Album review: MARTIN BARRE – Away With Words

MARTIN BARRE - Away With Words

Edifying Records [Release date 30.09.13]

Perhaps the most constant revolving door of rock is that of Jethro Tull, and all the more intriguing for the recent  ‘loss’ of Martin Lancelot Barre.  For several centuries, it seems, Ian Anderson’s right hand man, and for me as much a part of the Tull look and sound as that famed greatcoat, cocked leg, and flute.

Evidently both musicians needed breathing space but it is somewhat ironic that during the recent ‘Thick As A Brick’ shows, blink and you could have sworn it was Martin and his dulcet guitar tones on stage.  But as time goes on, and there’s talk of the next Tull studio album, it seems that Barre isn’t being factored in to the plans.

Enter  ‘Away With Words’ and Martin’s own plan for the foreseeable future.  For some time he has been gigging as ‘Martin Barre’s New Day’ focussing on “early” Jethro Tull and whilst this will be welcome to many, others may merely wish to see him in his own right and with his own tunes.

Already he has released a handful of solo albums, somewhat low-key perhaps and always in the shadow of his early master.  Whilst those solo albums gave us at times erratic glimpses of Martin Barre’s guitar greatness, the new offering will instantly appeal to those who like Tull’s more acoustic persuasion.  The addition of his own flute work (for example on the Celtic-flavoured ‘Lament Of The Spalpeen/Hymn’)  gives these songs a slightly eery and possibly somewhat ironic flavour too.

Martin has revisited some less visited Tull tunes (‘Moths’, ‘One Brown Mouse’, ‘Pussy Willow’,  ‘Paparazzi’, ‘Protect And Survive’, ‘Fire At Midnight’, ‘Home’,'From A Dead Beat To An Old Greaser’) and added songs in keeping with their spirit, mostly within the same track.

Of the Barre originals ‘It’s My Round’ could have been recorded on lute, an attractive Old English sounding ballad that might be better suited to the Deutsche Grammophon Archiv label whilst ‘All Bars Hold’ is effective in its simplicity but barely one minute in length.  ‘Long Ago’ (partnered with ‘Home’ from 1979′s ‘Stormwatch’ ) is a similarly attractive piece and thankfully longer.

The album is acoustic-led with the electric guitar only deployed for contrast on the multi-layered choruses and, I have to say, very politely too.  Even on the album closer ‘Sundown’.

To some this may be a disappointment.  One of the highlights of many a Tull gig over the years has been Martin Barre’s solo spot.  I’ve said previously these frequently stops-out performances should be brought together or even re-recorded for posterity and wider enjoyment.  But for now ‘Away With Words’ further evidences Barre’s  latter-day transition to a fully-rounded, if hopefully not too embittered, performer in his own right.  ****

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

Martin Barre is featured in ‘The Guitarists’ series, Monday 7 October at 20:00 and Thursday 10 October at 21:00 on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio. On 7 October this feature is followed by another chance to hear four exclusive tracks recorded recently by Martin and his band.

Additional material from our interview has been added to iTunes and our podcast section.

More information

Album review (Order Of Play, 2014)

David Randall plays a selection of new and classic rock in his weekly show first broadcast 14 June 2020 including reference to the Feature series “2020 Vision”.

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