Book review: On track…JETHRO TULL, THE BEATLES

On Track...The Beatles by Andrew Wild

Sonicbond Publishing [Publication date 26.04.19]

The On Track… series continues with some momentum, nearly 20 titles currently scheduled, spearheaded by prog aficionado Stephen Lambe. The idea is to discuss in some detail individual songs but that invariably means talking about the context in which they were created. In that respect, the project provides a more comprehensive and useful summary than might be expected. Each title is written by an obvious trainspotter, and often reflects the toil of several decades.

Jethro Tull by Jordan Blum expands the Tull story to include Ian Anderson’s solo outings but not those of Martin Barre. He does note, however, “…his style instantly came to define the Jethro Tull sound about as much of any Anderson’s contributions.”

There are references to the anniversary permutations of back catalogue, which is useful given that keeping up with these Tull releases (and the ubiquitous Steven Wilson 5.1 mixes) is somewhat daunting and can only get worse.

As Blum’s book suggests, there is scope for further reissues in this vein, notably the albums after 1978′s ‘Heavy Horses’. Wilson is currently working on ‘Stormwatch’ so we’re not going to get these in any chronological format.

The author doesn’t always deal with the various “collections” – and the bonus tracks – that have appeared such as the 1988 boxed set and there are few cross references and some omissions.

As an example, there’s a song ‘Overhang’ which featured in that boxed set and included as a bonus track on the reissued ‘The Broadsword And The Beast’. It’s not mentioned specifically here.

The colour photo section is predominately reproductions of album sleeves and video screen-grabs, again a format common to the other books in the series ***

The Beatles by Andrew Wild may seem an almost impossible task and whilst others have attempted song analysis (as Wild acknowledges) his take still makes for compulsive reading.

He’s covered the Fab Four’s song variants in all their recorded shapes and forms. This really is useful for the armchair investigator who wishes to understand the gestation of material.

It goes well beyond “main catalogue” and the trail is followed from the earliest Quarrymen setlists. Wild’s book differs from the On Track norm in that little context is given for each song but he aims to show how they developed and how they relate to other work, even other artists.  A companion volume, showcasing the solo works (1969-1980) is due in July 2019.

Strangely, there is no index which is a notable omission from all the books in the series. Given that the Beatles book is arranged alphabetically rather than chronologically this is also essential.  ****

Some listeners may not wish to dissect the lyrical content of songs and any purely musical insight can sometimes seem pretentious. Many of the views given are subjective, but these are the views of serious fans who have really studied their subject and so should be recognised for that. For those who wish to broaden their horizons these tomes provide a useful digestion of previous analysis whilst providing varying degrees of new insight.

Review by David Randall

On track…Genesis
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