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Die-hard Jethro Tull fans (who always refer to them as 'The Tull'), of which I'm met a strangely large number over the years, have the weird habit of implying that 'Stand Up' is the first 'proper' Jethro Tull album, even though it's their second. For some reason, the blues-rock of their debut, 'This Was', doesn't count. Hmm. If this is the second album released by Jethro Tull, then I think it's fair to say that it isn't their first.
Anyway, 'Stand Up' is markedly different from their debut. With the departure of guitarist Mick Abrahams, the band veered away from the straight-forward blues rock that dominated the first LP, and moved into more folky/Celtic/classical/jazzy/weird-tramp-rock that perhaps suited them better - it certainly sounds more like their signature sound. Yes, the flute is still there, but there was always more to this band than wild-eyed, hopping-mad flute-toting Ian Anderson, which included surprisingly good albums as well as some spectacularly naff ones.
Listening to it in context, although there were a raft of emerging psychedelic hippy and blues-rock groups from the UK at the time, Jethro Tull really didn't sound like anyone else, and it wasn't just because of the flute, which sounds already much better in Anderson's hands. Chucking in traditional folk influences with jazz-oriented messing about and peppering it with mandolins, which hadn't really been used that much before by rock groups, gave them an edge. And Ian Anderson's voice, love it or loathe it, is one of a kind, coming out of the speakers like a real eccentric imparting his wit and wisdom. Martin Barre's guitar style is somewhat subdued, and also quite fiery when the mood takes him. This is an album of nuanced dynamics, of light and shade.
Opening track 'A New Day Yesterday' reminds me of the Beatles' 'Come Together' for some reason, with its brooding riff and funky beat, albeit a bit heavier in clout. 'Bouree' sees the band do Bach, and it's not as wretched as the idea may sound. It's a soft bit of folky pop - I wonder what the Classic FM audience would make of it?
'Fat Man' sees Anderson eschewing the trappings of wealth as well as adipose tissue, putting forward the idea that it's better to travel light, move fast and enjoy the free air, with a sprightly rhythm that is totally fitting- a sentiment I can fully agree with. I've never looked much into the history of the band, or watched any interviews with Anderson, as it might shatter the illusion I have in my head that he is some sort of roving Tom Bombadil/Pied Piper type, roaming the world peddling weird stories and songs about the environment.
'Nothing is Easy' harks back to their bluesier origins, with Martin Barre holding his own against the blues players of the day. 'We Used to Know' also has a blues swing to it, but delivered in a folkier format. They're wearing their influences on their sleeves, and why not.
Before moving into big concept albums and ones that are just a bit dull, this album shows that Jethro Tull were capable of delivering a set of well played and mostly well-constructed songs that gel well together. It wasn't until 'Songs from the Wood' that they realised that their folk-leanings were their strongest asset. True, the flute and hippy-ish vibes can come across as quaint, almost fey and flimsy, but it gives the band a truly unmistakable character. Not being bland and generic is an asset in my ears, though.
The artwork is great as well, the etching-style of the cover wonderfully evoking the rustic, ramshackle sound of the band. Opening up the gatefold vinyl version, there's a daft little play on words as pop-up figures of the band literally stand up as it hinges. The CD has an extra 4 tracks tacked onto the end, all of which are fitting in with the mood and theme of the album and don't jut out annoyingly like some bonus tracks can do. 'Living in the Past' is a fairly famous song of theirs, which also turns up on the compilation of the same name which is a good introduction to the band, and 'Sweet Dream' features some cool ominous chords and orchestration that teeters on bombastic. And the super-mega-duper-awesome deluxe version has a whole bunch of live versions added on an extra disc. I can't possibly comment on this though, as I've never heard it.
Given Jethro Tull's notoriously patchy output, this is one of their better albums, and for me is a keeper. While 'Minstrel in the Gallery' and 'Passion Play' bored me, and 'A' and 'Under Wraps' were just disgustingly misguided and ill-fitting, 'Stand Up' is a remarkably solid and respectable album that I've returned to several times, though I don't rank it quite as highly as 'Aqualung', 'Heavy Horses' or the sublime 'Songs from the Wood'.
Stand Up was Jethro Tull's 2nd album first released in 1969 and reached #1 in the British charts. I remember the tatty gatefold LP album bought by a friend of mine in a second-hand record shop in the early 1990s. The album cover artwork, designed by artist James Grashow, was in the style of a carved woodcut and the album opened up like a child's pop-up book, so that a cut-out of the band stood up - a kind of play on the album's title and something completely lost on the later CD releases. I copied the album onto tape cassette and even though I've played the cassette till it was practically worn out, I still think it still sounds better than the remastered CD I bought recently. There is just something raw and edgy about a tape or vinyl that is simply never captured on a CD. That's not to say I don't recommend this album, for on whatever recording format this is a classic.
After having started out as a blues-rock outfit similar to contemporary bands such as Cream, the New Faces and Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull blended their masterful technique of Blues and Rock fusion with elements of classical, folk, jazz and Indian music. The band are probably more renowned nowadays for a later album called "Aqualung" which I think has sold more copies. Although I have listened to this album, for me it just doesn't have the magic charm of "Stand Up", possibly because there is less of a folk-rock fusion. "Aqualung" has a harder heavy rock edge to it. Admittedly this preference is probably more about my own personal relationship over time with the earlier album.
A blues sound is more apparent on their debut album 'This Was', but the follow up was to incorporate a wider range of musical genres whilst still retaining some blues influences. One big change in Tull's sound on "Stand Up" was the introduction of Martin Barre's on electric guitar. Lead singer Ian Anderson and other members wanted to bring a more diverse range of influences for the second album and Mick Abrahams, an accomplished lead blues guitarist on the first album, gave his place up to Barre when he realised he would no longer be able to pursue a more blues based sound. As such this was the first album where Anderson had major control of the lyrics and musical direction.
"Stand Up" contains what has to be one of my favourite tracks of all time: "We Used to Know". After a quiet build up with strumming guitar and Anderson's words of wisdom, it develops into a rippling electric guitar solo by Martin Barre that is simply sublime. I never tire of listening to it... and always with the volume as high as the neighbours can bear. I pray to God that one day I will be able to play this on my guitar... just the first riff would be nice! Barre's timeless raw guitar riffs on this track will live with me forever. It was some years before I realised this track was the main influence of The Eagles all time classic "Hotel California", in fact The Eagles owe a great debt to this song as they basically rehashed it into a sweeter more commercial sound, got an international hit record and lived off it for the rest of their lives.
It is probably Ian Anderson's voice and flute playing that gives Jethro Tull their distinctive sound, no more so than on the folksy flute-led instrumental "Bourée" - a re-working of "Bourrée in E minor" by J.S. Bach. It is an eerie melody that evokes a kind of fairytale landscape and seems to be one of the bands favourites as it has often been played at their concerts over the years. Ian Anderson's flute begins hauntingly before progressing into an awesome upbeat improvisation that combines with melodic bass guitar work mixing both jazz and classical elements.
Clive Bunker on drums also adds his own particular flavour that adds to the bluesy riff-rock sound of tracks such as "A New Day Yesterday" and "Nothing Is Easy". Bunker's percussion is also dominant on "For a Thousand Mothers" - one of my least favourite tracks on the album in which Anderson spouts a diatribe against his own parents. Another track to skip early on the album is the short and awkward "Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square". For some this is the one track that stops Stand Up from being a truly acclaimed classic album, but I think all great albums have the odd bad composition, even Sergeant Pepper had some pretty duff tracks. On the remastered 2001 edition four bonus tracks have been added: "Living in the Past; Driving Song; Sweet Dream and '17'". 'Living in the Past' and 'Sweet Dream' are welcome additions originally released as B-sides to single releases. The other two tracks are reasonable additions, but for me don't really add to the magic of the original release.
There are some gems on the rest of the album though. Personally I prefer the lighter acoustic ballads. I love the summery feel of the folk-rock ballad "Look Into the Sun" with its pensive introspective lyrics and the 7th track, the effervescent "Fat Man", with its strongly Eastern influenced percussion section and chirpy balalaika melody. The penultimate track on the original release is "Reasons For Waiting" - one of the most beautiful ballads on this CD with Anderson's arousing melody on flute accompanied by superb orchestral backing.
Apart from one or two weak moments, this really is a compelling album packed with some truly great songs that make up some of the most accomplished material Ian Anderson ever produced. To think that if I'd have never borrowed that LP and made a copy all those years ago, how much more empty my life would have been. The album exudes charm at every level - one of the great albums that I'm so glad is always absent from those tiresome top 100 album lists. At nearly forty years old Stand Up remains a timeless classic.
A New Day Yesterday - 4:10
Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square - 2:12
Bourée - 3:46
Back to the Family - 3:48
Look into the Sun - 4:20
Nothing Is Easy -4:25
Fat Man - 2:52
We Used to Know -3:59
Reasons for Waiting -4:05
For a Thousand Mothers - 4:13
Bonus tracks on the 2001 remastered CD
Living in the Past - 3:23
Driving Song - 2:44
Sweet Dream - 4:05
17 - 3:07
Instruments and Personnel:
Glenn Cornick: bass guitar
Clive Bunker: drums, percussion
Martin Lancelot Barre: electric guitar, flute
Ian Anderson: flute, acoustic guitar, Hammond organ, piano, balalaika, mouth organ, vocals
Strings arranged and conducted by David Palmer.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 New day yesterday
2 Jeffrey goes to Leicester Square
4 Back to the family
5 Look into the sun
6 Nothing is easy
7 Fat man
8 We used to know
9 Reasons for waiting
10 For a thousand mothers
11 Living in the past
12 Driving song
13 Sweet dream