the likes of Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen, Micahel Jackson, The Grateful Dead, Madonna and so on. The venue itself no longer exists and was demolished in 2016 and Springsteen was the last artist to play there and performed three sell-out concerts earlier in the same year it was demolished.
Once again Steve Wilson is at the helm of the mix and considering this is the final job he’s doing for Ian Anderson in the series of the Tull discography he has really gone to town on it. No doubt bootlegs of this concert exist out there and have done for many years but those would be way inferior to the quality job done here on the concert.
The concert itself does feature 7 out of the 10 songs from the album along with other Tull classics mixed in the set-list and even though I am not so much of a fan of material from “A” I do think they do a bit more justice to the tracks live and this is quite an enjoyable concert to listen to and can be further enjoyed on one of the DVD’s in this package as Wilson also did a 5.1 mix of it. So let’s now take a look at the DVD content.
The first DVD is dedicated to the studio album “A” and it comes with quite a stylish main menu that even looks pristine on DVD. It’s easy to navigate your way along and it works on a flash system whereby clicking on any of the options will simply present you with a transitional wipe to display the content. It’s quite fast and smooth too even though another screen displays the content.
The album is the main feature and as you can see they are all Steven Wilson 2020 remixes. You can simply hit “Play” to play the album or can select any track from the album by hitting “Track Select” on the main menu and as you can also see on the screen above you do only get the album tracks in this section and none of the associated recordings.
You may also want to select the “Audio Select” before hitting “Play” and here we have a choice of 3 audio soundtracks and by default, it’s set to the high-res LPCM Stereo mix of 96k/24bit. The DTS 5.1 Surround mix also comes with the same high resolution and is my prefered choice. Whilst the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is perhaps inferior to the other two options in that it’s 48k and runs along at 448kbps instead of 1.5Mbps. But nevertheless, it might give you more detail than the stereo mix due to its separation.
The second feature on the DVD is the Associated Recordings which are the same 5 bonus tracks you get on the first CD. Only here you have a better audio option although only 3 of the tracks have been given the 5.1 treatment by Steve Wilson though as with the main album feature you do have the same high-res options. The final bonus feature on the DVD is that it includes the original stereo mix of the album presented in the form of a flat transfer with once again a high-res format of LPCM 96k/24bit.
The other good thing about the DVD is that it displays some of the pictures that were taken at the time the album was made and they run along in the form of a Slideshow as you listen to the music. It also displays the track title as it runs along and overall, a good professional quality job has been done with the DVD presentation and its authoring and I certainly have no complaints here.
The second DVD contains the Live At The LA Sports Arena concert from 1980 that is also on CD’s 2 & 3 and it is unfortunate that the concert is also in audio-only and there is no actual video footage of the concert. The live show was videotaped and some have expressed their own concern and disappointment into why it was not included. My guess is that like most video footage filmed on video camera’s back then it did not have the quality of 35mm film and putting it onto a DVD would only make it look worse and more nostalgic than anything else.
However, all is not lost here because once again Steve Wilson is at the helm of remixing the audio in Stereo and 5.1 and it also comes with the same audio options as the first DVD (as seen below). The DVD’s main menu is also quite stylish and pristine and functions in the same way and you also get a Slideshow of some of the pictures from the concert to look at whilst listening to the music.
One of the notable things about the audio menu above is that unlike the second and third CD’s which contains two songs (“Protect And Survive” and “Bungle In The Jungle“) recorded from the first night played at the venue. The DVD clearly shows that all the songs were recorded on the second and final night at the venue. This of course could very well be an error that was made when compiling the DVD and I don’t recall reading anything about it in the book.
Speaking of the book Steve Wilson does explain why he used those two songs from the first night and this following quote from the man himself in the book does tend to clarify that an error was made on this menu. “There were two consecutive nights recorded at LA, but with only two exceptions Ian selected the second-night performances, so in some places, I was able to lift parts from the first night to repair issues with the second”.
The two “Select Track” menus above show you the complete setlist of the live show and here you can see how they have weaved in the new material with some of the more familiar classic songs. There is no doubt the new lineup of the band was well in shape and into the swing of things by the time they got to play at the arena and like I mentioned earlier it is quite an enjoyable concert. Although I am not too keen on how they arranged or missed out on the intro of “Locomotive Breath” to suit Eric Jobson’s modern synth approach. However, he does fit in very well with his violin on “Heavy Horses” and it was nice to see “Bungle In The Jungle” in the setlist here.
The final DVD in the package is entitled Slipstream and basically, this is a 57-minute Videogram that was put together by the Chrysalis Group and was originally released on VHS Video back in 1981. It was also released on DVD in and included in the 2004 Deluxe Edition reissue of “A” as I mentioned earlier. The video footage itself includes film shots from various locations in the studio, outside on the cliffs of The Seven Sisters in between Newhaven and Brighton in England and also quite a bit of the live footage from the concert they played at the LA Sports Arena. It was also filmed on video and film and put together with animation, special effects and library footage.
To be honest the only thing I have ever seen from this video before was the video they made of “Too Old To Rock ‘N’ Roll and Too Young To Die” to which the band members all dressed as old men and were miming to the original record. Basically, this was because like I mentioned earlier that this was put out at a time that I had lost interest in the band, and having seen it now I am quite blown away by what has been done here.
As you can see from the setlist menu above most of the Tull classics were chosen and it only includes a couple of songs from “A” and the best song from Stormwatch “Dun Ringill” which is a delight to see here filmed on the cliffs of The Seven Sisters. Anderson puts on his acting skills and plays the part of the tramp that was written about in the classic song “Aqualung” and I have to say this has all been put together extremely well.
The picture quality is also quite good even though it’s only in 4:3 aspect ratio and I have to say considering this was made years ago it still holds up well today and this is very much my favourite inclusion in this package and I have watched it countless times now.
The other thing that makes me watch this video so many times is the 5.1 Surround Mix and I have no idea if the 2004 Deluxe Edition was given that treatment, but even if it did it would be nothing in comparison to the quality job Steve Wilson has done with it here and once again you get the choices of DTS 96k/24bit and Dolby Digital 48k/448kbps. It also comes with a Stereo mix that is 48k/24bit.
The Stereo & Surround Mixes.
Like I’ve already mentioned of how Steven Wilson has gone to town on the mixes in this package and he has done new Stereo and 5.1 Surround mixes on all three DVD’s that come with it. I would also say that the job he has done on all 3 DVD’s is outstanding and entice you to play them all more often. Although the album “A” has never really been my cup of tea there is no doubt that this mix is way superior and not only gives you a full immersive experience but has brought the album back to life.
Wilson was not keen on doing a 5.1 mix for the live concert at the LA Sports Arena and would rather work with studio albums. The thing that put him off is that the biggest majority of 5.1 mixes for live albums only really use reflections for use of capturing the atmosphere and put the audience in the rear speakers to give it that live experience. I know for a fact that many live 5.1 mixes can be disappointing by doing the same thing. However, for this mix, Wilson has broken the rules and decided to place some of the instrumentation in the rears to try and give the live recording more of an immersive experience and I have to say he’s done it bang on and it very much does give you an immersive experience and makes it much more enjoyable to listen to.
As for the Slipstream video, I think I may have already expressed how good that is and Wilson really has done TOP NOTCH! work on all the Stereo and Surround mixes in this package and I would even go as far as to say that if like myself “A” was not your cup of tea with all you have in this edition I certainly would not think twice about buying it.
Musicians & Credits…
All songs were written by Ian Anderson with additional music material from Eddie Jobson, Arranged by Jethro Tull. Recorded between the 16th of May to the 9th of June 1980 at Maison Rouge Studios Fulham. London and at Ian Anderson’s home with the use of the Maison Rouge Mobile. Originally Produced by Ian Anderson & Robin Black (this edition by Ian Anderson). Sound Engineers Robin Black & Leigh Mantle. Cover Concept by Ian Anderson. Art Direction by Peter Wagg. Original Photography by John Shaw (this edition with additional photos by Martyn Goddard, Brian Cooke, Carsten Bergmann, Martin Webb, Heather Woodruff and Lasse Hoile. New Surround & Stereo Mixes by Steven Wilson. Research & Project Co-Ordination by Tim Chacksfield. Sleeve Notes & Additional Research by Martin Webb. Audio Research & Assitance by Don Needham. CD Master & DVD Authoring by Ray Shulman at Isonic.
Ian Anderson: Vocals – Flute.
Martin Barre: Guitar.
Dave Pegg: Bass – Mandolin.
Mark Craney: Drums.
Eddie Jobson: Keyboards – Electric Violin.
The Original Album Tracks Review…
The bands 13th studio album was recorded between the 16th of May to the 9th of June 1980 and once again at Maison Rouge Studios Fulham, London and at Ian Anderson’s home with the use of the Maison Rouge Mobile. The only existing band member besides Anderson from the previous lineup was Martin Barre although Dave Pegg had already played with the band on their tour of the Stormwatch album and was very much brought in due to the death of John Glascock in the previous year. Eddie Jobson only appeared on the album as a guest basically because having left the band UK he wanted to concentrate on working on his own solo career and did not want to be tied to a band, it was also he who brought in Mark Craney to complete the new band lineup.
I have to admit that when I look at the material that was written for this album and several other albums to come from the band I am well surprised that Dave Pegg stuck it out for so long with the band. I can almost picture his face in shock horror and disbelief with the material he was presented to play on this album and it is completely different to what he played with Fairport Convention. I bet he wished they were doing something more along the lines of the material that was written for Songs From The Wood and Heavy Horses which was more or less the same folk-rock style Fairport had been playing way before Tull in the first place.
Although there is one track on the album that may have been tailor-made for Pegg although much of it is very much synth-driven and you could say it personifies what the 80’s was all about with its keyboard orientated music. But let’s take a closer look at the album tracks now to see how it all pans out.
Track 1. Crossfire.
This was very much a song that was inspired by the events that took place at the same time the band were recording the album and it was when the S.A.S. sieged in on the Iranian Embassy in London who were holding hostages in the place. The event was broadcast live on TV as it was happening and it was Anderson’s wife Shona who dashed into the studio at the time to tell them all to watch the TV.
There is no doubt that Anderson put the lyrics we have here very well into context regarding the events that happened at the siege and perhaps used the viewpoint of Police Constable Trevor Lock who was a Diplomatic Protection Group officer assigned to the embassy, who was overpowered by the gunmen and held with the other hostages. Even to the point of describing the high powered 9mm pistol that was made by John Moses Browning and issued to the S.A.S. Although I have to confess that I myself knew absolutely nothing about the words to this song till I did some research for this review.
I have to confess that it’s very rare I will take notice of the lyrics that were written for most PROG! songs and in general it is only singer-songwriter songs where the lyrics are more meaningful for me to take notice of. I would not say that this is a prog-rock song or a singer-songwriter song and the words were only put into context to try and describe this one event in a sort of an action way that you might see in a TV series like The Professionals as Anderson describes in the annotation of the lyrics you get in the book.
Perhaps one of the most confusing things for me about this song from years back is that I used to have a habit of placing the album cover where I could see it in full view whilst listening to the songs. To me, the album cover looks completely out of context with the song we have here and it’s more like something out of Star Trek as I mentioned earlier. However, you certainly do not have a problem hearing the lyrics with this new mix that Wilson has done and they do stand out more than back then.
Musically the song pumps its way along quite well with Dave Pegg’s dominant bassline and he really is a solid bass player who is capable of handling any genre of music methinks. With the way, everything else tends to revolve around the bassline it would not surprise me if Anderson wrote the song with the bass. The bass does appear to even add a bit of funk to how the song is driven along and Martin Barre’s guitar adds a touch of the rock element to it all.
Eddie Jobson’s synth is not so much overpowering here either and he puts in some nice touches on the piano too. Whilst Mark Craney’s drums hold everything together quite well and he adds some nice percussive fills here and there and Anderson’s delivery of the lyrics perhaps give it a bit of a folk edge to it. His flute also works quite well on this song too.
Overall, “Crossfire” is not a bad song and it is perhaps more of a verse and chorus rock song and one that tries to maintain some of the bands folk roots in one way or another. I certainly don’t think it’s got a patch on what the band were doing in the 70’s and it’s far from a Tull classic.
Track 2. Fylingdale Flyer.
Jobson is more involved in this next song and it is more synth driven and it perhaps has a sort of of Sci-Fi appraoch to it all which is most likely down to the subject matter which is based on Ballistic Missile Early Warning Station at Fylingdales Moor in Yorkshire which were set up in the 60’s during the cold war. You could say it was the source of Britain’s “four minute warning” of impending nuclear attack. I cannot say I am keen on the subject matter here or the song either.
Track 3. Working John, Working Joe.
This is a song that Anderson had in the can for a good few years and an earlier version of it was also included in the 40th Anniversary Edition of Songs From The Wood. The song was completely re-recorded for this album and some of the lyrics were revised for it. To be honest I think Anderson expresses the words better on the version we have here and this is another song on the album that is not synth-driven and allows the other instrumentation to work its way into the song.
I would also say that this song does have a slight touch of some of the folk traits that were given to their earlier period and this would be down to the use of the acoustic guitar and mandolin. However, as good as it is it’s not a song that is about to set the world on fire that’s for sure no matter what version you listen to.
Track 4. Black Sunday.
In terms of how the band rock things out “Black Sunday” is very much the most powerful track on the album and I would have suspected it to be most peoples favourite track on the album. It’s a song that Anderson wrote the words just before he was going away on tour and the lyrical content pertains to going out to work and upon returning wondering if one will find things the way they left them. He also does mention that it’s very rare he writes songs about his own reactions and feelings.
Trying to decipher the lyrics myself it does give me the impression that he was writing about how his marriage to Jennie Franks had broken up back in 1974. Whoever he was writing about the person had buggered off 😊😊😊. There are certainly enough words in the song and they are quite a mouthful to get out and express which is something that Anderson does do particularly very well on this song. I doubt he could do it today either.
The song is synth-driven though it’s not in the way keyboard orientated songs in the 80’s pop charts were done and much in the way that most rock and progrock songs are done with other members of the band having their say as well. To be honest, there were only two tracks on this album that I thought was any good years ago and I am not the kind of person who buys an album for two songs or really plays a few tracks from an album and in general, I always like to play the whole album. That is why this album gathered dust in the first place and I never rated it.
“Black Sunday” is both strong musically and lyrically and is one of the two highlights on this album. It was certainly one of the more powerful songs that Anderson wrote back then and I suppose you would have to jump ahead to 1999 when they put out the Dot Com album to get something more powerful. “Minstrel In The Gallery” was perhaps their most powerful song before the song we have here though in terms of classic songs from the Tull discography that song from 1975 is one hell of a classic and so was the album of the same title.
Track 5. Protect and Survive.
Another song written about current affairs at the time and back then the government were handing out leaflets with some information on what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. There is not a lot you can do really and you might as well put a bag over your head 😊😊😊. But as Anderson describes in his annotation of the lyrics it was better than doing nothing. This is Martin Barre’s favourite track on the album and I can perhaps see why because it’s another song that is not synth-driven and I have to admit with this new mix by Wilson you can hear all the instrumentation far more clearly and it sounds way better for it.
Pegg’s bass work on this one is quite outstanding and I like how Jobson is matching Anderson’s flute note for note on the violin in the intro, break and outro sections. There are synths also in the song and they are even more evident with the transitional change that comes into play between the 2:10 – 2:40 mark. Even a vocoder is used too and it is this change I personally feel is a bit weird and not fitting to the song which is why it’s not my cup of tea so to speak.
Track 6. Batteries Not Included.
The next song is heavily keyboard orientated and the subject matter is perhaps commonly associated with children and their toys at Christmas time. It’s quite an uptempo song that has a certain amount of adrenalin throughout it and it also features Anderson young son at the time James wondering where the batteries are to play with his toys. I think the lyrical content is quite good and there is even a dark sinister side to the ending of the story Anderson wrote here. However, this is another song that is not my cup of tea.
Track 7. Uniform.
This is another of the better tracks on the album though the lyrics can be on the repetitive side. Here Jobson’s violin skills are very well put to good use and it’s not a keyboard orientated song. Pegg’s bass is also dominant here too and they all pretty much do a GRAND! job here. I must admit I never liked this song originally and it must be down to Wilson’s mix that it speaks a bit more to me today.
Track 8. 4.W.D. (Low Ratio).
Another song that musically is not too bad though the lyrical content is about as repetitive as you can get and it is that side of things that really let it down perhaps. It does however feature some fine guitar work from Barre including a nice solo in the break section. Anderson’s flute fits very well here too and they are all doing a good job of it.
Track 9. The Pine Marten’s Jig.
I mentioned earlier that there was a piece on this album that was tailor-made for Dave Pegg and the only instrumental track on the album is more or less the same sort of thing that Pegg was doing with Fairport Convention. It’s the most complex piece on the album and it took them a lot of rehearsing to pull it off live on stage.
Speaking of live performances one of the best performances I saw them do was around 1982 – 1984 with Peter Vettese on keyboards and you could really see how complex this piece is to play on that live performance. The funny thing is that this is not a keyboard orientated song and Jobson plays mainly violin on it, yet for some reason, I prefered that live performance with Vettese.
Incidentally, a Marten is an animal a bit like a Meerkat and can be found in places like Canada in the woodlands. I suppose in some ways they can get a bit JIGGY with it and this happens to be my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!
Track 10. And Further On.
The final song on the album sounds much better to me today than I remember and once again it’s perhaps down to Wilson’s mix and you really can hear everything in the mix and it’s more defined and refined so to speak. It even speaks a lot more to me today than it ever did and now the album has more than a couple highlights. Although the song is keyboard-based it is very much written from the piano side of things and the other keyboards give it more of a CINEMATIC! and THEMATIC! feel and approach.
It is quite different to the other tracks on the album and is more along the lines of Scottish Celtic music and more reminiscent of the material we saw on the next album Broadsword and The Beast. Because it’s also a fine ballad of a song it puts me in mind of how the album Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die! was rounded off with another fine ballad entitled “The Chequered Flag (Dead or Alive)“. Unlike myself, many people do not like that album for some reason but that song is very much quality songwriting from Anderson and as concept albums go it’s done proper which is more than I could ever say for Stormwatch which was well out of context.
“And Further On” does sound a bit out of place on an album like this and it might have been better utilised as the final track on the next album instead of “Cheerio“. Pegg’s bass guitar melds and bends its way into shape on this song with its delicious tone and Barre’s solo adds nicely to it all as well and it’s not a song that will set the world on fire a quality job has been done on it.
Summary & Conclusion…
To sum up and conclude my review of the La Mode Edition of “A” by Jethro Tull. What makes this package work so well is the extra content you get and not so much the fact that Ian Anderson still had his voice back then which I dare say may very well be the reason for people to buy this album. “A” is perhaps an album that was liked more by those who had just got into Jethro Tull in the way of an introduction rather than those like myself who had been into the bands music many years beforehand and it was an album that caused a lot of controversy upon its release.
To say that the album was completely keyboard orientated (like most bands and artists were doing at the time in the charts in the 80’s) I would not say it was and when you look back at the previous incarnation of the band they even had two keyboard players. However, despite them having two keyboard players in their previous line up the music was never synth-driven and that is the major difference between the album we have here and what was done before it.
Even though the music is written by Ian Anderson and Eddie Jobson only appears as a guest. Jobson does tend to have the most input in how many of the songs on the album run along and he does appear to have more of the driving force of the way this album flows. That is perhaps my real gripe with it and the keyboards have very much taken centre stage on a good few of the songs and gone are most of the acoustic elements that worked so well in the past.
So what do I think of “A” after 41 years? Well, the album certainly sounds a lot better thanks to Steve Wilson’s 5.1 mix though my mind has not changed regarding the written material on the album and it still remains my least favourite Tull album. But on the positive side and once again thanks to Wilson. there are a couple of more songs I enjoy now and It might not gather as much dust as it did before and I might stick it on a bit more often 😊😊😊.
Though personally for me what makes this edition stand out is the extra bonus content you get on the other two DVD’s that come in the package. I enjoy both the live concert and the Slipstream video much more and that is down to them having quality written material that came from the bands earlier output. My personal highlights from the album are “Black Sunday“. “The Pine Marten’s Jig” and “And Further On“.
You don’t have to like the album “A” to get something out of this package and for those like myself who never took to the album (which I would have thought were the majority of older Tull fans back then) there is much more to this package with the book and the extra two DVD’s and I don’t think it will disappoint any Tull fan at the end of the day. This is why I highly recommend it.
Couldn’t Come Soon Enough…
The CD Tracklisting is as follows:
CD 1. (2020 New Mixes & Associated Recordings)
01. Crossfire. 4:05.
02. Fylingdale Flyer. 4:35.
03. Working John, Working Joe. 5:07.
04. Black Sunday. 6:42.
05. Protect And Survive. 3:37.
06. Batteries Not Included. 3:51.
07. Uniform. 3:33.
08. 4.W.D. (Low Ratio). 3:44.
09. The Pine Marten’s Jig. 3:25.
10. And Further On. 4:25.
11. Crossfire [Extended Version] #. 4:39.
12. Working John, Working Joe [Take 4] #. 5:16.
13. Cheerio [Early Version] #. 0:39.
14. Coruisk #. 6:29.
15. Slipstream Introduction #. 2:51.
CD 2. (Live At The LA Sports Arena, 1980 Part 1)
01. Slipstream Introduction. 2:59.
02. Black Sunday. 7:07.
03. Crossfire. 3:59.
04. Songs From The Wood. 4:51.
05. Hunting Girl. 6:04.
06. The Pine Marten’s Jig. 3:43.
07. Working John, Working Joe. 4:17.
08. Heavy Horses. 7:29.
09. Musicians Introductions. 1:55.
10. Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of The New Day. 3:28.
11. Instrumental (inc flute solo). 6:16.
Disc 3. (Live At The LA Sports Arena, 1980 Part 2)
01. Trio Instrumental. 5:08.
02. Keyboard Solo. 7:58.
03. Batteries Not Included. 4:14.
04. Uniform (Incl. Drum Solo). 6:48.
05. Protect And Survive (Incl. Violin Solo). 6:24.
06. Bungle In The Jungle. 5:31.
07. Encore Intro (Guitar And Bass Instrumental). 3:01.
08. Aqualung. 9:48.
09. Locomotive Breath (Instrumental) / Black Sunday (Reprise). 7:02.